Friday, April 26, 2013


Why did the Flap Necked Chameleon cross the road? 

We have no idea, but it sure made for a cool photo, especially when he looked right at us with one of his beady little eyes. 

To learn more about these color-changing animals, check out this site

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Following his mother up an acacia tree, a one-yr-old leopard stares at a Land Rover of photo-happy tourists.
Our priorities may have changed when it came to hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. But nothing was keeping us from a multi-day safari in the world famous Serengeti. 

Budgets be damned, we would be riding in the back of a well-aged Land Rover, camera in hand, tacky tourist hat on head, gawking for hours at lions and leopards and sunsets that could fry a memory card.

While we came for the wildebeest migration (photos later), we got an unexpected surprise by seeing so many babies. It seems spring had sprung, the rainy season was on the way and lots of brand new little animals were taking their first steps. The squeals (from us) and cuteness (from the animals) was pretty overwhelming.

Enjoy the photos!
Awwww! A baby zebra peers over her mom's shoulder.
The vigilant parents of a baby water buffalo stand guard. Buffalo are the third most deadly animal in Africa when it comes to killing humans. 
A mud-covered baby elephant calls for his mother. This little guy put on a show wallowing in a water hole.
Baby giraffe with mom.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Having a Kilimanjaro beer at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Thanks, contributing readers!
Travel can change a person. Sort of.

When we left the United States a year ago, one of the few "must do" items on our list was a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. At nearly 20,000 feet, 'Kili' is the highest mountain in Africa. Towering far above arid plains and broad savannas, its snow-covered peak seems as alien and out of place as two tall white Americans at the Taj Mahal

When we finally arrived in Arusha in northern Tanzania, we decided the mountain looked more impressive from a rooftop bar, cold Kilimanjaro-brand beer in hand, than from behind a fanny pack-wearing tourist, which is where we would have spent the next six days if we'd done the climb--while paying $1,000 each for the privilege. 

After nearly 12 months on the road, our perspectives have changed. Rather than spending so much time and money to suffer and hurry along a well-traveled trail just to say we had, we'd rather enjoy what little time we have left on our trip. Maybe we'll regret it later. Maybe not.

In the photo above, Kili was a bit shy and hid behind early afternoon cloud cover. But even a partial view couldn't keep us from being complete dorks. Kip bought a hideous $2 hat for the occasion.

Thanks to everyone (Todd, Jordan & Matt, H, Amy, Christine, Mom!) who recently contributed to our coffee/drink fund. Who knew one day we'd be sipping a Kilimanjaro beer while staring at the real thing.
Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunrise.
If you want a clear view of the tallest mountain in Africa, you need to get up before the sun, which we managed to do. Once. Combined with the previous day's happy hour, that was just enough for us. Off to a slow safari in the Serengeti. Which remains at the top of our must-see list.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


The sail of a whale shark safari boat features two silhouettes of what are the world's largest fish.  
In only a few places in the world can humans swim with whale sharks. One year ago, on our first stop in the Philippines, we watched as a group of fishermen dropped tiny shrimp into the gaping mouths of the world's largest fish. 

In Mafia Island, one of our last stops, there would be no feeding. But we did get a brief underwater encounter with a few whale sharks, including the one below (really, there's a 15-foot fish in this photo!). 

A massive whale shark tries to hide from the camera in the choppy waters off Mafia Island.
Kip and our safari guide Afro, who's the godfather of whale shark swimming in Mafia. 
Since we mailed our underwater camera home and have zero photos of actual whale sharks, below are a few parting shots from our final days on one of the most unique islands we've ever been to. 

Liz cruises past three Mafia natives on her way to the beach.
An island woman sells fish on the beach. Thanks Wolf and Ollie for posing (aka, lazing on the beach ALL day).
Mafia is home to colorful birds, including this Lilac-breasted Roller. 
More happy kids.

Friday, April 19, 2013


The vibrant colors of this pretty Lotus flower caught our eye from a stagnant pond, somewhere in the middle of Mafia Island. 

From the serenity of the photo, you would never guess it was nearly crushed during an attempt to "wake up" some sleeping Hippos.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Maybe Mafia Island doesn't have any mobsters. But there certainly seemed to be a lot of gang activity during our stay.

Fishing takes a village, at least around Mafia, whose waters teem with fish. The small boat above is filled with a gang of helpful islanders needed to set and retrieve the heavy nets used in the surrounding waters.
Kip (far right)  joins a local gang
assisting a driver re-start his van.
An intimidating gang of feral cats
stakes out a fish seller
Another fishing gang pulling in nets on the island's north shore. 
Liz cleans up trash in the Mafia Marine Reserve. Only a gang of litterers would trash a beach as beautiful as Mafia's.
This group of plastic bottle caps, styrofoam and a lighter shows more of the work of the litter gang.
Kip, trash bag in hand, joins Liz to clean up the beach, littered by the work of the aforementioned litterers. 

Friday, April 12, 2013


Much of life on Mafia Island revolves around the water. Residents use the island's shores to fish from, to park their boats on, and, like the ladies above, to commute to and from work each morning and afternoon.

Sure beats being stuck in traffic at rush hour. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Hunting pygmy hippos on Mafia Island. The noise from beating the water is meant to wake up hippos, causing them to rise to the surface where we could shoot them (with our cameras, of course).

Yes, there really is a “Mafia Island.”

But before anyone goes alerting the FBI or Interpol, be aware this barely-developed spit of land lies nowhere near Italy (off the east coast of Tanzania, actually) and the only thing resembling mob activity might be the feeding patterns of a roaming herd of what have to be the most elusive hippos on the planet.
Hippo hunt map.

Mafia is a gorgeous, if not rustic, place, even if it disappoints in the mobster and homemade pasta categories. Just a 45-minute flight from the capital Dar es Salam, the island shows up on few people’s must-visit lists, which means limited tourist services but more opportunity to interact with locals. 

We went to get away for a while (traveling is tiring stuff), to dive in the Mafia Island Marine Parkand to attempt to track down the aforementioned gang of hard-to-find hippos. 

After checking off the first two tasks (photos later), we rented a motorcycle and headed to the island's sparsely-settled northern tip for a wildlife safari.

Guides show us the hippo trail. Supposedly.
The word "elusive" is not one typically associated with animals that can weigh up to 9,000 lbs. But Mafia's hippos are special, or so locals say kept telling us. 

Since arrival we had been asking nearly every islander we met where we could find the hippos. 

While people agreed on little when it came to locating the animals (they're far north; they're west in the marshes; they only come out at night; they feed at sunset; they're ghosts) , they all agreed on one thing--the hidden hippos here were small, some even calling them "pygmy." 

After two days and too many hours bushwhacking through forests, wading through muddy marshland, and riding our moto on trails meant for small rodents, we can only assume by pygmy, everyone actually meant invisible.

Two brothers led us across their farmland, through coconut and cashew groves, to where they were certain the hippos lived. No luck.

A 12-yr-old boy made his little brother watch his fruit stand while he guided us to a secret lake he had heard is a prime hippo bathing spot. Nope.

An old man walking his cows gave us spotty directions to a marsh that sounded a lot like a place a guide back near our hostel had mentioned. He even told us to be careful, as rumors were the hippos can be aggressive toward humans. Sounded like an expert. We got excited. Hours later, figuring we must have missed a turn, we called it a day.

Through torrential rain and baking sun, we searched for Mafia Island's (in)famous mob of hippos. Kip wrecked the motorcycle. Twice. Liz blew out a flip flop and nearly died when she almost fell into a creek our "guide" said was full of sleeping hippos that even beating the water with a stick wouldn't wake up.

At the end of the hunt, we hadn't seen a single hippo. Not even a hint of one. 

But despite the damaged moto, busted flip flop, and a little disappointment, it wasn't a total waste. We hung out with lots of friendly islanders. We explored places few tourists would ever go (at least not on purpose). And we survived another adventure that hopefully we'll never have to go on again. 

Unless, of course, we can do it by boat. Then maybe we'll consider it.

Liz and our 12-yr-old guide, who knew where all the hippos lived. They were on vacation the day we were there.
One of the well-maintained trails supposedly frequented by hippos.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Talk about a dirty job. 

Next time you're having a bad day at the office, imagine what it might be like hauling around slabs of raw meat on your back all day. That's the occupation of the guy above we met at Stone Town's meat market. 

Six days a week. For hours on end. With blood running down his neck, dripping onto his bare feet and soaking into his T-shirt. 

It's a dirty job, but this guy managed to do it with a smile. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013


A shark awaits his turn on the auction block, momentarily ignored by the fish-buying crowd behind him.
A stroll through Stone Town's daily fish market delivers some intense scenery outdone only by its potent smells. The place seriously reeks.  

But the sight itself is worth the nasal discomfort, not only for the fish viewing as much as for the chance to watch and talk with the fishermen and auctioneers and customers in attendance.  

We spent as long as our noses would allow. Afterward, we gulped fresh air, put in some afternoon beach time, watched the sunset circus act, and finally ventured down to the town square, where each night local chefs cook up some of the tastiest seafood around.. 

Next stop, the meat market just around the corner.

The daily auction can last for hours as fishermen constantly deliver their catch.
Liz learns some bargaining tips from a fish delivery guy. Men pedal bikes with baskets full of massive tuna, sword fish, and even sharks. 
Chef Kip
Hungry Liz

Monday, April 1, 2013


OK, so we're back in Washington, DC. No, this isn't an April Fools' Day joke. We promise!

Yesterday marked 365 days since we left to travel and volunteer our way around the world. Many miles...too many stories...lots of lessons learned...perhaps we'll wax on poetically about all that another time. 

For now, we're back home re-acclimating, cleaning house, and visiting with our parents who've come to visit. Earlier this afternoon, we joined a record crowd (45,274) for Opening Day at Nationals Stadium. Whoohoooo!! Go Nats!

For now, we're adjusting to sleeping in our own bed, to not getting lost every time we leave the house, and to sipping drinks with ice whose origin needs no inquiry.

If you're in DC, we really hope to catch up soon...particularly in case we leave a few weeks...for a few months...or more. 

Oh yes, about the blog--as it happens, we are a few weeks behind, geographically, meaning the updates from Africa will continue for a while up, a safari in the Serengeti, a trek with gorillas in Uganda, and some quality time with fellow volunteers in Jinja.

And yes, we're still volunteering at least one day each week. As we like to remind each other...whether at home or far from it, there's always something you can do to help. 


An apple a day keeps the war and conflict away. If only...

If only "peace" cost a mere 800 Tanzanian shillings (about 50 cents in the U.S.) the world would be a much better place.

Sadly, we weren't able to pick up a bushel of world peace while on the road, but we did get some solace for our hungry stomachs at this local market in the town of Paje on Zanzibar, where poorly-placed homonyms are as prevalent as tasty apples.