Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Final Days...

Kimberly Blasnik uses a solar powered satellite device to upload all of our blogs throughout the trip. Photo Credit: Jon Cox
Carly Burrus, Aileen Hearn, Mel Cleary, Amelia Wang, Katie Yost, Erin Cordiner, Holly Pierson, and Chris Stejskal taking a break on the beach after a long afternoon of snorkeling in the Indian Ocean. Photo Credit: Kimberly Blasnik
Matthew Grasso snorkels while scanning the reef for a variety of marine species. Photo Credit: Kimberly Blasnik
The largest bonfire ever, built to celebrate the finale of our trip! Photo Credit: Christine Edwards
Preston Kinkle showing off his trendy tire shoes. Photo Credit: Kimberly Blasnik

We stayed in Arusha at the Pamoja Inn for two nights and had time to finish all of our work. We then visited the Cultural Heritage Center, the largest art gallery in Africa. There was an eye-catching collection of paintings, life-sized wood carvings, traditional masks, and beadwork. From there we went to the Maasai Market, a crowded cluster of open air shops where the owners will try and say anything to persuade you to buy some of their hand-made goods. We were able to practice some of our Swahili and bartering skills and made out with some great deals. Preston even traded his sleeping pad and wallet for a pair of sandals made from recycled tires, they are all the rage in Tanzania! Later that evening we attended a silent auction of photographs of the Hadza by Jon Cox and Daudi and Trude Peterson. All proceeds from the artwork go the Dorobo fund to benefit the Hadza.
The next day we set out on a long and hot bus ride to the coast. It was an exhausting day of travel, but what awaited us at Pembe Abwe beach was worth the hassle. We were met with soft white sand and warm water as we walked along the beach to our huts overlooking the Indian Ocean. We had barely set our bags down and we were headed to the water for a refreshing swim before dinner. Over the next two days we took turns kayaking through mangroves and boated to a sandbar for an afternoon of snorkeling. We saw many exciting marine species including clown fish, an octopus, a sea turtle, and dolphins. We also celebrated the end of our study abroad trip with an epic bon fire on the beach. Tomorrow we begin our long journey home and we can’t wait to see you all!

Don’t forget to order our course book recapping our entire trip! Details coming soon…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Welcome to our Island Paradise!

The wildlife students have a discussion lead by Dr. Bowman on the patio of the Lukuba restaurant. Photo credit Amelia Wang

Katie Yost and Stephen Pope explore the island in the canoes around the lake. Photo credit Amelia Wang

Erin Cordiner enjoys her time off in a hammock on the beach. Photo credit Amelia Wang

Mike Bucknall shares his perspective on life and his passion for photography. Photo Credit Stephen Pope

Students enjoy looking at the beautiful colors of the sky created by the sunset. Photo credit Erin Cordiner

We stepped off a handmade, wooden boat, to a secluded Lukuba Island Lodge on Lake Victoria. After settling into our waterfront rooms, we anxiously explored the island. Excited for the new terrain, including soft sand below our feet, students played Frisbee, rested in hammocks and soared in tree swings before dinner.   

The next day included working on our projects. After a much deserved break, we spread out to participate in canoe races, explore the island and swim in the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria. After lunch, the wildlife students had a discussion on the issues surrounding the conservation of the African elephant as well as traditional tribal cultures.

With the completion of schoolwork for one day, students had the afternoon to enjoy the beautiful weather and observe some of the island’s wildlife including black-faced vervet monkeys, Long-tailed Cormorants, Nile monitors and Little Egrets. One of the black-faced vervet monkeys even snuck into one of our bathrooms!

That night when our stomachs were full, we were treated to a showing of Colonel Mike Bucknall’s collection of inspiring photos from his own African excursions.  Mike is an award winning BBC photographer, a colonel in the British SAS hand-picked by the United Nations to work in conflict resolution in the Darfur Region of Sudan, and currently the manager of the lodge. To end the day, we had a bonfire on the beach lighting up the dark night as waves crashed along the shore with stars displaying a canopy overhead.

The last full day at Lake Victoria was used to work on our projects, lie on the beach and enjoy each other’s company. In the early evening we set out on a short hike to the highest rocks overlooking the island to watch the stunning sunset take over the sky. Fresh fish caught by our professors overflowed our plates complimenting the rest of our meal. Our last night on the island was finished off by watching the photography students’ photo essays and playing games by the fire.

The next day, after a delicious breakfast, we left our island paradise on the same boat back to the mainland and spent an afternoon of traveling via buses and small airplanes before arriving in Arusha.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


After listening to the sounds of hyenas, bush pigs, and elephants parading through our campsite all night we woke up excited to continue our safari to the much-anticipated Serengeti Plains.  Our professors surprised us with a stop at Oldupai Gorge. The Gorge is a site where thousands of archeological remains including relatives of Lucy, the first homo sapien were unearthed.

During our trek through the Serengeti we made a few exciting stops.  Our first was to climb the shifting sands, a mound of black volcanic ash that moves as a unit through the open plains. 

When we stopped for lunch, we came across the skeletal remains of a Grant’s gazelle in an acacia tree. It appeared that a leopard had eaten here before we did.

 When we entered the National Park we could not imagine what was in store for us. Less than twenty minutes in, we drove up to a pride of twelve lions, including two full-grown males.  The moment we had all been waiting for had arrived!  Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better we spotted two leopards napping in a nearby tree.  A few moments later a third leopard walked inches from our truck and sat down to survey the plains. 

That night we were fortunate enough to camp within the park’s boundaries.

The next morning we battled each other for the title of Tent Olympic Champion.  We were judged based on speed and precision of packing the tent.  The champions were Erin Cordiner and Morgan Fiore.

On our way out of the park we came within arms reach of a herd of elephants and stopped at a pool where we saw two hippos fighting. 

We left the gates of the Serengeti Park and ventured to our lodge on the shore of Lake Victoria.  More to come!

1.     1.Photo by Matt Grasso
A Lilac Breasted Roller perched on an Acacia tree in the Serengeti Plains

2.    2. Photo by Stephen Pope
(From left to right) Chris Stejskal, Erin Cordiner, Aileen Hearn, Emma Rando, Preston Klinke, and Katie Yost leaping off the shifting sands of volcanic ash. The wind in the plains keeps the large pile in a horseshoe shape and moves extremely slowly through the Serengeti

3.     3.Photo by Chris Stejskal
Two hippos in an intense act of aggression in the Serengeti

4.     4.Photo by Emma Rando
 A lioness awaking from a cat nap

5.     5.Photo by Mel Cleary
A leopard sunning itself on the branch of a Sausage tree.

6.     6.Photo by Preston Klinke
The skeletal remains of the Grant’s gazelle lodged in an Acacia tree where we stopped for lunch.

Monday, January 23, 2012

From Karatu to the Crater

The group makes the trek down into the crater.
Photo Credit: Carly Burrus

Wildebeest and common zebra graze among each other.
Photo Credit: Morgan Fiore

Two common zebra groom each other.
Photo Credit: Carly Burrus

Three African Crown Cranes fly across the vast plains of the crater.
Photo Credit: Holly Pierson

After saying our goodbyes to the Hadza we headed for the town of Karatu.  The drive to the Octagon Lodge took longer than expected.  Recent rains saturated the soil and we spent the morning pushing our trucks out of the mud. Everyone worked together as we gathered sticks to put beneath the tires for traction.  On the count of moja, mbili, tatu (1,2,3) the whole group dug deep to free the sunken vehicles. After the long day of travel, we arrived at the Octagon Lodge where we were welcomed with a well-needed shower.   Most of the day was dedicated to group projects, but we still had some of the afternoon to explore local shops.  For the first time, we practiced our bargaining skills using the Swahili we have learned.  That night we packed our belongings in preparation for an early departure to the Ngorongoro Crater. At the entrance of the park, we were greeted with lounging baboons that closely watched our every move.  The crater spans nearly 10 kilometers in all directions and is filled with an abundance of wildlife.  A myriad of common zebra, cape buffalo, wildebeest, and gazelle scattered the entire area.  We were even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a few lazy female lions sleeping with their paws in the air.  Midday, lunch was served by a lake filled with wading hippos and dive-bombing Black Kites. We saw black rhinos, spotted hyenas, and a massive lake turned pink by flamingoes.  Our nearby campsite was also teaming with wildlife; the motion-sensing predator camera captured spotted hyenas, elephants, bush pigs, black-backed jackel, porcupines, and bats wandering through our camp.

Greetings From the Yaeda Valley!

A group of students photograph the sun setting over the Yaeda Valley. Photo Credit:  Steven Pope

A group of Wildlife students observe the African Spoonbill from a distance. Photo credit: Stephen Pope

A young Hadza hunter examines the Kirk’s dikdik that he caught during the morning hunt. Photo credit: Kimberly Blasnik

Mel Cleary laughs as she struggles to set her arrow during target practice. Photo credit: Aileen Hearn

Three Hadza use smoke to draw bees out of the hive in order to retrieve honey. Photo credit: Kimberly Blasnik

We’ve made the trip from the chilly Nou Forest to the sweltering Yaeda Valley. It was a full day of truck travel, but driving in Tanzania is never boring. We stopped at a wetland along the way to see some Great Crested Grebes, a bird rarely found in Tanzania. Once in the valley we were fortunate to spend time with the Hadza, a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Early one morning we ventured out with the Hadza hunters and returned successful with a Kirk’s dikdik and klipspringer. Upon returning from an exciting morning of hunting, a small group of wildlife students headed to a seasonal wetland for an afternoon of birding while the rest of the group hiked to a cave containing ancient rock art from an unknown tribe. That evening the Hadza prepared klipspringer kabobs with a side of Kirk’s dikdik stew, it was delicious! After our exotic dinner, the Hadza treated us to a night of traditional song and dance around the campfire. The following day, ten brave students made the 24km trek to meet the rest of the group at our second campsite in the Yaeda Valley. The Hadza then shared with us the art of hand-crafted arrows or “mishale” after which we had target practice. Our best archers were Erin Cordiner, Carly Burrus, Stephen Pope, and Matt Fischel. We were instructed to use “power” when drawing the bow and the Hadza were thoroughly entertained when Stephen Pope, in his concentration, cracked the bow in two. On our final day in the valley we joined the Hadza women in their village to dig tubers or “mizizi”, a potato-like root. We also had the opportunity to sample raw honey from a hive in a nearby Acacia tree. Our time with the Hadza has been unforgettable. We have been inspired by the pride they take in their work and the fun they having doing it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The group poses in traditional Tanzanian attire with the Hadza atop sacred rocks overlooking the Yaeda Valley. Photo credit: Jon Cox