In May and June of 2007, 13 undergraduate students from Northern Michigan University are taking a field course in Zambia. Most of the students are majors in the Biology department, and all of them will be doing short field studies of their own design while on the ground in Zambia. The group will be making a stop in London on the way, spending four days seeing Zambia/Africa-related British sites (Burton's tomb, Livingstone's artefacts at the Royal Geographic Society, the British Museum of Natural History, etc.) and adjusting to the time change. The course is being led by me, Dr. Alec Lindsay, a professor in the Department of Biology at NMU, and Dr. Jackie Bird - a parasitologist in our department. We have made this blog so students can hopefully post notes thoughts, pictures and discoveries to the world. This should allow classmates, teachers, family and friends to share in their insights and keep track of their travels. Not only that, but viewers of the blog can add comments to posts - please do! We would love to hear your thoughts. Zikomo!

24 May 2007

Victoria Falls National Park

As you can already tell from other posts, after a long flight heavy with anticipation, we have landed without much trouble in Zambia. Our ground transport arrived just on time, so we loaded up and set off to get some quick supplies in Lusaka. A brief scare when my cash card would not work at any ATM (which was the way we were to get cash in Zambia) but that eventually sorted out once in Livingstone.

Once loaded onto the transport (a 25 passenger bus) we drove the 8 hours to Livingstone and Victoria Falls – everyone was fighting sleep, trying to keep eyes peeled on the African landscape, but most gave in to the sleep at some point in the journey.

We arrived in Livingstone and checked into our hostel/campsite and pitched our tents. Fawlty Towers (see link at right) also threw in a small twin en suite room, which is great for recharging out batteries and locking up our gear.

Yesterday was an adventure down to Mosi-Oa-Tunya (the local Tonga name for Victoria Falls, which translates to “Smoke that Thunders.” There was a tremendous amount of water – to such a degree that Dr. Bird commented that it was a bit “overwhelming.” The falls themselves were amazing, but it seems the best thing was the hike down into the Zambezi gorge below the falls. Down there, the mist from the falls is so ecologically influential that it creates rain forest conditions in the midst of the surrounding desert-like mopane.

This means that there is a whole different flora and fauna to enjoy there, and the students had a great time doing that. You can see a few sample pictures of the critters seen by the students (all pictures are from me, or from Jessica Kustin). Beetles, spiders, assassin bugs, and many other inverts were on the menu (not literally – yet), including a freshwater crab (a picture posted here for Biology’s Dr. Cumberlidge, a freshwater crab expert).

Perhaps the highlight of the gorge travel came during the trip back up when our troop ran into a large baboon troupe on its way down the gorge. The troupe (baboon troupe, that is) was mainly females, with lots of juveniles and few very young baby baboons. The minor scare of the event was that they had decided to travel down the gorge using the same trail we were using to climb back out – we all had to walk pretty close to them to get out. Apparently our caution was misplaced (we later watched Africans unconcernedly march right through the heart of their troupe), but it was still an event to be so close to these wild (albeit human-acclimated) animals.

Our final activities of the day included shopping at the “curio” markets, where the students got to try their hands at haggling with the local vendors. The vendors are very skilled, but the students did buy some very nice souvenirs to take back with them – where else can they buy genuine African art, made in small villages? And buy it in such a way that the money goes directly back to the village? Not in WalMart, Pottery Barn or Pier 1 Imports!

Finally, for dinner many sampled the bream (a local fish) prepared at a small restaurant here in Livingstone (the Fezbar). It was a great dinner to cap off a really enjoyable day.

Today (Thurs 25 May ’07) we will head back to the falls and students will begin some of their studies – they got lots of good ideas yesterday, and we can hopefully get some interesting work underway.



Cynthia said...

Babboons, cobras and parasites in fecal matter... or Bush, CNN and political candidates, where would you rather be? I take your places any day. It sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

No one can go anywhere with Jackie and not get into poop.

Thunderstorms on the way. Flash, Bart, Fifi, chuck and Bill have bee enjoying the warm weather. Lots of ticks here.-Wil

JMM said...


So far it sounds like a great trip. Keep on posting. The blog is great.

John Mallo