Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birds of East Africa

From the tiny bee eater, which is my favorite bird because it looks like it’s wearing turquoise eye liner to the brightly colored lilac-breasted roller and from the hornbill to the crowned crane, the birds of East Africa are magnificent.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Local Market, Tanzania

Once a month the villages near Ngorongoro Crater gather together to have a large market and auction where people can trade or sell their goods.  The market is intended for locals only and we were very lucky to get a small glimpse into this amazing market.  People walk miles and miles to reach the market some carrying their goods on their backs or perched atop their heads.  Everything imaginable is sold from clothes (including Obama underpants), to Masai shoes made of tires, to cooked meat, to live goats and cows.  It was an exciting, bustling and aromatic event.  There is also a well at the market site, one of the only for miles around.   We watched as locals filled large buckets with water and carried the very heavy buckets balanced on their heads for incredibly long distances.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Timon and Pumba

Further fulfilling my Lion King fantasy I wanted to find my very own Timon and Pumba.  Unfortunately Timon was a meerkat which aren't found in East Africa, but we saw mongoose, which are similar so I declared them a nice Timon stand in.  I also couldn't get a photo of them together, because they don't actually hang out together in the wild and break into choruses of hakuna matata.  I was able to photograph them both with their families though.  So I present to you Timon and Pumba 10 years after the movie when bachelor life has ended and they've settled down and had families and gone their separate directions....

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Masai Village Visit, Tanzania

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We were hesitant over whether or not to visit a Masai village after our first experience with Masai Warriors in the Bateleur Camp in Kenya. The Masai Warriors we met there were very traditional and spoke with us about traditional practices of the Masai Warriors like female circumcision, also known as genital mutilation in western circles, and the practice of killing a lion to enter manhood. I knew that these practices exist, but was under the impression that many of the Masai were making an effort to stop these old barbaric practices. When we pushed a little and asked if these practices still occurred in their villages we were met with a resounding YES so we dropped the subject and chose not to do a village visit. However when we arrived in Ngorongoro Crater we were met by both our guide Vicky and a guide in training Wilson, who had grown up in a Masai village in the Masai Mara. I had the chance to speak with him in depth about life as a Masai and he told me that many of those practices are now considered barbaric and the government has outlawed them. Some tribes still practice the traditional ways, but for the most part the Masai are trying to find a new place in the world of the 21st Century. We spoke about the efforts of the government and NGO's to retrain Masai to protect lions instead of hunting them. He told me about the difficulties of leaving the village to go into conservation work. Before training to become a guide he worked as a ranger at the Mara Conservancy in Kenya. He told me that since he was a little boy he wanted to help animals and it was difficult for his family to see him leave tradition and go into conservation. However it is of the up most importance for people like Wilson to go into conservation, because now he can return to his village and speak with them about conservation and the importance of protecting big cats instead of killing them.

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We decided to go visit a Masai Village by the crater with Wilson, but as I feared it was very touristy. They basically set up a show for us where they danced and then showed us a hut, how to make fire, and then their beaded work, which of course was for sale. We visited the kindergarten, but again it was a show where they sang to us and there was no interaction.

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I'm glad we had the experience, and I love the Masai beaded work and was happy to pick up some beautiful items, but it is hard to find a real meaningful moment in the constructed experience. The tourist money is important to them though and helps encourage the dismantling of inhumane traditions like genital mutilation, because tourists will not visit if they do those horrible acts.

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I would recommend the experience, but also encourage you to find a Masai either in the village or outside who you can sit with and have a longer more meaningful conversation with, because that is truly a great experience that I will not soon forget.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheetah Brothers, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Because Ngorongoro is a pretty small and self contained area the rangers can easily particular animals.  The animals will sometimes move in and out of the crater, but for the most part they spend their lives roaming the crater floor.  Because of this we were able to have two wonderful sitings of the cheetah brothers.  Cheetahs are very solitary animals.  The females rear the cubs alone then release them into the wild and remain solitary until they have more cubs.  The males will often spend their whole lives solitary, but sometimes they will take on one partner to hunt with.  In the crater there are two males known as the cheetah brothers who have joined together to hunt and live.  We were lucky enough to see the gorgeous creatures twice. The cheetah is Africa's most endangered cat.  Due to habitat destruction and human encroachment these animals are extremely vulnerable.  To find more information and see how you can help check out here.

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