Archives for February, 2013
The hippo and crocodile infested waters were just outside our front door at the Old Bridge Lodge. It was a little unnerving knowing they could just crawl into bed with us, but we decided to stay a few nights anyway. Although the water is full of all kinds of creepy creatures the riverfront is gorgeous.
On our first day in Maun we visited the local village and an empowerment program where woman and men from that and many other villages nearby sell their handicrafts.
We had the opportunity to learn how the beautiful Botswana baskets are made and let me tell you it was not easy. I spent three hours on mine and the inside was just a little bigger than a quarter. It made me realize the amount of time, energy and focus that goes into these baskets that they sell for little or no profit.
After spending a few days in civilization we realized we were ready for the wilderness again and a different kind of safari. This time we were going into the wild by way of boat along the Okavango Delta.
The wind blowing our hair, the water glistening and our first HIPPO!
There he was three feet from our boat and ready to tip us at any minute. Our guide Phaladi steps on the gas and rides right over this massive creature and into the next channel before we become his lunch.
Our next spotting was a baby crocodile lurking in the murky waters just inches away. He was so close I thought he would crawl into our boat but fortunately Phaladi assured us that would not happen. Phew!
Our next morning we took scary to a new level and walked out of our tent and into the animal filled savannah with nothing but Phaladi to protect us. My heart felt like it might just jump out of my chest. Within minutes we saw dozens of different antelope and my dad kept saying, “Where there are prey there are predators”, but to be honest I had no interest in seeing any predators especially lions. AHHHHH!
We finished our walk a few hours later in one piece without seeing any predators and got back into the canals of the Delta. The reeds in the water form a massive maze. Fortunately Phaladi grew up here and knew where to go because I would have been totally lost in about two seconds.
Everest was excited to go fishing and we were excited to have grilled fish for dinner so Phaladi took us to an island where we cast out our lines and put our feet in the sand (hoping they didn’t get bitten off by a croc). After an hour of trying we came to the conclusion that the crocs ate all the fish and didn’t leave any for us.
As the sun was setting we road back to camp and saw six more hippos, all just as frightening as the first especially because we had heard more stories about boats being tipped by hippos. We arrived back to camp and listened to the low moans of a lion off in the distance and enjoyed our fishless dinner under the stars.
Our final day in the peaceful Okavango Delta was spent speeding down the reed canals and keeping a lookout for hippos and their bubbles.
We had an amazing time and didn’t want our Okavango adventure to end but there are sooooo many more great things to come!
BOOK NAME: I, Q: Book One, Independence Hall
AUTHOR: Roland Smith
What if your parents were major rock stars, had a contract signed, and were traversing the entire country performing on a tour? And what if you found out that your stepsister’s mom was a secret service agent, and you also noticed some weird creeps stalking after you? These questions are what stepsiblings Q (Quest) and Angela must come face to face with in the start of a thrilling series by Roland Smith.
Q and Angela’s parents are pop stars, and the entire family is now on a tour performing across the U.S. It seems as if nothing strange could ever occur as the family heads from city to city on a mega RV. Everything, however, changes when an old roadie (people who set up equipment during a stage performance) named Boone spontaneously appears and decides to become the family’s driver. To top that off, Angela begins to harbor strange feelings that someone is following them. That’s when Q discovers that his stepsister’s deceased mother was a former Secret Service operative who was killed by foreign terrorists. Before long, Q and Angela manage to get involved in the secretive, deadly world of intelligence and espionage, as they must encounter and deal with Israeli Mossad agents, private intelligence agencies, and the conspiracy surrounding Angela’s mother’s death. Can Q and Angela uncover the truth behind the death and reveal who the actual villains are?
IQ Book 1: Independence Hall is one of the best modern day thrillers I have ever read. Roland Smith, who is usually an expert author when it comes to nature and animals, finally takes his renowned writing career and steers it into the genre of action/thrillers. The great thing about this book is that instead of featuring just adult characters, Roland Smith is able to include characters who are young adults. As a result, this allows young readers to connect with the main characters, mainly Q and Angela, and therefore, enjoy an amazing reading experience. When Smith writes other novels, he usually enables them to bring forth an excellent plot and at the same time, enlighten readers about the phenomena of science, nature, and biology. Another laudable feature of this book is that Smith decides to put aside scientific topics and brings politics into the mix. IQ Book 1 takes a dive into the world of intelligence and counter-terrorism, political situations affecting the world today, and the hectic lifestyle of renowned rock stars. The cast of the book is a unique one filled with a variety of intriguing, interesting, and even comedic characters. Interesting characters in this book included Q (the main character), who is adept at magician skills and devouring hamburgers in three bites; Angela, whose intelligence, instinct, and coolness allow her to overcome any situation; Boone, the book guru who owns a book collection that would have made the Library of Congress seem like a simple shelf; and Israeli agent Eben, who always seems to daunt the audience with his relentless determination to accomplish a mission. The plot and humor are what certainly define the book, as readers will be hooked onto the plot and laugh at the numerous moments of humor found in abundance throughout the book. The plot, though, may seem a bit too intricate and complicated to understand at first (that’s why I had to read it more than once), but this is a Roland Smith book that you do not want to miss out on!
This book is definitely interesting for any reader out there who’s got nothing on their desk to read. On a scale of 1-10, I’d grant this book a 10.
BOOK NAME: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
AUTHOR: David Lubar
Scott Hudson is just starting high school, and already the troubles are beginning. His bus driver is an
obnoxious grouch of a man. The school’s Spanish teacher can’t speak a word of English, and seems to
believe her students can comprehend her. The seniors are attempting to make Scott’s life as miserable
as possible with their egregious pranks. Julia, a girl Scott was acquainted with in kindergarten, is now a stunning teenage “goddess”. She has become so gorgeous; she now seems far out of Scott’s league. The list of difficulties expands with each passing day. At least Scott has his longtime buddies, Kyle, Patrick, and Mitch, to help him survive.
The news Scott’s parents reveal, however, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Scott is
going to be an older brother. How is THAT going to work? He’s always been the younger brother, and
his older sibling Bobby has some dark predictions of how a baby can throw its sibling’s life into chaos.
That’s horrible news for Scott.
The baby isn’t due to arrive for a while, and Scott has more current issues to face. Will he ever
understand the Spanish teacher? Will the cruel gangs of seniors grind him into dust before the end of
the year? How can he possibly win Julia’s heart when she doesn’t even notice him? What catastrophes
await him as the year drags on?
This is a phenomenal book, beyond phenomenal in fact! I couldn’t put it down! It is absolutely hilarious! It is filled with sarcasm, witty jokes, comical situations, irony, and just about every other type of humor imaginable. The story is not too shabby, either! The humorous aspect prevents it from ever becoming dull. The ending has some unexpected twists, and is quite a heartwarming close to the story. I won’t spoil it though! You’ll just have to read this incredible book and find out what happens.
The spotted beauties were pacing back and forth in anticipation of our arrival, actually their yummy lunch, just as we pulled into the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The ravenous cheetahs welcomed us as they devoured their horse and donkey meat.
Their meat is surrounding a big bone to slow them down. In the wild they have to eat extremely fast, if they don’t vultures or jackals will take their kill away from them. The only problem is, if they eat super fast they might choke. The six in front of us had very good manners.
We spent the day wandering the 60,000 hectare property and shared dinner with all of the remarkable staff and volunteers. CCF is an amazing project leading the world in the conservation of cheetahs. The project is home to 46 orphaned cheetahs that will never be able to go back to the wild. They have done extensive research on the cheetah and taken injured cheetahs found on the land of local farmers and released them back into the wild after healing injuries or illnesses.
On our first evening we had the honor of meeting the person behind the entire project, Dr. Laurie Marker. She is such a humble and extraordinary lady. We could have talked for hours. She is known as one of the world’s leading cheetah experts. She came to Namibia in 1977 and found her love for these gorgeous creatures. She learned that they were in serious danger. Instead of waiting for someone else to help she decided to BE that someone. In 1990 she founded what is now the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
She has inspired people all over the world to start projects to save the cheetah and other endangered species. One day I hope to do something as incredible for this world of ours as she has.
Dr. Marker and CCF have done some other things to help make our world a better place. They are now taking an encroaching acacia bush and turning it into a slow burning organic wood logs. This is creating jobs and restoring the cheetah’s habitat.
Our next day we watched three cheetah siblings devour their lunch and were told this incredible story:
There once was a mama to be cheetah wandering around a farmer’s property. He didn’t want the cheetah to harm his livestock so he shot the mama. He then realized the cheetah was pregnant. Luckily the babies were developed enough that when he cut her stomach open he saved three of the four cheetah cubs. The farmer tried to care for them but didn’t really know how so he took them to CCF and they have been there ever since.
At sunset we took a beautiful drive through the CCF game park and the Waterberg Plateau. Kudu, eland, warthogs, springbuck and Oryx were roaming around us as the sky turned orange and purple.
Our final morning Dr. Marker wanted me to hear her babies purr so she let me go in and watch an incredible cheetah run. It was epic! They were so close that I could feel the wind as they ran by. I had the once in a lifetime chance to sit down with them and hear them purr… my heart stopped!
I learned so much the last few days and have a new found love for these creatures. Leaving was SO hard I could have stayed forever, but I know that one day I will return and be reunited with my spotted friends and my new role model, Dr. Marker.
On Friday, February 15, a meteor broke into fragments before hitting the ground near Chelyabinsk, Russia, creating a sonic boom that shattered windows and injured as many as a thousand people. No more meteorites are expected to fall in the region in the near future.
How much do you know about comets and meteors? Quiz Your Noodle and find out!
Water is a very important resource for life. Every day we use it for drinking, washing, farming and cooking. But it’s not an unlimited resource, so we need to find ways to use it more wisely.
The Colorado River is one source of water that is disappearing. It stretches 1,450 miles (2,333 kilometers), but can barely even reach the sea anymore. The water is split up among seven states in the U.S. and Mexico. Around 30 million people use this source of water for drinking and irrigation. This means that there is little water left over to support the ecosystem that lives along the river’s path.
It may be hard to believe, but we all use the water from the Colorado River. It isn’t just farmers who use it for irrigation or big cities like Las Vegas. Many of us consume items produced in the region, such as hamburgers and cornmeal.
Did you know that the average American uses twice as much water as the global average? That’s about 2,000 gallons per person every day!
To make a difference, adults are pledging to change what they do on a daily basis, by eating less meat or carpooling. For every pledge that an adult makes, Change the Course will help put back 1,000 gallons of water to the Colorado River. Ask your parents if they want to learn more about Change the Course.
And yes, please do turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Every drop counts.
What will you do to change the course?
The votes are in! Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and voted for the finalists. All of the reviews were great.
And now for the big reveal!
The three bloggers who received the MOST votes for their reviews are:
Bianca, 13, Delirium by Lauren Oliver
David, 12, Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland
Luke, 12, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Congratulations to our winners! Keep reading DogEared to officially “meet” our three new bloggers when we reveal their avatars and read some of their reviews in 2013!
Let our African animal adventure begin!
Etosha National Park or “Great White Place of Dry Water” is a world renowned game reserve; it is also where we spent our next epic week! Fun fact… Etosha covers an area of 22,912km.
Within minutes of entering the park we spotted an oryx catching some shade under a tree, from then on the excitement continued. At our first campsite there was a beautiful watering hole filled with all kinds of game; zebra, springbok, kudu, dik-dik, oryx, wildebeest and my favorites… a family of giraffe coming for dinner and a drink. There were four of them so they reminded me of our family. As the sky started to turn purple we watched a lone elephant come for a bath and a drink. Did you know that over 12,000 elephants now live in Namibia thanks to the help of animal conservationists?
Just as the sun was waking up the next morning we left for a sunrise drive.
Coming across the savannah were different kinds of antelope, zebra and then the most amazing of all, can you guess what it was? It was a lioness and her two fully grown cubs. They had just killed a zebra for breakfast and they were gorging themselves on his tender organs. You could hear them tearing his flesh to pieces with their razor sharp teeth. It wasn’t a pretty sight. They couldn’t have been any closer; if I stuck my hand out the window I could nearly touch them. They definitely are not vegetarians like me!
After a yummy breakfast and a successful hunt they were tuckered out so they said goodbye and were on their way. We couldn’t have started the day with anything more incredible.
The watering hole at our next peaceful amazing campsite was beautifully natural and also full of wildlife. Our best sighting was of four rhino coming for an evening splash. They are so prehistoric looking with their wrinkly skin and crusty horn. I had never seen a rhino before so it was extra special.
Our next radiant morning was unbelievable; we saw another elephant, a group of three giraffe just a few feet from our car and last and certainly most amazing a leopard pacing in the bush. That made four of the big five. What is the big five? The big five is denoted as the hardest animals to hunt on foot. We aren’t hunters but seeing those animals was pretty special. We had seen lion, leopard, elephant, and rhino all we need now is a cape buffalo.
Each of our evenings in Estosha was spent by the campfire cooking dinner, gazing at the brilliant sky and sharing stories about the animals and our adventures with my family. We were really lucky to have seen SO many beautiful animals.
Namibia is an extraordinary country full of natural beauty and wonder!
Scientists have recently discovered two new moons orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto, bringing the total up to five. SETI scientists are asking people to send in their name ideas for the newly-discovered moons. The names must come from Greek or Roman mythology and have something to do with Pluto/Hades and the underworld. The three moons that already have names are called Charon, Hydra, and Nix.
Lijah Hanley, a member of the 2009 Hands-On Explorer Challenge expedition to Peru, has won the grand prize in the National Geographic Student Expeditions Photo Contest! His love for photography began before he entered the 2009 contest, and he has continued to learn and grow as a photographer since the Peru expedition.
Lijah’s winning photo, called “No Boundaries,” can be seen above. “There is nothing more thrilling than taking the car out on the road and exploring new places. Unfortunately, being a new driver, my parents have set a lot of boundaries that limit how far I can go. I made it as far as the Columbia River Gorge, and it was a perfect crisp clear night for stargazing. So we removed the top of our car, sat on the roof, and gazed into the endless universe. Exploration is not bound by how far your car can take you, but by how far your imagination can take you into the stars,” Lijah says.
The Namibian sand was calling our name so we grabbed our Kalahari Ferraris (sand boards) and hit the dunes. My heart was thumping in my chest as I was hanging over the slip face. I didn’t even have time to catch my breath and they pushed me over the edge. Each of our seven runs was steeper and faster than the last.
After our adrenaline buzz we wandered the beach and streets of Swakopmund and came across the world’s largest quartz crystal cluster. It is estimated to be about 520 million years old and weighs 14,100 kilograms. Namibia is home to some of the world’s most fine gemstones.
Our next stop was Cape Cross, home to over 100,000 cape fur seals; half of them were one month old pups. The moment we saw the seals our mouths dropped open. Many of the adorable pups were taking their first swim in the ocean and you could tell they were having a ball.
Then something awesome yet scary happened, we were charged by a seal. He was trapped in the pathway and thought we were in his territory. At first it was kind of fun having the seal be so close to us but when he bared his teeth we ran as fast as we could to the truck.
Next we were off to
Brandberg, home of the desert elephant. On our way we visited a local Himba village and learned about their culture and purchased some traditional crafts. The Himba people rub their bodies in a red ochre and fat to protect them from the harsh desert climate. Arriving in Brandberg we were greeted by Bonnie the meerkat and Peanut the talking bird.
The next morning we set out for a sunrise game drive. “ELEPHANT!” is what Everest screamed when he saw a massive bull only ten feet away from us. We drove on and saw another 30 incredible elephants; Moms, Dads, and lots of little calves.
After an epic elephant experience we went back in time 6,000 years to when the local Bushmen roamed the land. There were ancient rock engravings that they used to inform the other tribes what animals were in the area, what animals they were hunting, and to teach the children about the animals. The engravings at Twyfelfontein were very stark but had a beauty about them. My favorites were the engravings of the giraffe. Did you know the Bushmen never killed the giraffe because they thought the giraffe had long necks to speak to the sky gods who brought the rain? Africa couldn’t be more amazing!
National Geographic Explorer, Enric Sala will spend the next month exploring the Desventuradas Islands off the coast of Chile. He will lead the Pristine Seas Project, which aims to find, survey and help protect the last wild places in the ocean.
Sala, a marine ecologist, is dedicated to finding ways to reduce human impacts on sea life. Between February 8th and March 7th, he will look for ways to preserve one of the last pristine environments left in South America.
During the trip, the team will use a submarine that has 360-degree vision and spherical glass drop cameras to film depth up to 4,000 meters (2.5 miles)!
How good are Adelie penguins at fishing? Amazingly good, according to new footage taken with cameras mounted to the backs of 14 penguins. The penguins never missed their prey on their recorded dives. The Japanese researchers who worked on the study found that the penguins could catch two krill per second, and could catch as many as 14 fish every 20 seconds.
BOOK NAME: Animal Farm
AUTHOR: George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell depicts true events through a group of animal’s fight for power.
Mr. Jones, the owner of Manor Farm shows apathy towards his farm animals. Soon, Old Major, a respected pig on the farm gathers all the animals on the farm and brings about the idea of rebellion. Even after Old Major dies, the rebellion continues and the animals overthrow Mr. Jones. Three pigs, Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer, expand on Old Major’s preachings and come up with the Seven Commandments of Animalism, stating that all animals are equal and that humans are enemies. At first, all the animals are proud to follow these Commandments. However, Napoleon and Snowball soon get into heated arguments and Napoleon expels Snowball from the farm. This is the beginning of Napoleon’s absolute power and torturous rule over the animals. Slowly, the Seven Commandments change and the pigs begin acting as humans, thus betraying Old Major’s principles.
Animal Farm is an amazing book for all ages. The animal story will touch the hearts of young kids. But, actually this book uses animals as an allegory to depict the Russian Revolution of 1917. All the characters in the book have actual human counterparts such as Napoleon who represents Joseph Stalin and Snowball who represents Leon Trotsky. I enjoyed comprehending the events to understand the Russian Revolution. For example, when Snowball is banished from Animal Farm by Napoleon, it symbolizes Trotsky’s exile from Russia by Stalin. To thoroughly enjoy this book, I suggest keeping a list of all the characters’ human counterparts.
National Geographic Kids magazine is on its way to claiming two Guinness World Records! 30,914 people helped take the title for most people running 100 meters in 24 hours, on October 26, 2012. NG Kids hopes to set the title for largest of collection of shoes to recycle.
This morning, NG Kids staff emptied over 50 gigantic boxes of shoes and laid them all out heel to toe at National Geographic Society’s headquarters, and then the official count by Guinness World Records began. Guinness World Records officials will be on hand to announce the number of shoes collected at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 5.
All of the used sneakers were collected from families and kids who wanted to help make a difference. However a few of those sneakers came from the likes of Taylor Swift, One Direction, Eli Manning, Danica Patrick, and Amanda Beard!
The athletic shoes will be sent to the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program which recycles shoes into Nike Grind. This is a material used in athletic surfaces like basketball courts and running tracks. The record will not be known until the shoes have been delivered to Nike for recycling.
NG Kids has set five other Guinness World Records in the past including longest line of footprints, largest collection of plush toys, longest chain of shoes, most items of clothing collected for recycling, and most people doing jumping jacks in 24 hours. We can’t wait to add two more to the list!
Please be patient while we create certificates for those of you who had 100 participants or more in running events.
Voting for the 2012 “So You Wanna Be a DogEared Blogger” contest is being extended for another week. That’s right–you can cast your vote once a day until February 8!
Saturday, February 2, is Groundhog Day! According to legend, if a groundhog sees his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of wintery weather. If there’s no shadow, spring is on the way! The most famous groundhog is Pennsylvania’s Punxatawney Phil. There are other weather-predicting groundhogs too, such as Raleigh, North Carolina’s Sir Walter Wally (pictured above) and Washington, D.C.’s “National Groundhog” Potomac Phil.
What is your prediction? Will we have six more weeks of winter?