Category Archives: African Adventures

A Few of My Favorite Birds (36): The Vulture Culture Experience…Really?!

zimbabwe-african-christmas-tree-vulturesEver hear of an African Christmas tree? This is what it looks like.vultures-in-african-christmas-treeDozens of vultures roosting in a dead tree,
just waiting for some dead meat for lunch. vultures-fighting-over-food-zimbabwe-africaDoesn’t sound very pretty, does it? And…who likes vultures, anyway? vulture-high-on-a-snag-chobe-national-parkAren’t they sort of the offscourings of the world? the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, all that changed for me when we went to Africa
and discovered that vultures have gotten a bad rap. vulture-in-flight-african-birdsThey are so universally considered disreputable that they have been mistreated until they’re the world’s #1 endangered species.the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-information I had no clue. vultures-in-zimbabwe-11-8-16Furthermore, they are an important part of our ecosystem,
serving as the world’s morticians and garbage collectors.vultures-and-bonesPolishing off carcasses ASAP helps prevent diseases from spreading.vultures-drinking-water-chobe-national-park-11-10-16 So fierce has been their persecution and demise that I’ve had a change of heart toward them, and they’re now on my “favorite birds” list. vultures-gather-in-dead-tree-zimbabwe-afrcian-safari-lodgeLet me tell you about our vulture culture experience.vultures-eating-lunch-at-the-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-zimbabweEver hear of a restaurant that caters to vultures by serving free carcasses?  victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, neither had I until we stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
in Zimbabwe, victoria-falls-wildlife-trust-vulture-restaurant-11-7-16where they have started working with Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust
to help save vultures from extinction. watching-the-vulture-culture-experience-at-the-african-safari-lodgeEvery day at 1:00 pm they serve up yummy carcasses
at their “Vulture Restaurant.”debris-blowing-in-wind-zimbabwe It was very windy the day we watched, but pretty soon the debris and leaves vultures-gathering-overhead-in-zimbabwegave way to the air being filled with circling vultures, vultures-coming-for-lunchwho knew it was almost time for some claw-licking’ good fine dinin’.vulture-culture-experience-zimbabweA few minutes before 1:00, the waiter arrived with a load of gourmet delights.vultures-wait-for-food-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeI was surprised at how politely the vultures awaited their luncheon party. vultures-getting-ready-for-lunch-zimbabweAs the crowd grew, there was definitely an electric feeling…great expectations!vulture-restaurant-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeGet on your mark, get set…vulture-feeding-frenzy-victoria-falls-lodge-zimbabweGooooooo!!!vultures-eating-meatA feeding frenzy followed for about fifteen minutes,vultures-with-marabou-storks-and-wart-hogs-eatingreplete with party crashers, in particular some gangly marabou storkswart-hogs-join-the-vulture-culture-partyand a couple of Pumba’s cousins…totally muddied warthogs.vulture-culture-experience-africaIf you’ll forgive the comparison…we humans can be a little like vultures. vultures-circling-in-skySometimes it’s easier to live off others
than it is to work hard providing for ourselves.vulturesSome people become very unpopular and develop bad reputations.serving-meat-at-the-vulture-culture-experienceI am thankful that God is a kind Father who provides for all who will come. warthogs-feasting-with-vultures-africaHe doesn’t turn anyone away…no matter how awkward, dirty or ugly we are!vultures-eating-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeFurthermore, He encourages us to do the same for those who need our help.

victoria-falls-safari-lodge-vulture-restaurantBut I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

A Few of My Favorite Birds (35): Africa’s Golden “Cape Weaver” Birds

ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-hanging-upside-downWhile visiting North Uthungulu in South Africa, tourist-shopping-center-in-north-uthunguluwe stopped at a strip mall (aka little souvenir location built for tourists). hovels-by-road-in-north-uthunguluI usually tried to buy something home-in-north-uthungulu to help support the local artisans, cape-weaver-weaving-his-nestbut this time I was so taken by the birds that I could hardly take my eyes off them long enough to look for soaps, candles, or glassware! cape-weaver-bird-weaving-with-his-beak-using-grassA really squawky colony of brilliantly arrayed Cape weaver birds
were busily making nests in a tree along the path, brilliantly-colored-cape-weaver-bird-south-africaand they immediately captured my attention, cape-weaver-bird-south-africabecause I’d never seen anything quite like them before. cape-weaver-bird-s-a-11-2-16In fact, there are weaver birds in some tropical areas of Asia and Australia,
but weaver birds are most common in sub-Saharan Africa, colony-of-cape-weaver-birdswhere they tend to live in colonies of 2-20 gregarious (though fiercely territorial) males and how-many-ever females they attract. ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-in-tree Male Cape weavers (Ploceus capensis) are about 7 inches long,
have long, conical bills (good for weaving and for sucking nectar).intricate-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdThe males are especially colorful during the long mating season,
which lasts from June to February and peaks during the rainy season. cape-weaver-bird-in-treeDuring the mating season, Cape weaver males are decked out
with golden underparts and orange faces, olive-drab-back-of-weaver-birdsalthough their heads and back are more olive drab in coloring
(which is also the year-round color of females and young chicks.) cape-weaver-making-nestThese talented guys weave intricate, kidney-shaped nests
out of grass, reeds, and leafy fibers to attract prospective mates. kidney-bean-shaped-cape-weaver-bird-nestTheir nests have small, downward-facing entrances and are fully waterproof. cape-weaver-bird-in-nestInterested females test the construction quality by tugging at the interior walls, and if a nest makes the young lady feel snug and secure, father-cape-weaver-bird-helps-feed-youngshe’ll adopt it for the season, mating with her benefactor. colony-of-cape-weaver-birds-north-uthungulu-south-africaUnlike most birds, Cape weavers are polygynous, and one male may build
and therefore entice up to seven mates during any one season. cape-weaver-bird-with-nestEach female spends a couple of weeks brooding her clutch of 2-5 eggs.
She stays the first few nights with the chicks after they hatch, unused-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdbut then she roosts close by in one of the unused nests. cape-weaver-birds-south-africaAlthough the females initially care for the chicks, ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-making-nestas they get older, the males help out with their own chicks,
which must keep them extremely busy for awhile! empty-nest-of-african-cape-weaver-bird-11-2-16Happily, in about 17 days the fledglings are big enough to find their own suppers of seeds, fruit, nectar, unsuspecting small spiders, and insects,
and the parents become empty nesters.

Are you an empty nester? Do you have a home? Keeping up a home seems like a never-ending job to me. Have you considered Jesus, who worked constantly—much harder than the energetic weaver birds—to prepare spiritual homes for “whosoever will”? Still, despite his tireless work, he never had a nest of his own, because He was too busy helping others!

The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head
(Luke 9:56, 58).

(If you want to hear what Cape Weaver birds sound like, this is from YouTube):

 

Reflections On The Devil’s Pool: Did The Devil Make Me Do It?

victoria-falls-from-zimbabwe-national-parkAs one who taught life saving and served as a water safety instructor for ten years,  and as one who swims around our little lake most days during the summers, I thought we’d do okay at the Devil’s Pool. team-on-livingstone-island-preparing-for-devils-poolAlan wasn’t going to go at all, but he did sign up at the last minute—mostly in hopes of keeping me from drowning, I think. We did survive, but after thinking it over, I personally feel that the adrenaline rush and excitement wasn’t worth the risk to life, limb, and health. Here are my reasons:

view-of-hippos-on-zambezi-river-from-royal-livingstone-hotel-zambia1. We had to swim in the Zambezi River,
where I’d seen hippos and crocodiles upstream.warning-about-the-danger-of-the-devils-pool-zambia2. Even though there had been a twenty-year drought and we visited just before the rainy season began, there were all kinds of safety issues. zambezi-river-on-way-to-devils-pool-victoria-falls3. There was a definite current to negotiate. rocky-path-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls4. We had to walk on somewhat slippery rocks to reach the river. starting-across-the-zambezi-river-to-livingstone-island5. We had to feel our way over slippery rocks under the water
for part of the time. swimming-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls6. We also had to swim upstream (up river) for a short distance.sitting-atop-victoria-falls-zambia 7. Logs or other debris could have hit us at any time. basking-in-the-devils-pool8. Fish nibbled at our feet and made us all jumpy. current-in-the-devils-pool-zambia9. One false move could have sent one of us over the edge. top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-devils-pool10. The rock ledge, though sturdy, will doubtless one day give way. devils-poo-victoria-fallsMay it not happen when anybody’s nearby!
(That was the #1 reason our tour guide didn’t want to try it.)

basking-in-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls11. Last, but perhaps most importantly (and I didn’t know this until we were having dinner  a week ago with some friends who do medical mission work in Africa), the Zambezi River is known to have a strain of parasitic Schistosomiasis which is a common in Sub-saharan Africa and can be lethal if not treated. There are some 200 million people affected world wide, half of whom live in Africa. Since learning this, I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for testing.  So, to answer my question: Did the Devil Make Me Do It? No. I chose to do it. Was it a wise choice? I don’t think so. Would I do it again? No. Did I pray about it? Yes. Why didn’t God tell me not to go? I’m not sure. I think sometimes God allows us to do things that aren’t wise, just like a parent allows his child to do things that the parent knows are risky. I do believe in God’s divine will (which cannot be altered) and His permissive will (which allows us freedom of choice). I prayed and didn’t get a clear “No,” so I went. And, as with all unwise decisions, there may be consequences I didn’t consider when I made my choice. In future, I think I want a clear “Yes” before making decisions, not just a “You may!”

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12)

Taking a Dip In The Devil’s Pool and Enjoying the Loo with a View

waving-from-the-top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-edge-of-the-devils-poolToday I’m going to tell you about our thrilling adventure hanging out at the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, and swimming in the Devil’s Pool, although next Monday I’ll explain why I very strongly do not recommend it…not only for the obvious reasons you’ll notice today, but for one very un-obvious medical reason I only discovered after the fact. Even Alan, as a physician, hadn’t considered this tropical possibility when we made our decision to go! But, it was definitely one of those “adventure of a lifetime” sorts of events that we’ll never forget! hotel-in-livingstone-zimbabweFirst, we were staying in Zimbabwe, so we had to leave our comfy hotel and take a trip across the border into Zambia, which is a bit of an adventure in and of itself (but one that can’t be photographed).

group-waiting-at-royal-livingstone-hotel-for-boat-to-devils-pool      We met other adventurers at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, adventurer-waiting-to-go-to-the-devils-poolwhere we immediately noticed that the rest of the group were young adults
in the prime of life and fitness.
That was our first clue that we might be out of our depth!  🙂  livingstone-islandThe only way to access the Devil’s Pool is via Livingstone Island, and that’s mediated by the tour operator Tongabezi. Trips are expensive and sell out fast, view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-3so if you want to go, you need reservations ahead of time. In all fairness to Tongabezi, they have never lost a customer yet, and they’re very careful.
(Can you see people in the middle right in this picture? This is where we were.) boat-on-zambezi-river-to-take-us-to-livingstone-islandOur group were transported via a small motor craft on the Zambezi River,
which just ran a few people through the treacherous channels each time. boat-ride-to-livingstone-islandI’m told they are very careful to make sure there are no hippos or alligators deck-of-the-royal-livingstone-hotelroaming the water as they travel, although I did see some
just up the river from the deck of the hotel while we waited. david-livingstone-island-on-the-zambezi-riverOnce we all made it safely to Livingstone Island, we were taken on a short tour, changing-room-and-loo-with-a-view-livingstone-islandincluding the opportunity of using their unique “Loo with a View” bath house a-loo-with-a-view-on-livingstone-islandfor changing and to use the Loo (aka toilet). view-from-the-loo-with-a-view-zambezi-riverActually, it was only a three-sided loo, and it did have this pretty good view! welcome-drink-before-swimming-in-the-devils-poolAfter a welcoming (non-alcoholic) drink tent-on-livingstone-island-prepared-for-high-teawe were taken past the tent to let us know that a proper high tea
would be awaiting us after we’d accomplished our aquatic mission. view-of-victoria-falls-from-near-the-devils-poolNext, they walked us to the edge just to let us make sure we were “in” on this gig. approaching-the-edge-of-victoria-falls-zambiaAnyone who chickens out can stay and watch, but after paying good money,
I doubt many people take that option. david-livingstone-plague-angels-in-their-flight-over-victoria-fallsThere was also time to read a bit about David Livingstone and take a few photos.devils-pool-center(Devil’s Pool is behind the second rock to the right upper middle of this photo.)ropes-to-stop-people-who-sliipGetting to the pool was a bit of a challenge. These ropes are not to walk between; we had to walk and swim to the right of them, but the ropes offered two chances white-water-in-zambezi-on-was-to-devils-poolfor people who lost their balance or couldn’t swim against the current to catch a hold and pull themselves out rather than fall over the cliff. Reassuring, huh? waiting-for-our-turn-in-the-devils-pool-zambiaWith a little angst, we all made it to the edge, where we rested and waited. We had to experience the pool a few at a time so the tour guides could supervise us sitting-on-the-angels-armchair-in-the-devils-pooland take photos (since it’s the sort of thing everybody wanted to remember).   This little perch is called the Angel’s Armchair, and it’s a trick to stay on it!we-all-survived-the-devils-pool-victoria-fallsWe survived and felt quite brave (and relieved) once we were back on dry land!tea-party-in-tent-on-livingstone-island-devils-pool-zambiaTo celebrate, our hosts provided a lovely “high tea” (afternoon option).high-tea-party-at-livingstone-island-after-devils-pool-adventure We were extremely hungry and thirsty, so it was a most welcome treat!sunset-over-the-zambezi-river-with-steam-from-victoria-fallsOurs was the last tour of the day, so the sun was setting by the time we left.
I almost felt like God was smiling down on us.sunset-cruise-home-from-devils-pool-on-zambezi-riverIt turned out to be an amazing and most memorable trip! The Lord was gracious.view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-2Nevertheless, I wouldn’t do it again. Some chances aren’t worth taking. victoria-falls-along-the-zambezi-river-in-zambiaThe prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3).

Where Angels Gaze and Fools Rush In: The Devil’s Pool

victoria-fall-zimbabwe-national-park“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
—David Livingstone view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweThat’s rather what I thought too, and as we hiked along the the cliff opposite Victoria Falls, I couldn’t help but notice a group of happy adventurers view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-4basking Jacuzzi-style at the top of the world’s largest waterfall, waving at people view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-5and peering over the edge into the abyss of steamy spray below. victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-8This spot is known as the Devil’s Pool. rainbow-at-victoria-falls-zambiaWith a name like that, I might have been more wary, but it looked so amazing that I signed up for a side tour that afternoon during our free time,victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-6 despite our guide’s suggestion that I might be crazy and his reminder that it was so dangerous he had never gone (nor did our tour company endorse it). view-of-victoria-falls-from-zambiaI figured nobody would allow it if it was really that dangerous.
Well, let’s just say African and American standards are different!photo-shoot-in-devils-pool-victoria-fallsSince coming home, I’ve done a little research and noticed other descriptions, such as “the world’s most dangerous pool,” “the world’s ultimate infinity pool,” “most thrilling, insane, awesome,” “death-defying feat,” etc.helping-hand-at-victoria-fallsAt any rate, I’ll tell you more about our experience tomorrow, but next week
I’ll give you a list of 11 reasons why I don’t personally recommend it!siting-on-the-top-of-the-devils-pool-zambia-victoria-fallsThe wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness.” (Ecclesiastes 2:14)

 

Bucket List Special: The World’s Largest Waterfall—Victoria!

salto-angel-falls-by-paulo-capiotti-wikiAlthough Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest waterfall (3,230 feet), WasserfŠlle von Iguacuand Iguazú Falls  in Argentina and Brazil is the widest (8,858 feet), victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweVictoria Falls in Zambia is usually considered the largest waterfall in the world,victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-3 because—based on its combined width (5,604 feet) and height (354 feet)—victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-4it boasts the world’s largest sheet of falling water. monument-to-christian-explorer-dr-david-livingstone-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweEver since studying the life of David Livingstone as a teenager,
I’d dreamed of seeing this magnificent waterfall, and I was not disappointed! hiking-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweOn our tour of southern Africa last fall, we spent one long morning hiking the trail in Zimbabwe National Park facing Victoria Falls, victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-5and we had several hours to thrill over the beauty
of this magnificent natural wonder of the world. victoria-falls-rainbowAlthough we know it as “Victoria Falls,” so christened in honor of Queen Vic by the Scottish missionary doctor who first viewed the falls back in 1855,steam-rises-from-victoria-falls-on-the-zambezi-river the local name (in the Tonga language) is Mosi-oa-Tunya,
“The Smoke That Thunders.” victoria-falls-rainbow-fallsThere has been a devastating 20-year drought in this area,zambezi-river-and-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe so the waterfall has diminished into a series of falls along the Zambezi River,victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-9but that didn’t detract from my awe or pleasure one iota. victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-1We went on a sparkling, cloudless morning, alan-and-duncan-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweand our guide had us walk to the end and then meander back victoria-falls-rainbow-1 so we’d see all the rainbows from the eastern sun reflecting off the steamy spray. victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-2As we hiked along, I thought about how easy it was for me to walk this path…
but how hard it must have been for David Livingstone, the original pathfinder, who paved the way 150 years ago with his own blood, sweat, and tears. statue-of-cecil-rhodes-in-capetown-saIn the nations of southern Africa, many of the statues of Cecil Rhodes have been torn down, because he was a British imperialist who oppressed the people. plaque-honoring-david-livingstone-on-trail-in-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweConversely, people still love David Livingstone, because he held “high Christian aims and ideals” and truly sought the welfare of the African peoples.

david-livingstone-by-frederick-havill-national-portrait-gallery-london-wiki-but-may-not-be-publishable-without-special-permissionIn fact, when Dr. Livingstone died (of malaria and internal bleeding from dysentery), his body was buried in Westminster Abby, London, but his heart was buried in Africa! He gave his life (blood, sweat and tears) to love and serve God

victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-7and man. It was his heart to end slavery and oppression… to set the captives free!thorns-in-front-of-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe Dr. Livingstone was a disciple of Christ,
who came to set us all free from oppression and slavery to sin.victoria-falls-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbzbweHave you been set free? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and other courageous people who have given their lives to share the Gospel? fisherman-near-victoria-falls-as-seen-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabweAnd he [Jesus] saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). victoria-falls-from-zimbabweIf the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

(Photos of Angel Falls, Iguazú Falls, and the painting of Dr. Livingstone from the National Portrait Gallery in London are from Wiki. The rest are mine, taken on our recent trip to southern Africa.)

Are You Sitting on the Fence?

baboons-along-chapmans-highway-south-africa“Stop! Please!” Everybody wanted our bus driver to pull over so we could take photos of a troop of baboons traveling down the road beside us in South Africa.baboon-mothers-and-babies-along-the-side-of-the-road-in-south-africaWe were totally charmed by the mother baboons with their playful babies climbing all over them, but our guide was more enamored with four baboons who were perched on top of the fence poles, something he’d never seen before.baboons-on-posts-at-cape-of-good-hope-nature-reserve Apparently the fence was to protect the wildlife in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve and give them a safe place of refuge. However, the curious baboons preferred roaming everywhere, despite the dangers on the highway, and four of them appeared to be contemplating whether or not to return home or just sit and survey the landscape. I wondered what they were thinking. Were they looking for predators, or trying to decide if they really wanted to go back inside the fence? baboon-contemplating-the-cape-of-good-hope-nature-preserve-south-africaHere it is January 3, 2017, and I find myself sitting on the fence, so to speak, contemplating the landscape. I still haven’t finished working out my New Year’s Resolution Reclamation Act. I’m pretty sure there’s a certain fear of failure. I may not be on the lookout for whatever harasses baboons, but I’m definitely thinking about how to negotiate all the challenges I see in front of me. baboon-sitting-on-highway-in-union-of-south-africa     Nevertheless, I’m quite sure sitting in the middle of the road isn’t safe, baboon-on-a-post-in-south-africa-oct-28-16                          and sitting on the fence will get me nowhere fast, mother-baboon-and-baby-on-chapman-highway-south-africaso I’m going to get back inside my wildlife refuge and take up the challenges God has for me there. How about you? Ready for the challenges of 2017?  chapmans-peak-drive-south-africaGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…atlantic-coast-south-of-cape-town-south-africaBe still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-2,10-11). chapmans-peak-drive-cape-town-s-a-atlantic-coast(All photos were taken along Chapman’s Peak Drive, south of Cape Town, South Africa, on our recent tour.)