Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comfort Food

After making it 80 km out of Narok before blowing out a vital gasket in our cooling system and having to limp our way back to town, it was nice to come home to Mexican food.

Von der Decken's Hornbill

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Frogs

We were driving out of a small riparian forest near the confluence of the Mara and Talek rivers when we hit a big mud patch. Amanda exited the vehicle to scout out the path ahead to see if we could make it through the mud when these two guys surprised her. Look closely at the big guy...right on his back...the milky secretions of toxins designed to thwart the attempts of herpers from picking him up. Of course, this did not deter Amanda...only made it more fun.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Simullidae...this sucker, literally, usually doesn't need the best water quality conditions. We find him at some of our sites as the quality deteriorates over time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where have we been sampling the water?

View Larger Map
You should see about 40 blue dots on the map above. If you click on any of the dots, you will see a picture from that site. If you don't see any blue dots, sorry...still experimenting with this. Sometimes it helps to try refreshing the page...and the blue dots may appear. If they still don't appear...don't think that we aren't doing any sampling. :)

Even if they do appear, these aren't all of our sites...just the ones I had time to get uploaded to view here. Imagine... trying to upload all this information from Narok on a cellular connection. :) I should be able to get them all up soon and maybe even some of the interesting data.

Brewing Storm

Monday, May 25, 2009


This is Memorial Day.

Honor the fallen as well as the ones still fighting for our freedoms (If you know me personally, at least read the article).

Thanks...Mara Conservancy Will

We ran into Mara Conservancy Will at the New Mara Bridge during our last sampling effort.  It was just about 3pm and we were running a bit late.  We were trying to make it to the Conservancy camp site near Mara Serena but Will encouraged us to push a bit further and camp at one of the camp sites next to the Mara...well...we are sure glad we listened to him.  Here is a picture from the campsite with the sun rising the next morning.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Second Birthday Cake

Despite being far from home on his birthday, Chris got a lot of love, not only from the Sabet Women's Group, but also from our good friend Angela, who made him this scrumptious homemade chocolate cake. The decorations on top were my contribution-- crystallized borage flowers from our garden.

A Land Rover is not a Land Rover Unless it has Good Tires

A hard learned lesson for us.  

We spent about 12 hours over two days getting unstuck four times in the Masai Mara.  Two of the times we were able to get out ourselves.  The other two times we relied on good samaritans; Moses and Soloman.  One of the times we had gotten stuck in the middle of a Buffalo herd.  

Our retired tires...

Our new tires...Goodyear G90s.

Now maybe we can repay a favor and help pull somebody out next time.

Birthday Visit to Sabet Women's Group

Just before our visit home to the U.S., we were invited to visit with one of the small community groups in the upper catchment of the Mara River Basin. There are many of these groups, developed around water users, or environmental committees, or women's concerns, that work together to help each other achieve sustainable subsistance. I really enjoy visiting with these groups because they are often inspiring examples of how a small but dedicated group of people can make a difference. We weren't able to make the visit before our leave, so we decided to schedule it one of the few days we were available-- Chris's birthday. And it turned out to be such a lovely experience!

The Sabet Women's Group was formed in 2002, when a group of 12 women decided it took too long to walk 5 km to the river every day to fetch water, so they were going to build themselves a tank. In fact, they decided they were going to build 1 tank for each member, so she could harvest rainwater from her roof and use it for domestic needs-- washing, bathing, drinking, cooking, etc. They raised the $90,000 KSh needed for 1 tank (~$1100 USD-- a whole lot of money in a country where minimum wage was just increased to $6,000 KSh/month!) and built the first one. Then they were discovered by Waterlines, a U.S.-based non-profit that helps communities build small-scale water supply systems. The community has to raise 20% of the cost of the project and provide the labor, and Waterlines provides the rest of the funding and technical expertise. They are a great organization that you can read more about here...

With their help, the Sabet Women's Group completed all 12 member's tanks by 2007, an impressive feat that they proudly showed to us. These were really nice systems, complete with rain guttering, a 20,000 L masonry storage tank, and faucet.

Once they accomplished this goal, they realized how much power they had working together as a group, so they moved on to the next goal-- developing sustainable income-generating activities for themselves to raise money for school fees, hospital bills, etc. They are developing a poulty project, and they showed us their beautiful, communal coop. Chris was drooling!

As we walked the short path to one of the group member's homes, we were greeted by a group of women and children, singing and throwing flowers at our feet. Silibwet, where the group is based, is such a beautiful and lush area, and all these incredible, tropical flowers had been collected from their yards.

They then gathered around us, singing songs, and presented us with gifts and necklaces made of streamers and balloons.

I received a small purse, and Chris and our good friend/guide Davila Langat received safari hats!

They invited us into one of their homes where they said prayers expressing their gratitude for everything they have been given and for their visitors that day. They also gave speeches about the history and activities of the Women's Group. Then it was time for the festivities! They presented Chris with a birthday cake they had made for him in a jiko (small, coal stove) and sweet, hot chai.

First, they instructed Chris and I to feed each other. Then they cut half the cake into small pieces for Chris to take around the room and share with all the women (we got to take the other half home!). We had brought Rice Krispie treats to share with the group as well, so I took those around the room. People here have never had this staple American treat, and seem to be totally delighted by it!

And then it was time for Chris to give his speech... This is a custom whenever a group gathers, for representatives of each party to give a small speech, thanking the others and summarizing the experiences of the day, and I am always fascinated by the pageantry.

Then we all gathered for a group photo outside their lovely home before they escorted us back to the car with more song and dance. See if you can find Chris in the picture below...

It was truly a unique experience! I think Chris was a bit embarassed by all of the birthday hoopla, but the ladies were very excited to have a reason to have a party and cake. And for us, it was so inspiring to see this determined, self-sufficient group of women, changing their lives for the better.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I was wrong...

J-Lo had 9!

When we thought she went broody, we gave her 8 of the eggs she and the other girls had been laying. She laid another one the next day herself. All 9 of them were successfully hatched.

Of special note, one of our layers that was stolen along with Magic, the largest rooster in Narok, was Cleo. Cleo was an all black bird. As you can see, five of these chicks are all black.

Mosquito Larvae

We actually don't find many, if any of these guys. I spotted this one in a small, stagnant pool situated on a rock face in the flood zone of the Mara river. The Mara probably rose a few feet and deposited some water in this small rock crevice providing this guy with just the right conditions.

Coleoptera Larvae

Another important resident of the Mara...

Friday, May 22, 2009

That's right...

J-Lo is a proud chicken mother again!  7 chicks hatched under her yesterday.  

J-Lo went broody right after Magic, the largest rooster in Narok, was stolen from our yard.  Magic "contributed" 1/2 to these chicks.  Hopefully we'll get another large rooster out of it.  

Chemical Spill Into the Mara River

We've been following this through email correspondances since it happened. Allegedly there was a chemical waste spill into the Tigithe River in Tanzania a week or two ago. The Tigithe River flows into the Mara River.

Amanda just happens to be in Tanzania right now. She is meeting with governmental officials concerning the Mara River Environmental Flows Assessment. Although it is not the focus of her trip...I'm sure this situation will probably come up in conversation.

Read about the ongoing situation here:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Beast of the Mara

These guys have a vicious sting if you try and hold them for too long.  

Table 42

Went to Carnivore tonight to celebrate Chris's birthday. Only put the flag down once:) but still had a great time!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frog Diversity

Check these two guys out.  They were both found at practically the same spot on the bank of the Mara near the New Mara Bridge.  We were just getting ready to sample in some emergent vegetation on the river bank for macroinvertebrates and the big one caught our eye first.  The little puddle frog came out of hiding shortly thereafter.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thanks, Mindy.

For those of you that follow this blog you know about our troubles getting replacement poles from Coleman after our tent got hit in a flash flood next to the Mara River last year.  Finally, we found a gem in the rough...Mindy with Coleman Customer Support in th US was able to provide us what we needed and make this photo below possible...Thanks.  This was our first morning back in the Masai Mara after a short vacation back to the US.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Chris!

Happy Birthday, my love! I look forward to sharing another incredible year of adventures with you!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First morning camping

We set up camp last night surrounded by a herd of elephants, fell asleep to the distant roars of lions and awoke this morning to an incredible sunrise rainbow. This place is like the world when it was new.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mara in danger: 'Some animals refuse to drink from the river'

This is the title of an article written by a fella, George Roumeguer, intimately involved in the situation of the Mara River.  George runs the Dawntodusk Foundation and is deeply involved in conservation issues within the Maasai Mara Region.  See the article here: