Tomorrow morning we are packing up and departing Ndarakwai, where the students have been busy for the past 6 days. We intentionally front-load the course with a lot content as we try to rapidly introduce Tanzanian history and culture while also covering some of the basic concepts of dry savanna ecology and field methods.
Yesterday students designed mini-animal behavior research projects and spent most of the day observing (and following around) groups of impala and baboons. Today was focused on vegetation plots, which are a way to assess species distribution and diversity and a fundamental building block of many ecological studies. After practicing at camp, they set off guided by GPS units to measure the vegetation on and off the ranch here.
Tomorrow we are off to Arusha for a few days and will be changing camp locations every night or two for the rest of our time in Tanzania. Students will likely have access to wifi for the next day or two, but will then likely
be out of touch for the next week and a half or so. I will try to post periodic updates here and will be adding photos to Instagram (@paulshaffner), but as I've mentioned before, no news is good news!
While sitting with the 8th grade language arts class in the library at school today, I picked up the National Geographic Expeditions Atlas and happened to flip it open to the photo above, which shows a French expedition crossing the Ruaha River in 1925, not far from where we used to live. This struck me for a few reasons:
To contextualize this photo, the 1924 Citroën Central African Expedition crossed the African continent from north to south as a publicity stunt to demonstrate the robust nature of the automaker's vehicles. In 1924, eight halftracks custom-built on Citroën B2 frames set out southward from Algeria across the Sahara. In Kampala the expedition split into four sub-groups. One carried on to Nairobi and the Kenya coast, while the other three headed south across Lake Victoria into Tanganyika (Tanzania). In Tabora, Tanganyika these three parted ways: one heading east to Dar es Salaam, one south through Iringa to Nyasaland (Malawi) and Mozambique, and one west into Congo, and then south through the Rhodesias. All four groups eventually met up at Cape Town in 1925, making this the first longitudinal motorized transect of Africa.
After a 7 AM breakfast, we flew out of Mbeya and arrived in Dar es Salaam just about an hour ago. All luggage came through unscathed.
In case you haven't heard, traffic in Dar is bad - I mean really bad. We are heading across town to a small shopping center called Slipway. Most of us have 10 hours in town so it's too much time to sit at the airport, and yet about half those hours will be spent fighting traffic.
We actually said goodbye to Desmond at the airport because his flight departs in the afternoon and he would have had to spend 5ish hours in taxis for 30 minutes at the shopping center. Pole sana (very sorry) Desmond!
After a visit to the hospital at Matema, we are now in Mbeya for a hospital tour and a final dinner together. Dr. Cavener leaves us tonight. The rest fly to Dar es Salaam on FastJet tomorrow morning and then depart Tanzania tomorrow night.
The students have been a wonderful group and a pleasure to travel and learn with. Please be sure to give them lots of time to gush and process when you see them in a few days' time!
Students walked down the beach to the village this morning. After lunch we headed up one of the valleys of the mountains in this picture to find a waterfall. Tonight we're having a fish barbecue and a fire on the beach. Hard to believe we'll be heading home in a few more days!
Very brief update: we are now safe and sound at the Matema Lakeshore Resort on Lake Malawi. A 5 hour trip turned into 8+ hours due to horrendous roads, but we are here nonetheless! It was an adventure. Students enjoyed an evening dip in the lake, a bit of supper, and are now resting and anticipating a more relaxed day tomorrow.
Sorry for the late and brief update. We've been up before 7 AM the last few days and going to bed between 9-10 PM, so everyone is quite tired. Today we left the bush and then had two nice talks from the Southern Tanzania Elephant Project and the Health and Livestock Initiative in Iringa. We had a BBQ at Masumbo Camp tonight and are heading out to Ibaga Ranch in the Makete area of Tanzania. It's a 6-7 hour journey so hopefully students will be able to catch up on rest tomorrow!
We will be out of touch for the next two nights. In an emergency the PSU Education Abroad office knows how to reach us. You'll hear more in a few days - again, assume the no news is good news! :-)
After three wonderful days in Ruaha National Park, we are heading out tomorrow. Today at a lunchtime picnic on the banks of the Mwagusi Sand River, students gave their behavioral ecology presentations where each student becomes an expert on one particular animal: giraffe, kudu, impala, hyena, lion, wild dog, etc.
After lunch we loaded back into our vehicles and were almost immediately rewarded by a large pride of lions resting in the shade. Additionally we've found ourselves in the midst of matriarchal groups of elephants, seen bachelor herds of impala, harems of zebra, crèches of young giraffes, huge migrations of vultures, troops of baboons, and watching hippos honk in the river from the verandahs of our cottages. We've really had an incredibly special time here at Ruaha.
Tomorrow we head out of the park to meet some of the people who live on the periphery of this cast protected space. We will talk with them about the challenges of living adjacent to the park, and learn about a few of the projects that have developed in these areas to help mitigate some of the conflicts.
Will write more the day after tomorrow when we are back in Iringa town with better connectivity.
If you haven't heard much from your students, my iphone, which I had planned to use as a wireless hotspot, is not allowing other devices to connect. This means that students can write using my phone, but can't connect with their own devices. If you've had radio silence from your student, this might be why.
Also, tomorrow we're heading to Ruaha National Park, a protected area the size of Belgium. I'm not sure what mobile coverage is like out there. If you have an emergency and can't get through to my phone, you might also try to call Dan Moyer, who will be able to get in touch with us via our lodges or HF radio. Dan's number is: +255 687 107 730