We're a group of Western Washington University students traveling to Tanzania to ask big questions about geography, nature, and culture.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kwaheri Tanzania/Goodbye Tanzania

Our group is back in Moshi after an early morning start to Ngorongoro crater and a long and tiring drive afterwards. The general mood from our group in the crater was one of anticlimax, as we had some amazing animal sightings in Serengeti and things were cool and quiet in the crater today. However, looking at the photos from the day shows how exciting the previous days had been--we saw a good variety of interesting animals. What was probably missing the most was that the predators were mostly at rest and relatively far away from all but the longest of our camera lenses.

Rosemary, Brad, and Elizabeth brave the cold early morning temperatures of the crater rim to pop the top for the view of the caldera:

Male wildebeest engaging in territorial advertising and confrontation:

A Grey Crowned Crane:

A lone hyena considers whether he really wants to cross this particular patch of the crater floor, as

It's being surveilled by a particularly imposing force:

Rosemary managed to catch this shot of a lion cub taking a break from nursing:

And the parting shot goes to the under-appreciated wildebeest, also known as gnu:

Goodbye for now! Thanks for following along on our adventures and learning...more to come about what the students learned and wrote while preparing for and traveling in Tanzania.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Early Birds Catches the Worm - Guest Post by Rosemary Widenor

We started this morning bright and early on the Serengeti to try and catch some of the harder to spot animals.  Pulling out of camp at 6:30, we were able to see a beautiful sunrise over the savanna.  Our early departure proved to be worth it! On the morning game drive we saw two leopards, a few male lions, a huge line of elephants, and a lioness with her kill.  

After a quick breakfast, we drove out of Serengeti, heading towards Ngorongoro Crater.  Along the way we saw a lioness in the middle of the hunt, a secretary bird, and plenty of giraffes.  We made it to the Rhino Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, and man, it is cold here.  We actually have to layer up, which is a welcome break from sticking to the seats of the safari cars with sweat.  We are getting up again early tomorrow to hopefully beat the crowds into the crater.  Tomorrow is our last night in Tanzania--AHH! 

Brother lions out just after sunrise
A giraffe, mowing down on an acacia tree
Just a couple leopard friends hanging

The gang on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Serengeti - Guest Post by Kaylee Guetle

Tonight is our last night in the Serengeti and tomorrow we're off to Ngorongoro Crater. We've been able to see some great animals including some of the rarer spotted ones like cheetah and leopard. We were lucky enough to get up close with some lions - close to 20!

Our campsite is located right in the middle of Serengeti National Park so we have had some visitors in the middle of the night, lions and tigers and bears oh my! Except not tigers or bears.. but lions and hippos. We have camp staff escort us to and from our tents at night.

Tomorrow we're getting up early to go on a morning game drive, hoping to see some animals we wouldn't normally see. In just a few short days most of you - family members following this blog - will be reunited with these wonderful people I've had the privilege of knowing. But for Allison and I, it will be a little bit longer. We will be staying behind for ten days to go back to the MAD House and teach the Kilimanjaro kids about various alternatives to plastic burning and malaria awareness.


Stumbled upon 4 lion cubs and their mother.

Typical tourists.

Stopped by the hippo pool today and 

Baby baboon being helped down a tree by parents.

Camp at Halisi Serengeti.

Missing day update-August 17 at Lake Manyara

Oops! In my hurry to post updates I managed to miss most of our day that started at Lake Manyara--I had switched memory cards so I didn't think to go back and look for other photos.

We starting the morning with a walk to Lake Manyara, an alkaline (salty) lake in the Eastern Rift Valley. 

Here the crew prepares to set sail in a dugout boat used by local fishermen:

Lesser Flamingos are common at the lakeshore: 

A fisherman shows off some of his catch of tilapia and catfish:

After the lakeshore we visited the town of Mto wa Mbu (literally "Mosquito River" and had a chance to see some local artists at their craft. Here a man creates banana-leaf mosaic art:

Finally we had a chance to tour a Masai boma. Here are the fourteen children and grandchildren (by seven wives) of the ligwanan (chief) of the boma.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two nights at Lake Natron-Part I

Greetings from the Serengeti!  We have returned to the land of Internet access (at least via cellular network) after being without for two nights. I'm running short on time as we're up early for safari tomorrow morning so here are a number of photos from the last two days, in chronological order:

(I'm skipping our visit to a Masai boma in the hopes that one of the students can do a guest post)

Sierra jumping for joy in the Eastern Rift Valley: 

The first giraffe sighting of our trip, pulling into Natron Halisi Camp:

Oldoinyo Lengai and the lounge tent at Natron Halisi Camp:

On our morning walk with our Masai guide:

At the shallow shore of Lake Natron, Ariane takes pictures of flamingo:

Our high point for the morning walk:

Pizza for lunch!

...part II coming soon!

Two nights at Lake Natron-Part II

Our afternoon started with a walk up a narrowing gorge, 

eventually wading through the stream

and scrambling along the rocky walls of the gorge

passing under the occasional waterfall

Until we reached the final destination where none of our cameras could venture: we had to swim/spash/scramble up the slippery cascade under a cold waterfall (cold because it is fed by a spring  erupting from the rock above). Behind the falls was a grotto with steep walls and a large waterfall. It was amazing!

Friday, August 16, 2013

On Safari-Lake Manyara

Hi everyone, we all did a great job of packing up before breakfast and loading the safari vehicles to make it through Arusha before traffic got bad! When I first visited Arusha it felt a lot smaller, much like Moshi today. But now Arusha is so large it even has traffic lights at major intersections!

After a box lunch along the way (both burgers and chicken for the non-vegetarian choice) we made it to Lake Manyara National Park by early afternoon. We saw a good deal of game though we missed one common animal, the giraffe, usually a common sight at Manyara and a popular favorite among our group. 

Here are a few animal & human highlights of our safari so far. Please note that we travel tomorrow to Lake Natron where there is not any cell service so we will be out of contact for the next two nights; the camp we stay at does have a satellite phone for emergencies but we won't be able to post any kind of updates until we are in Serengeti in three days. 

On the road to the parks, the Eastern Rift scarp in the distance:

The group at Lake Manyara National park with driver-guides Joseph and William:

A baboon up close: 

Some frisky zebra: 

A Grey-headed Kingfisher:

In competition for the "ugly five" of Tanzania animals, the Marabou Stork: 

A somewhat recently deceased hippo being picked over by vultures:

Animal babies are almost always cute but perhaps baby elephants are cuter than some:

And finally, our home for the night in Mto wa Mbu, Migunga Tented Camp:

Dinner tonight was a potato salad, pumpkin soup, choice of lamb stew or yellow lentils with rice and a passionfruit tart. Not bad at all! The students are taking these hardships in stride.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mweka to Kibosho - Guest Post by Elizabeth McMurchie

Today we made a visit to Mweka College of African Wildlife Management, situated in kihamba country on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. 

Our guide for the Mweka tour was named Gumu. He began our tour by taking us to a lecture hall full of  taxidermied animal heads, which he used to explain the animals we might see at various locations on safari.

Gumu teaches us about plains animals... and moose.

The tour of Mweka took us to several locations, including a small firing range, the university library, another Chagga cave, a "biodiversity lab" with many pickled animals, and rooms filled with cabinets of dead birds, mammals, and preserved plants.

Rats and more rats in a cabinet at the taxidermy center at Mweka College.

After taking us around the university, Gumu led us to Kibosho Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in Tanzania. Along the way Gumu brought us through kihamba country, where we stopped to try traditional Chagga banana beer. 

The group hikes out of a ravine. Many of us did not wear appropriate shoes for this particular activity.

While the group consensus was that the beer was not to our tastes, the people were friendly and the trail was beautiful.

Gumu and the group stop on a bridge in kihamba country.

The cathedral itself had numerous vivid stained glass windows, including several full rose windows. As an addition to the normal tour of the cathedral, several of us climbed up a rather terrifying series of bars set into the wall that led to the bell tower.

Rosemary climbs the bell tower. It was a struggle.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A brief visit to Upendo orphanage

This morning we took a side trip on our move back into the center of Moshi to visit the Upendo Children's Home, a well-run orphanage mostly for children under 3 years of age; the youngest was a few weeks old. There are several older children with disabilities so great that the orphanage cannot find a family or program to accept them. 

The main point of our visit was to learn about the orphanage and play with the children. Historically children have been orphaned by both parents dying from disease but the orphanage now also rears children who have been abandoned by their mothers. We were told there are around 60 children at the orphanage right now. We brought several tins of infant formula to donate, as it's expensive in Tanzania and essential to the health of the youngest there. 

A group of toddlers was playing in the yard. The children are quite used to visitors and many will run up to you with arms raised, hoping to be held. Unfortunately at this age the children didn't really understand that we had to go and there were a few tears from two boys who didn't want to be put down and go inside for lunch. 





Brad and Allison

Two more: 

It made me miss my own little girl of about the same age. Here is a shot taken of her at the beach today, 9,100 miles away: 

Still reading? We spent the rest of the day chasing some loose ends for our geography projects and doing a bit of shopping. Tomorrow is our last full day in Moshi before we start our safari, departing early Friday morning! 

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