My life in travel: Rageh Omaar

'On safari in Kruger National Park, we ate breakfast beside a pod of hippos'

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The Independent Travel

Journalist Rageh Omaar joined ITV News this year as special correspondent (

First holiday memory?

On the beach in Mogadishu in Somalia, where I was born. It is one of the most beautiful stretches on the Indian Ocean coast: white sand, warm turquoise water and we had the place to ourselves. It was a very different city to what it is now. It's going through a protracted period of insecurity.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

The Erme Estuary in Devon, because we go every summer and have a lovely week there. Also the Black Mountains, because I love walking in the Brecon Beacons.

Best holiday?

Leaving South Africa at the end of my assignment as Africa correspondent for the BBC. Our friends threw a huge leaving party, which left us with very sore heads. Afterwards, my wife and I went for a three-day safari in Kruger National Park. I'll never forget: we had breakfast near a pod of hippos, on a fresh linen tablecloth, beneath a baobab tree.

What have you learnt from your travels?

There's nothing so extraordinary as people. Human beings are a curious, surprising, funny and sometimes maddening breed.

Ideal travelling companion?

My family. My kids have been travelling since they were six months old so nothing fazes them. They've been to places in Africa that few foreign correspondents have ventured to.

Greatest travel luxury?

A good restaurant. When you have your 20-odd days of leave a year, the last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen every night.

Holiday reading?

Because I read so much for work, I take a holiday from reading. My sneaky thing is to borrow books from my kids, like Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl, which are easy and remind me of childhood.

Where has seduced you?

Rural Tuscany. There's a lovely bit around San Gimignano. I love disappearing into an agriturismo, lolling about and visiting little villages. It's such a beautiful, evocative landscape.

Better to travel or arrive?

Before 9/11, I would have said travel. But I think the "war on terror" and the need for added security have killed the romance of travel.

Worst travel experience?

In my line of work, border crossings are always difficult. I remember driving for hours through the night to get to the crossing between Jordan and Iraq, and having to turn back because one of my colleagues didn't have a visa.

Best hotel?

South Africa has had some nice ones in the Cape winelands. We stayed at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek which was pretty amazing. Also, Villa La Massa outside Florence, where I went for my honeymoon.

Best meal abroad?

Osteria Alla Piazza on the road to Siena. The village it's in, Le Piazze, is a hamlet of about four houses, but people come from all around for the restaurant. The food is amazing. The bistecca alla fiorentina (rare T-bone steak) is the speciality.

Favourite city?

Istanbul. I went for the first time about four years ago and immediately fell in love with it. It's everything a city should be: surprising, ancient, diverse and enchanting. A truly magical place.

Where next?

Rural Tuscany again for my summer holidays, staying just outside Castellina in Chianti.