Tag archives for Africa
After 24 hours on a bus we were all a bit tired, cranky, and hot, but the moment we saw Norman Carr Cottage and the dancing waters of Lake Malawi out front we took a deep breath and the whole world changed. We instantly knew we were going to love it here and soon three days turned into eight.
Every morning we went out on their rustic and charming boat Alfie. We bought fish from the local fisherman floating around in their dugout canoes and as we threw them into the air fish eagles would gracefully swoop down and grab them in their claws.
We snorkeled and took in the incredible medley of fish. Some had polka dots, some had neon stripes, and others were even black and white. We jumped off boulders into the warm water and each evening we would swim again as the sun dipped behind the shores and return to a candlelight dinner on the veranda.
On market day we went to the village. The market was full of piles and piles of old clothes.
There isn’t a Gap or any store around and even if there was the families are too poor to buy anything. It made me a bit sad but we decided to do a costume party with my family, Jenny, Taffy, Alida, and Alice (the owners of our amazing home for the week and two of their friends.) The theme was movie characters and we all had to buy for someone else. I bought a Maria costume from The Sound of Music for Alida, and Alice bought a flapper costume for me. We looked ridiculous but no one cared. After our fun night we donated all the clothes back to the community.
Throughout the week we listened to the beautiful sounds of the local people singing in their huts just steps away. Our final day it hit me that the end was near and that we needed to enjoy every last second so we hopped in some kayaks and explored the lake for hours. The setting couldn’t have been more picturesque; the mountains in the background, the fishermen in their wooden boats and the sparkling turquoises water. We had such an amazing stay that this was one of the most difficult places to leave. Thank you Jenny and Taffy, and goodbye Lake Malawi!
BOOK NAME: Laugh With the Moon
AUTHOR: Shana Burg
Clare is a thirteen year old girl who lives in Boston with her father, or at least used to. When her dad unexpectedly moves them to Malawi, Africa for two months, Clare is unwillingly dragged to a new place where they barely speak any English. Laugh With the Moon is an inspirational story about how Clare learns to cope with moving to what seems like “a whole other planet” and the aftermath pain of her mother’s death. Clare is faced with many challenges, but with the help from her new friends and father, she’ll learn valuable life lessons that will stick with readers forever.
I was stepping completely out of my comfort zone when reading this realistic fiction book but I really enjoyed it and found it extremely inspirational. I loved that Clare was portrayed as a normal girl that reacted to such drastic changes and challenges like a normal 13-year-old girl would. It helped connect to her and her story which made the book that much better. My favorite character in this book was Memory. I found her really intelligent, clever, and independent even when the world threw hurdles in her way. This book taught me that “grief isn’t a tunnel you walk through and you’re done”. It was extremely moving and I recommend it for ages 10 to 14.
Many years ago David Livingstone was the first white person to experience the mighty smoke that thunders or as David Livingstone called it Victoria Falls. This week we had the good fortune to experience Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world! We stood on the edge of a cliff and stared in awe at its power. The water was piling over the edge, the smoke was rising, the water was thundering, the white river was swirling and my clothes were soaking.
Later in the afternoon we took our adrenaline buzz up a notch with a zip-line across the mighty Zambezi River from the shores of Zambia all the way to the shores of Zimbabwe. The wind was blowing in my hair, my heart was beating fast, the falls were thundering in my ear, and we were zipping across the awe-inspiring gorge at 70 miles per hour! My mom was squeezing my hand, hoping the wire was secure, as we looked down over 200 feet and saw nothing but water, water filled with crocodiles.
As if we hadn’t had enough adrenaline already, the next day we jumped into a cage and were lowered down into crocodile infested waters. Their Jaws were chomping, their eyes were staring, and my heart was pounding.
With loads of adrenaline still racing through us we decided to take it down a notch. The next day took an art class with a local Zimbabwean artist. We were jammin’ to Marley, making jewelry “with good energy man”, and letting out our inner Rasta. Another amazing night we went to Mama Africa and saw a traditional show. Their drums were beating, their feet were moving to the rhythm, and their voices were singing to the music.
To end the week we took our energy from laid back to elegant and rolled in to the grand Victoria Falls Hotel. It is a beautiful colonial property, steeped in history. Old black and white photos adorn the walls, tea and crumpets are delivered each afternoon, the gardens are gorgeous and the veranda has epic views of The Falls. The night we arrived there was a full moon which made the experience even better. It was full of pure elegance.
After zipping, swimming, soaking, jammin’, and eating crumpets we all agreed that Victoria Falls was super awesome.
Helping the planet is a big part of what our world trip is all about and that’s exactly what we did this past week.
We helped get a hydroponics farm started. This farm will be a model for the local villagers so they can start their very own self sustaining farm. Hydroponics is a type of farming that uses a third of the water needed in an average farm and it is covered by a tarp so the elephants and rhinos don’t smoosh it.
The farm is set right next to a beautiful flood plain (the sunsets are epic) and the property is home to trees that have lived for thousands of years. Speaking of trees, one of my projects while we were there was planting trees that will one day be just as amazing as the others. There was one great granddaddy called a baobab on the property. It was so big; when I saw it my mouth dropped open.
All of the villages throughout Botswana have their own chief who controls a certain amount of land. We had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the chief of Katchikow, we called it “Catch a Cow.” In the meeting we discussed starting a hydroponics farm in his area. He seemed to be all for it and said that it was god’s plan that the project we were helping with had come to his area.
Another problem the village people face is the destruction caused by wild animals such as the elephant. Elephants will walk through and destroy their crops, trees and huts in just one night. The cheap and easy solution is to soak rope in chili water and put it up around their fence and it will keep the elephants and other wild critters away.
It is crazy to think that the garden is their life, where as for us it is really something we do for fun. We take for granted that we have other options if our fruits and vegetables don’t grow. It will definitely be something that I will think about a lot more when we go home.
The difference we made by just sharing some new simple farming methods is astonishing. Our hope is by teaching these new methods they will double their crops and their income.
It was a fantastic week and it always feels good when you know you are making a difference in the world. I hope to continue to “make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race…”
Just looking at our Land Cruiser made me excited, it was the perfect open air safari truck and how we would be traveling through Botswana’s best game parks for the next week. Our guide William was a wealth of knowledge with everything from birds and antelope to the traditional food (which he ate an extraordinarily large amount of)!
Our first sighting was a herd of elephant just steps away. We thought we were hearing lions off in the distance but William told us that it was just the sound of the elephant’s stomachs digesting their food.
Speaking of digestion you should know that while all of this was happening I was curled up in a ball with a case of African belly. But it was my fault for trying all these new yummy African foods.
Even though I felt awful we still had an epic game drive. We saw loads of impala, warthog, elephant, and monkeys with blue butts (they are called velvet monkeys, although I think they should just be called blue butts). As we were setting up camp a herd of elephant walked right by, it made my heart beat soooo fast! We spent all of our nights enjoying braii cooked meals and gazing at the stars.
That night while we slept hippos danced two feet from our heads, lions walked through our camp and monkeys got into our trash. It’s a good thing that I am a sound sleeper.
We saw hundreds of elephants throughout our next day and they always brought a smile to my face.
We then experienced a giraffe fight. There were two males fighting over a female and they would swoop down with their heads and bang the other guy in the belly. It seemed like this was all happening in slow motion and made it very funny to watch. I wasn’t sure who was winning but I knew the next day they were going to have some serious stomach aches (just like me.)
Each of our games drives had been so incredible that we couldn’t imagine things getting better, but they did… guess what we saw? Ya… you are right it, was a male lion walking down the road… wait no he wasn’t walking he was strutting his stuff just as if he were a runway model. He had all kinds of scars all over his face so we realized he wasn’t the kind of cat you wanted to cuddle up with.
Then something even more amazing happened we came across a leopard and her fully grown cub lounging on a dead tree. They didn’t have a care in the world all that mattered to them was their nap. After we watched them lounge for a while it started to rain cats and dogs… no not latterly but if you keep listening we saw more of each!
Next a lion spotting even more amazing than the first. He was in the high grass and you could tell the thunder and lightning really freaked him out. Whenever it would boom his eyes got really big and he would yawn giving us a great view of those massive canines. Right then William got close enough that in one little bound he could be on my lap but luckily that didn’t happen! Phew!!!!
Now you want to hear about the dogs? Okay, I will tell you. On our way back to a swamp of a camp I spotted something frightening two wild dogs trying to get a yummy impala dinner. We were really lucky to see these wild guys because William told us there are only 4,000 in all of Africa.
To end our epic day we saw a black mamba getting a drink from a puddle. Just so you know black mambas are very poisons and my mom doesn’t like snakes so it absolutely freaked her out.
On our final day in Chobe National Park we completed our sightings of the big five with a cape buffalo off in the distance. I heard they can be very ornery for no reason at all so I was fine by me that they were far away. Their horns look like someone used a lot of gel in their hair to make a silly hairdo.
Sadly all of the excitement in these incredible parks was coming to an end, but there are still loads of adventures to come. Talk to you next week!
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!
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.
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!
Africa started with a bang! When the 4X4 showed up at our door and they told us how to set up our roof top tents I could feel the excitement in the air. We were all busting to hit the road.
Our first stop was Naukluft National Park where the baboons stalked our camp, but we were surrounded by spectacular canyons, natural pools and waterfalls perfect for swimming. The next morning we saw a herd of mountain zebra galloping through the bush.
In the trees there were these giant birds’ nests created by birds called sociable weavers. We also spotted springbok playing around. Our next stop was Sesriem, home to some truly enormous sand dunes. We woke up with the moon still high in the sky, the stars glistening and we started out for Dune 45. The color was a radiant red.
We hiked up the dune’s spine, and sat down in the warm sand just in time to watch the sun rise. We later drove our speedy 4X4 to Big Daddy, perhaps the largest sand dune in the world. Do you know the reason the sand is red? The sand has iron in it and when it rains the iron rusts and turns the sand a reddish rust color. Well now you know!
Later we went deep into the desert and saw the dry remains of an old lake basin. Crazy right? Actually the entire desert was once believed to have been an ocean. That night our campsite was incredible. We slept under our own acacia tree. When the sun was setting we made our brai (African barbeque) and watched the sun slip below the horizon. As darkness fell we could hear the animals crunching in the bush just a few feet below us. While we were driving through the park we saw our first oryx. The oryx has the most beautiful horns I have ever seen. Another spectacular stop was Mirabeb, a campsite in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There was nothing in sight for miles. We slept under a rock escarpment (over hang). While we were hiking we found mica, a rock with thin pieces of translucent papery material running through it like a mirror. Later in the day we visited the local people in their village and delivered a bag of clothes, toys and school supplies. The children had big smiles on their faces. How about that for another epic week… wow, I am SO lucky!
Let the planning begin. This crazy week was spent preparing for our awesome trip to Africa. We started by narrowing down the countries that were the highest on our list. After hours of studying travel books, maps, and websites our heads were spinning but our current plan is to start in Namibia and travel on to Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and finally Mozambique. There are tons of incredible things to do in Sub Saharan Africa. I was only five when I came to Africa the first time so I am super excited to go again. Have you ever been to Africa?
I still can’t believe we have been to 27 countries already in the past 18 months and that this is our last continent. I could travel forever. I love everything about our journey but maybe not the packing. We spent an insanely busy weekend packing our one carryon suit case with school books, a very small amount of clothing, cameras, and binoculars. On Sunday morning we said a sad goodbye to my grandma and grandpa and hopped on the train to Chicago. In Chicago the temperature was four degrees and we nearly froze our fingers off, but we ended our day with piping hot Chicago style pizza.
We left Chicago the next morning and started out on our four day journey to Africa. Within the first five minutes of our drive from the airport to our hotel in Windhoek, Namibia we saw two gorgeous giraffes grazing in the bush.
When we arrived at our hotel we jumped in the pool and started talking to travelers from all over the world. They shared their stories and confirmed that there is an endless list of amazing things for us to do and see. Our first day we toured the city of Windhoek. We visited the handicraft center and saw handmade creations from the small villages throughout Namibia. The indigenous people use things that we would just throw away and turn them into beautiful creations. There were picture frames made of bike chains, boxes made of computer keys, African animals carved from old wood, they even took old radio parts and made solar powered portable radios. It just makes you realize our trash is their treasure. I am so excited to explore the rest of this awe inspiring African continent!
BOOK NAME: Chike and the River
AUTHORS: Chinua Achebe
Chike and the River, an African story written by Chinua Achebe, is similar to Aesop’s fables. This story shows how working, not begging, will help you reach your goals.
Chike is an eleven year old boy who leaves his family to live with his uncle in Onitsha, Nigeria. Chike makes friends who talk about their trips to Asaba, a big city on the other side of the Niger River. Adventurous Chike dreams to go there someday in a ferry, but needs one shilling to do so. Chike wonders how to get the money but learns that begging is not the solution. Then he goes to a money doubler but realizes that people can be deceptive. By being a good boy, Chike unsuccessfully tries getting money from his rich neighbor. Finally he washes cars and earns a shilling to sail to Asaba. However, Asaba is different from his expectations, and danger and crime lurk around him. But soon Chike becomes a hero. How? Read the book to find out.
This book is a fabulous read for all ages. It brings out the traditions of Nigeria. For example, people ride in lorries (or trucks) for long drives, and if they break down people have to push the lorry. Also, the detailed descriptions help visualize Nigeria’s villages by the Niger River. I liked how the author added in a light mystery at the end which has been foreshadowed earlier. This book really brings out African myths by incorporating small fables into the plot.
BOOK NAME: Mamba Point
AUTHOR: Kurtis Scaletta
If you don’t like snakes, it’s time to get over your fears because this is an amazing book! This is the second time I’ve reviewed a book that takes place in Africa and the contrast is intriguing. Reading a story such as Mamba Point provides us with an easy journey and chance to escape.
Linus’ family must move from the USA to Africa because his dad got a job there. Getting used to life in Africa comes with many challenges. One of them is getting used to the big black snakes in the area called mambas. They are one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. When being in a new country gets overwhelming, Linus loves to draw and he secretly brings a mamba to his apartment when no one is home and he sketches the snake! But even though much joy comes to him through the snake, some near disasters take place that change Linus forever.
I think this book really ties together animals and humans in a different way than usually thought. I find this book quite different because it is a new experience for both the snake and Linus. I bet everyone would love this book, especially animal lovers. But Mamba Point is more than just a story about a bond between a boy and his snake. It’s about having a chance to reinvent yourself that many of us can only dream about.
This book will enchant and delight you as you journey with Linus to Africa. Together you and he will learn about African culture, snakes, friendship, and most importantly, truths about themselves. By the way, my mom still isn’t convinced that a snake makes a good pet!
BOOK NAME: Bulu: African Wonder Dog
AUTHOR: Dick Houston
Have you ever adopted a dog? I have. A beautiful Chihuahua named Sophie became a part of our family in December. We do typical dog owner things like feed her, play with her, and take her for walks. But after reading Bulu, I’ve come to realize that there is nothing typical about owning a dog in the African bush! Many dangers await Bulu as he fights for his life to survive in Africa.
The name Bulu means “wild dog”. The Tolans adopted Bulu after no one else would take him. He was different from his littermates and didn’t seem like the perfect dog, except to the Tolans. They were able to see his many fine qualities and he soon became a part of their family.
Despite many sad encounters, this is a story full of love and adventure. Most dogs die a tragic death in Africa, but Bulu survives all the hardship. And he not only survives, he provides nurturing and companionship to orphaned baby animals. That’s right, Bulu acts as a foster parent to orphaned animals such as warthogs, vervets, baboons, bushbucks, and even elephants!
I especially love this book because it is a true story with pictures throughout the book. So it’s very easy to see for yourself what a wonderful dog Bulu truly is. If you like dogs or a story that take places in Africa, then this is a book for you. In fact, I feel this book will become a classic in time. I have a dog of my own so I love this book. If you read Bulu you will never look at a dog the same again!
Nephila komaci is the world’s largest web-spinning spider. Or at least the female is! Her legspan can be as big as five inches (12 centimeters) wide. The males, however, is less than a quarter of the female’s size. Males have legspans that are only one inch wide (2.5 centimeters). There are bigger spiders on the planet (think tarantulas like the goliath birdeater), but they don’t spin webs.
Nephila komaci is a member of the golden orb-weaver family. All of these spiders are known to spin very big webs. They can be up to three feet (one meter) wide! The spider’s habitat is limited–it lives in small areas in Madagascar and South Africa. Although the spider was first identified at a museum in 2000, scientists didn’t know if it still existed in the wild until a field survey in 2007.
Read more about Nephila komaci on National Geographic News.
Put together puzzles featuring spiders on National Geographic Kids.
Get the facts on tarantulas in the Creature Feature.
BOOK NAME: African Critters
AUTHOR: Robert B. Haas
I liked this book a lot! The man who wrote the book really did go to Africa to spend time with all of the animals. He wrote about and took pictures of leopards, hyenas, lions, elephants, impalas, wild dogs, hippos, rhinos, bugs, alligators, dung beetles, and cheetahs. The pictures of the animals were AWESOME!
I liked the leopards story the best. I liked this story because I thought it was good. The mother cared for her cubs by protecting them from the people when they got too close by growling and she fed them and she let them play on the rocks, tackle each other on the grass under her watchful eye.
The saddest part was when the mom and the dad lions were hunting and the three cubs were found by the wild buffaloes. One of the lion cubs was found dead on the ground, one cub was hiding in a small bush and breathing hard because it was so scared. The author came back the next morning and found two of the cubs with their mom. This was sad but it is nature’s life. I recommend this book because it had good pictures and good words to describe the animals.