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Do You Know Where the Angora in Your Scarf or Shawl Comes From?

With a crisp chill in the air and snow under our feet, many of us are searching our wardrobes for something to wear that will increase warmth without making us look like the Michelin Man!

Do you ever wonder where the Angora fabric in your winter sweater and scarves comes from? You may be surprised! The mohair in our beautiful scarves, shawls, pashminas or cowls comes from Angora goats raised on the Rosecraft farm/textile atelier in the small country of Swaziland in Africa.

Our entire collection of scarves and shawls is created by the talented artisans of Rosecraft, a unique textile atelier. Specifically, the mohair comes from Angora goats raised on their farm, and a special color recipe is used in the dying of the fibers, creating a truly unique look you can’t get anywhere else.

Mohair – A Highly Desirable Luxury Fiber

Mohair is one of the most desirable fabrics. It is known for its unique combination of strength and softness, something that is only produced by Angora goats. According to the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association, “A good mohair fleece will be characterized by locks or bunches of mohair fibers held together by the curl of the fleece, with a light sheen of oil and a good long staple. Angora goats produce as much as an inch of fiber a month. Since Angora goats are usually shorn twice a year, fleeces have a four to six inch staple.”

About Tsandza

“Our designs have an African soul but are inspired by international trends: the results are distinctive creations for individuals who appreciate the uniqueness of handmade pieces.”

Founded more than 35 years ago, Tsandza began as a hobby and has evolved into one of the most unique businesses in Africa. In a country where the overwhelming majority of the population lives in poverty, Rosa Roques’ vision has enabled talented local artisans to provide for their families. Tsandza started as a small workshop and today has become a successful business that employs more than 40 local women who produce products locally and internationally. Tsandza’s mission is “to create employment opportunities and a sustainable income for the women who work for us, and to be internationally recognized for our luxurious, handmade products.”

And the most unique thing about Tsandza - the Angora in their textiles comes from their own goats they raise on their farm.

Making everything by hand, the artisans weave, crochet and knit a variety of house and home wares, clothing and fashion accessories. Everything is made from pure natural fibers of mohair, as well as organically grown cotton, bamboo, wool and silk.


Tsandza is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and the Swaziland Fair Trade Organization (SWIFT), and uses its success to support a number of local community projects helping to provide clean drinking water and collaboration with local schools. Learn more about Tsandza and how Zawadee helps to micro-fund their employment and training initiatives. You might also like to read about how our bamboo fashion textiles are created. Please read our blog. 

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Africa - The Birthplace of Coffee

Many of us around the globe enjoy a beautiful cup of coffee. But how many of us know the history of coffee? Where it began, where it thrives, and how it affects the world? Africa - The Birthplace of Coffee will leave you with interesting information, and may also spark desire for your next cup of coffee.
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The Zulu Kingdom: Click Speaking, Miriam Makeba and More!

The Zulu (pronounced ZOO-loo) people are one of the most well-known groups in Africa, most notably for their unique style of speaking. Descendants of the Nguni-speaking people, they are known for their "click" speaking and singing.

Today, close to 10 million Zulu-speaking people live in South Africa, primarily in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Some also reside in other areas, including Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. However, the Zulu tribe’s people are concentrated in rural and urban communities in the southern part of the continent. To learn more about the culture and history of the fascinating Zulu people, we highly recommend viewing this video - Kingdoms of Africa: The Zulu Kingdom (Episode 6 of 8 about the Kingdoms of Africa).

"Shaka kaSenzangakhona, also known as Shaka Zulu was the most influential leader of the Zulu Kingdom. He is widely credited with uniting many of the Northern Nguni people, specifically the Mtetwa Paramountcy and the Ndwandwe into the Zulu Kingdom, the beginnings of a nation that held sway over the portion of southern Africa between the Phongolo and Mzimkhulu Rivers, and his statesmanship and vigour marked him as one of the greatest Zulu kings. He has been called a military genius for his reforms and innovations, and condemned for the brutality of his reign." Source: Kingdoms of Africa.

Here is a map showing the approximate geographical area of South Africa where isiZulu is spoken (indicated in green)

isiZulu Language

To the surprise of many, click speaking, which is formally known as the isiZulu language, is one of the most dominant languages in South Africa. In fact, the language is so popular that it became one of South Africa’s official languages in 1994. To date, there are 11 official languages.

Zulu is the most widely spoken language in the home, and it is understood by well over 50% of the population in the region. “Zulu is idiomatic and proverbial and is characterized by many clicks. The Zulu language is characterized by hlonipha (respect) terms. Addressing those who are older than oneself, especially elderly and senior people, by their first names is viewed as lack of respect. Therefore, terms like baba (father) and mama (mother) are used not only to address one's parents but also other senior males and females of the community.” Since the Zulu tribe has religious roots in Christian and traditional beliefs, it makes sense that Christian missionaries were the first to create a way to write Zulu. The first Zulu Christian booklet was written by Newton Adams, George Newton and Aldin Grout between 1837 and 1838. It was titled Incwadi Yokuqala Yabafundayo, and it explained the spelling of Zulu words as well as the history of the Old Testament. One our favourite examples of the "click" songs of the Zulu people is the venerable Miriam Makeba - Mama Afrika. Enjoy her famous performance of Quongqothwane, also known as the click song during the festival "Zaire 74".

Zulu Musical Style

As with many Africa cultures, music is a group activity for the Zulu people. Often, all village members will join in producing the music that accompanies ritualistic dance. Members of the group will gather around the main performers of the dance, singing in unison while other members play instruments.

Zulu Instruments

The Zulu use many musical instruments that are common to African music. They employ several types of drums, including the djembe drum and the ngoma drum, into their performances, as well as ankle rattles, shakers, rain sticks and bells. The Zulu also use their bodies as instruments by clapping and slapping parts of their bodies rhythmically.

Perhaps, the most fascinating features of the Zulu language is the use of click consonants. These consonants are unique and unlike anything we use in the English language to form words and phrases. Even though the click sound feature is shared with a number of languages in southern Africa, it is primarily used in the KwaZulu-Natal region.


As outlined on Wikipedia, there are three articulations of clicks in the Zulu language:

  • c: dental (comparable to a sucking of teeth, as the sound one makes for 'tsk tsk')
  • q: alveolar (comparable to a bottle top 'pop')
  • x: lateral (comparable to a click one may do for a walking horse)

Each articulation covers five click consonants, with differences such as being voiced, aspirated, or nasalised, for a total of 15 different click sounds.

The Zulu Alphabet

Here is a chart outlining the Zulu pronunciation and click consonants that make up the language: 


Learn the Zulu Click Sounds

Talking about the Zulu language is one thing, but actually hearing the sounds and learning how to make the click sounds will provide you with proper context. Here are a number of instructional videos that will teach you about the basics of the click speaking of the Zulu Tribe:

Q, Qh & Gq Click Sounds

X, Xh, Gx Click Sounds


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The Maasai Olympics: Replacing Hunting for Lions with Hunting for Medals

"This Maasai Olympics has been the greatest celebration of Maasai culture I have ever attended,” - Katoo Ole Metito (Maasai), Minister of Internal Security, Government of Kenya.

Lion Hunting: A Maasai Tradition

Lion hunting is a tradition in Maasai culture. In the past, hunting was used as an event to signify the transition of young men into manhood. Lion hunting was also a symbol of strength, vitality and prowess to attract females. However, over the years, the tradition of lion hunting has had a significant negative impact on the number of lions, rapidly decimating their population in Africa. Realizing the impact Maasai traditions were having on the lion population, they decided to change their culture for the better in 2012. WATCH: The Hunt for Medals, not Lions : The First Maasai Olympics. Source: The Big Life Foundation

Replacing Hunting for Lions with Hunting for Medals 

Rather than focusing their efforts on hunting lions, the Maasai people made the transition to focusing on sport competitions, creating the Maasai Olympics in 2012. The Maasai Olympics is an organised Maasai sports competition based upon traditional warrior skills.

It allows young men to compete for recognition, express their bravery, help identify future leaders, and to impress women. It was first held in 2012, was a raging success, and the event has continued to grow over the past few years. “In truth, this program is very successful, and we are now doing something honourable. We used to celebrate lion hunting, but this program has shown us a better celebration,” says Iltuati, Maasai Warrior, Amboseli-Tsavo Ecosystem. 

 Here are the highlights from the first event:

  • It was first held on December 22, 2012
  • It was first held in southern Kenya
  • 25 athletes from 4 warrior villages in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem participated
  • The event is supported by the African Wildlife Foundation and local sponsors

The Events

There are six core events held as part of the Maasai Olympics. They are a combination of traditional running and throwing skill events, all skills that were previously used to hunt lions (running, herding, throwing). Events include:
  • Rungu throwing for accuracy
  • 200 meter sprint
  • Spear throwing for distance
  • 800 meter sprint
  • 5 kilometer run
  • High jump

Even though girls were not traditionally participants in lion hunting traditions, because of their role in the conservation of African lions and their support of warriors, competitions are now held for women on Olympics day.

Three Levels of Competition

While the Maasai Olympics takes place on a single day each year, it is actually a three phase event that plays out over the course of the year. Here are the three levels of competition

1. Local level competition: Warriors receives training in the events and compete to be selected to one of the four teams across the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem. As outlined on maasaiolympics.com, “Each will represent a warrior manyatta (village) that will host in aggregate 4000+ young men during their 12 to 15 years of warriorhood.”

2. Regional level competition: Teams compete against the other three manyattas of the ecosystem.

3. Olympics Day: This is the official Maasai Olympics event day. The events receive national coverage, and the event is attended by government, media, tourists and family. The four teams compete in six events for medals and prizes. The overall winners receive a trophy and prized bull.

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Back In Time: The Hadzabe People of Tanzania - A Photo Journey

Imagine a society with no warfare, no rules, no official leaders, no known history of famine and relatively no personal possessions; a place where people truly live in the here and now. Well, such a place still exists....

In northern Tanzania—in one of the harshest environments on the planet—live the Hadzabe people. The Hadzabe are a small indigenous ethnic group, numbering fewer than 1,000.

The Hadzabe are one of the few truly hunter-gatherer societies left in the world and are the last true nomads of Africa. They grow no food; have no livestock and almost no possessions. They have no calendars or clocks, or even permanent shelters. The Hadzabe speak a unique native language called Hadzane. It is not closely related to any other that still exists. The language is filled with sounds, such as tongue clicks, that are so different from most languages. The language doesn’t have words for numbers past three or four. Amazingly, this little cultural pocket of the world is little changed from 10,000 years ago.

Living off the Land - The Hadzabe live around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the Serengeti Plateau. In this hot, dry harsh terrain there is a shortage of fresh water and, for an outsider, food may not seem plentiful, but for the Hadzabe their home is filled with everything they need. It’s estimated that the Hadzabe spend about four to six hours a day actively pursuing food.

The women collect berries and baobab fruit, while the men collect honey and hunt. Men use a bow and arrow to hunt. The bows are made out of animal tendons, and the arrows are dipped in a poison made from local plants. The poison on the arrowheads is potent enough to kill a giraffe. Men usually hunt alone, but sometimes when they’re hunting larger prey, such as a baboon, they’ll go as a group. Their kills are brought back to the camp, where they are shared with everyone. Sometimes, if the kill is especially large, the whole camp will move to the carcass to feast. It’s not just food that the Hadzabe get from the land.

They also know where to get water from trees, how to make various medicines from plants and they still make fire by rubbing sticks together.

A Dangerous Life - Although the thought of not being burdened by too many possessions and rules may be appealing to some, the Hadzabe do not live what most of us would consider an easy life. They face constant dangers. About 1/5 of all babies die before reaching their first birthday, and almost one-half of children don’t make it to age fifteen. In addition to the extreme heat and lack of drinking water, the Hadzabe must contend with poisonous spiders and scorpions, black mamba snake bites, malaria, and of course the many large animals that would make a quick meal of a human.

The Ever-Creeping Outside World - While there are roughly 1,000 people who are identified as Hadzabe, today only around 300 of them live the traditional lifestyle. As with many indigenous groups, the outside world has slowly encroached upon the Hadzabe.

By some estimates, they have lost as much as 90% of their homeland. There are now even dirt roads at the edges of their land. Some Hadzabe are learning to speak Swahili to communicate with other groups in the area, and there are even a handful of Hadzabe people who speak English. The double-edged sword of tourism is another outside influence that cannot be ignored. Hopefully those who are fortunate enough to visit with the Hadzabe people will do so responsibly and be influential in helping to protect their ancient way of life.

View The Hadzabe through the revealing lens of Aliakber 'aZh' Zoeb and benefit from a 15% pre-release discount for our Zawadee Insiders & Facebook fans. Available in a variety of different sizes and choices of media (paper, canvas, etc.), Ali's photographs are powerfully unique elements for any home or office décor.

Zawadee - Bring Africa Home is pleased to announce that we now represent the esteemed photographer - Ali 'aZh' Zoeb a renowned Tanzanian fashion, editorial and lifestyle photographer.

Valued as one of Tanzania's best fashion photographers, Ali's passion for portraiture sings out in his photographic series of The Hadzabe - Living in the Here & Now.
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Serval Cats: Africa's Lesser-Known Big Cat

Africa is home to an incredible array of fascinating animals—among them many of the world’s most majestic big cats!

You’ve no doubt heard of lions, cheetahs and leopards, but are you familiar with the slightly smaller African wild cat—the serval?

With their small heads, large ears, long necks, long skinny legs, long slender bodies and short tails, Serval cats have an almost patched together appearance. They’re even referred to as “the cat of spare parts.” From a distance, they slightly resemble a cheetah, as they have similar coloring and markings, but servals are smaller. They typically weigh between 13- 18 kilograms (30-40 pounds) and are around 53-56 centimeters (21-22 inches) tall at the shoulder. Here are some other interesting tidbits about this distinctive big cat from Africa:
  • The name, serval, is derived from a Portuguese word meaning “wolf-deer”
  • Servals have the largest ears of any cat
  • They love to climb, leap and play in the water
  • A serval standing on its hind legs, can jump 2.7 meters (more than 9 ft.) straight up in the air
  • Their hind legs are longer than their front ones
  • They were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians

A Formidable Hunter

Despite their patched together appearance, or perhaps because of it, servals are extremely effective hunters. With the aid of their over-sized ears, servals have excellent hearing. They can hear their prey of choice—small mammals, such as rats and mice—rustling through the grasses and pounce accordingly. Servals can launch themselves high in the air with their long slender hind legs and snatch small birds from the air. But their prey isn’t limited to the land or air. Using their curved paws, servals are able to pluck fish and frogs right out of the water. Of course, servals are not the largest animals in the African savannahs, and must be on-guard from their many predators. As with many wild animals in Africa, servals face threats from those larger than themselves, including leopards and spotted hyenas. And not surprisingly, they must also contend with another usual culprit—people. Human encroachment is gobbling up the servals’ habitat, and unsavory poachers have been known to hunt servals for their beautiful skins, which are used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes, and sometimes sold to tourists. Serval meat is also considered a delicacy by some tribes.

Family Life

Similar to cheetahs and leopards, servals are primarily solitary animals. Both male and female servals maintain their own territories and mark them with their scent. The female serval raises her young on her own. A typical litter is between two to five kittens. The male kittens are kicked out of the den at about six months, but their sisters may stay with the mother until they’re two years old.

Out of the Wild

Unlike some exotic animals, servals are not a rarity in captivity. There are 292 servals in zoos worldwide (130 of them in the U.S.), according to International Species Information Service.

There is also a demand from some to have this wild animal as a domesticated pet. Even a cursory internet search brings up dozens of breeders pedaling serval cats as household pets. But if you want to see the beauty of the servals in their natural habitat, you’ll have to book a flight to Africa, as that’s the only place in the world where they’re found in the wild.
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Living On The Brink: The Omo Valley Tribes of Ethiopia

The Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is as picturesque as it comes. Hills, mountains, rivers, graceful waterfalls, jungles and numerous exotic wild animals and plants all converge in this one area. The grand Omo River snakes through the region emptying in Lake Turkana at the Kenyan border.

The earliest known discovery of human fossil fragments was found in the lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana (which is mostly in Kenya). With this precious discovery, the area was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Nestled in this beautiful setting are 15 tribal groups living in the hills and the banks along the Omo River. It’s estimated that over 200,000 tribal people call the Omo Valley home. In this isolated corner of the world, these tribes have lived for centuries developing their own distinct and rich customs. Each tribe has different body markings, clothing, hairstyles and beliefs. 

The Tribes - A diverse group of people live in the Omo Valley. But the various tribes in the region do share some commonalities, such as their reliance on the Omo River as an essential resource. Most tribes rely on the annual flooding of the river. Cattle, goats and sheep are also essential to most of the tribes’ livelihoods. For the tribes, traditions are important and many involve some sort of body adornment or fancy headdress.


Here are some traditions of the Omo Valley tribes:
  • The Mursi: The Mursi’s traditions include body painting, decorative scarring and piercing. Some Mursi women still hold onto the tradition of piercing and then slowly stretching their lower lip with a clay plate, up to 18cm (7in) wide. The lip plate is done to attract a spouse. There are few mirrors around so boys usually paint one another with elaborate designs. Mothers paint their babies, so the traditions start young.
  • The Suri Tribe: The Suri use flora and fauna for decoration. They make elaborate head ornaments from leaves and branches.
  • The Karo Tribe: The Karo paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for ceremonies. They sometimes wear face masks and clay hair buns with feathers stuck into them. The women sometimes scar their chests, believing it makes them beautiful. Men also scar themselves, representing an enemy or dangerous animal they’ve killed.
  • The Hamar Tribe (also known as the Hammer or Hamer): The Hamar people wear colorful bracelets and beads in their hair. Some women wear circular wedge necklaces to show they are married. Men wear hair ornaments to represent a kill of an enemy or animal. Men also paint themselves with white chalk for ceremonies.


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Outside Influences - There are no written languages or calendars among the tribes, but they’re not immune from outside influences. Today, as a result of recent conflicts in Sudan, nearly every family in the Omo Valley owns an automatic weapon—an AK47 being the weapon of choice. Perhaps most alarmingly, the tribes’ very way of life may be threatened by the Gibe III dam—a controversial hydro-electric dam set to open later this year. Salini Costruttori, an Italian construction company, began work on the dam in 2006. The US $1.8 billion project is about 90% complete.

The dam is expected to more than double the electrical output in Ethiopia to about 1870 Megawatts. In addition to the almost completed dam project, others are encroaching on tribal lands. In 2011, the Ethiopian government began to lease sections of the Lower Omo region to large Malaysian, Italian, Indian and Korean companies. Sugar and cotton plantations are springing up in the area, all of which are eating up precious tribal land. Tribal grain stores and cattle grazing land are being destroyed and some tribes are even being forced into resettlement areas. Obviously these are complex issues where the rights of all Ethiopians must be balanced, but someone must look out for the more vulnerable groups in the area. Fortunately, international and domestic efforts are underway to protect the precarious way of life for the tribal people in the Omo Valley. Hopefully their efforts to preserve these fascinating cultures won’t be too late. 

Try our Ethiopian Micro-Lot Coffee - Small Batches, Single-Origin

Micro Lot Single Origin Coffee
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Get To Know Africa Series: The Unbelievable Beauty of Cape Floristic

About 25 miles south of the bustling city of Cape Town, tucked near the southern tip of South Africa, is one of the most gorgeous and unique displays of plant life in the world.

The Cape Floristic Region is one of just six designated floral kingdoms worldwide. Africa is proudly home to 129 World Heritage sites, spread over 37 African countries. In 2004 the Cape Floristic Region was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes eight nature reserves and wilderness areas, including Table Mountain National Park.

The vast diversity of flowering plant species in the region is staggering. The area represents 20% of Africa’s flora. There are 9,000 plant species crammed into the roughly 80,000 square kilometers that make up the region. And of these, an astounding 6,200 (69%) are found nowhere else in the world.

If you’re planning a visit, be sure to go in the spring—August to mid-October— when you’ll be greeted with an explosion of colorful flowers blanketing the area.

The Plants - 15 million years ago this area was covered by lush rain forest, but today trees are rare. Instead, vegetation on the Cape is largely made up of fynbos—a shrubland mainly comprised of hard-leafed evergreen, and fire-prone shrubs. The air is dry and all plants must survive the rocky or sandy, nutrient-poor soils. Good drainage is a must for the plants on the Cape. The most recognized plant species in the region are the proteas. These showy shrubs have large flower heads in a variety of colors. Earth Rangers has created a lovely video gallery of flowers indigenous to South Africa. Definitely worth a look - so beautiful!


Renewal from the Ashes - Periodic fires are essential to the ecosystem process on the Cape. Rather than being destructive, many plants depend on an occasional burning of their habitat. Ideally the vegetation needs to burn about every 15 years, for new growth to occur. Proteas are specially adapted to survive wildfires—their thick underground stems contain dormant buds that produce new growth after a fire. The Cape Orchids are also dependent on fire to thrive. Most are dormant for long periods, but after a fire they may spring into glorious bloom.

Don’t Forget the Animals - Flashy flowers may steal the show, but there are also many distinct animals—some of which are only found in this tiny region. You can find 320 different species of birds in the area, with six being endemic. The cape sugarbird, orange-breasted sunbird, protea canary and cape siskin all call this small corner home.

There are 90 species of mammals living in the area. Perhaps the most impressive is the bontebok—a graceful antelope that was nearly extinct in the mid-1800’s. But thanks to some dedicated conservationists, it now numbers about 2,000.

Reptile diversity is also pretty high, with around 100 species. There are five species of tortoise found almost exclusively within the Cape Floristic Region, including the geometric tortoise, which is one of the rarest in the world. There are only about 2,000-3,000 left on the planet.

You can also find 230 species of butterflies fluttering through the region, which must be quite a site when the area is in bloom. You will learn about the incredibly diversity of plants and animals in the Cape Floristic area, as well as the challenges facing the health of the flora and fauna of the Western Cape.

"Home to 7000 unique plant species, South Africa's Cape Floristic Region boasts the richest flora biodiversity in the world. But fires, agriculture, poaching, illegal felling and expanding urbanization are threatening this unrivaled stretch of earth." Source: Global Ideas

Outside Impact on the Area - Although the Cape Floristic Region is protected land, there are still threats to its neighboring areas. Because of its close proximity to the city of Cape Town, there’s the ever-present danger of urban encroachment. In addition, the prime weather has also led to an expansion of agricultural land for vineyards. But the greatest threat to the region is invasive alien plant species. These plants have already invaded about 70% of the mountain and lowland fynbos. If gone unchecked this incursion will be devastating to the area.

These beautiful, soft scarves are all handmade in the small country of Swaziland by talented artisans using specially developed dyes. A wide variety of materials, colours and styles are available. 

Looking to echo the vibrant colors of the Cape flowers in your wardrobe?

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In addition, to producing eye-catching scarves, Tsandza provides local employment in an impoverished area, and supports community projects, such as providing clean drinking water and helping out local schools. So, you can feel doubly good about your purchase. 


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Get To Know Africa Series: Wildlife Abounds In the Kenyan Lake System of the Great Rift Valley

Imagine seeing upwards of a million and a half vibrant-colored flamingos congregated on the shores of a single lake.

Well, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in the Kenyan Lake System of the Great Rift Valley. The Kenyan landscape is dotted with 64 lakes. And nestled near the equator are three special lakes - Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Elementatia.  These lakes aren’t particularly large, and they’re relatively shallow, but together these interlinked lakes comprise one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. A grateful thank you to Michael Douroux for this lovely little video of flamingos on Lake Nakuru.



These highly alkaline lakes have an abundant growth of green algae, which feeds an amazing number of birds. People come from all over the world to watch the flamingos’ majestic feeding frenzy take place.

The Landscape - In 2011, the Kenyan Lake system was designated a World Heritage Site. The protected property covers a relatively small area of 32,000 hectares, but is an essential feeding ground for hundreds of different species of birds.



Major tectonic and volcanic events helped shape the diverse landscape. The lakes are surrounded by hot springs, geysers, volcanic outcrops, forests, and open grasslands. The lakes are located at an altitude of around 1500 meters, so they have a high rate of evaporation. This can cause marked fluctuations in water levels. While the flamingos may be the premier event, the protected area also boasts a number of other impressive animals. Black and white rhinos, Rothschild’s giraffes, greater kudus, lions, cheetahs and wild dogs also roam the area.

Rothschild's Giraffe

A Bird Paradise - The diversity of birdlife in the region is amazing. There are as many as 480 bird species at Lake Nakuru, 450 species at Lake Elementaita and 370 at Lake Bogoria. The area is home to 13 globally threatened bird species. The lake system is the most important foraging site in the world for the lesser flamingo. Lesser flamingos are the smallest species of flamingos, with a standing height around 80-90cm (31-35in). They’re classified as near-threatened, so if you want to see them in large numbers, the lakes are a prime spot. Much of the year up to four million lesser flamingos move between the three lakes taking advantage of the plentiful green algae, which are an important food source for them. Although, the algae are blue-green in color, they contain photosynthetic pigments that give the birds their distinct pink color. Greater Flamingos are also found in large numbers in the area. They’re bigger than their cousins at 110-150cm tall (43-60in), and they have a distinctive black spot on the tip of their bills.

 Greater Flamingo

Lake Elementaita supports the region’s main breeding colony of Great White Pelicans with around 8,000 pairs. Great White Pelicans are among the largest birds on earth with an awe-inspiring wingspan of 226 to 369cm (7- nearly 12 ft.).

Great White Pelican
The lakes are also home to over 100 species of migratory birds including:
  • Black-Necked Grebes,
  • African Spoonbills,
  • Pied Avocets,
  • Little Grebes,
  • Yellow Billed Storks, and
  • Black Winged Stilts.

The Black Winged Stilt

The lakes are part of the West Asian-East African Flyway, which is a migratory corridor for 500 million birds. 350 different species pass through the area, on their way from summer breeding grounds in Asia, to enjoy the warmer temps of southern Africa for the winter.


The Usual Threats - Even though the lakes enjoy protection as a World Heritage Site, there are still some dangers. As with many places of natural beauty, the region is surrounded by an area of rapidly growing population and the many ill-effects that come with that. Soil erosion, increased abstraction of water from the catchments, deforestation, growth in human settlements, overgrazing, tourism and pollution are all potential problems that must be watched to ensure this majestic place remains welcoming to the birds and other rare wildlife.

The Kisii - How about a little piece of the Great Rift Valley for your home? Not far from the Kenyan Lake System, live the Kisii people, who are known for their soapstones. Kisii soapstone is a metamorphic rock that’s soft and easy to work with. For generations, the Kisii people have handcrafted carvings out of this soapstone—making both functional items and beautiful works of art. You can check out our extensive to see just how these talented carvers apply their craft.

Kisii Soapstone


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African Wild Dogs: A Beautiful Animal on the Brink of Extinction

There are thousands of animals currently on the endangered species list, many of which call Africa home. One such animal fighting for its survival is the often misunderstood, African wild dog.

The African wild dogs’ numbers are dwindling fast. They once roamed much of the continent, but today can only be found in a few small pockets scattered throughout Africa. It’s estimated that there may be as few as 3,000-6,000 left. As is often the case, humans have been the biggest threat to these animals. But today, much is being done to increase the population of the wild dogs. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

 The Basics about African Wild Dogs

Although about the size of a medium domestic dog, you won’t confuse these animals with your pet. They have mottled coats with patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. Each dog has a unique color scheme, so they can recognize each other at great distances. These long-legged animals have dark brown circles around their eyes and big rounded ears.


African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) also share these interesting characteristics:
  • Typically weigh between 17-36 kg (37-79 lbs), and are about 60- 75 cm (24-30 in) tall at the shoulder
  • Only have four toes per foot
  • Are also called cape hunting dogs or painted dogs
  • Can live up to 11 years
  • Can cover an astounding 50 km (31 mi) a day looking for food
  • Sleep during the day
  • Have litters of 2-20 pups, but of course not all survive
Today, African wild dogs are generally found in plains and open woodland in Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re roaming animals, and for most of the year are on the move, usually not staying in the same place for more than a day. The exception is that for roughly two to three months out of the year they occupy a den (usually an abandoned aardvark hole), to give birth and nurse their young.

Formidable Hunters

By working together, packs of African wild dogs can take down prey much larger than themselves. Hunting packs can consist of 6-20 animals. They hunt in the morning and early evening. Depending on the area, wild dogs’ prey can include gazelle, wildebeest, impala, and reedbuck—all of which are larger than a single dog. Occasionally, wild dogs do hunt on their own for smaller prey, such as hares and rodents. African wild dogs also have impressive stamina, which can help with the hunt.
They can pursue their prey at speeds up to 66 km/hr (41 mph), for up to an hour. Running With the Pack As evidenced with their hunting strategies, wild dogs are social animals. They live in tight-knit packs that range in size from 2-43, with the typical number being around 8-11 members.


The pack is comprised of a dominant breeding pair, a number of non-breeding adults and their dependent offspring. What’s interesting is that all of the males are related to each other, and all of the females are related to each other, but not to the males. Males stay with the pack they were born into, but when females are between 14-30 months they leave the pack in groups of sisters to find another pack that doesn’t have any sexually mature females. Wild dogs in the same pack look out for each other. They share food with one another. Smaller pups are allowed first go at a fresh kill, and dogs help weak or ill members. Even though only one dog in a pack has pups, the entire pack looks after the young. The whole pack even sleeps huddled up together. Efforts to Save the African Wild Dog In 2004, African wild dogs were classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They do have some natural threats—namely lions, but most of their decimation has been at the hands of humans. Wild dogs’ natural habitat is continually being chewed up by human encroachment. Additionally, they’re poisoned and hunted by some, who consider the dogs as pests, who threaten domestic livestock. They’re also killed inadvertently by diseases that are spread from domestic animals, and are sometimes killed in traffic accidents in the ever-increasing roadways zigzagging through their habitats. This video, courtesy of Journeyman Pictures depicts the beauty of this endangered species.

By the way, we highly recommend subscribing to Journeyman Pictures YouTube channel. Interesting, challenging and provocative content, published every week. "Journeyman Pictures is your independent source for the world's most powerful films, exploring the burning issues of today. We represent stories from the world's top producers, with brand new content coming in all the time." The wild dogs’ population is dangerously low, but there are glimmers of hope. Groups such as, the African Wildlife Foundation and the African Wild Dog Conservancy are working to get African wild dogs’ numbers back up. The already fragile ecosystem will be out of balance if we lose these animals. But through concerted efforts and education, the small population of African wild dogs that are left will hopefully increase and eventually thrive.

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Getting To Know Africa Series: The Journey to Aldabra Atoll

Hundreds of kilometers off the coast of Madagascar exists a special place, which has remained relatively untouched by humans.

There are numerous islands scattered in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, and among these is the Aldabra Atoll. This island ecosystem—which belongs to the Seychelles—consists of four islands surrounding a large shallow lagoon. Aldabra is the world’s second largest coral atoll, and the largest raised coral reef in the world reaching up to eight meters above sea level. At 34 kilometers long and 14.5 kilometers wide, Aldabra isn’t that big, but it boasts the largest giant tortoise population in the world.

An Inhospitable Land - Aldabra remains virtually uninhabited by humans. There’s a ranger and staff, and a smattering of visiting scientists, but that’s it. Centuries ago, explorers thought of inhabiting the island, but with little soil and practically no fresh water, it didn’t happen. In addition, most of the land surface is made up of an ancient razor-sharp coral reef, which will shred your feet if you dare to walk on it.  It is largely for this that UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1982.
An Ancient Creature: The Giant Tortoise - While Aldabra might not be the most comfortable place for humans—other animals thrive. Around 100,000 giant tortoises—the largest population in the world—call Aldabra home. These mighty beasts weigh about 250 kg and can easily live to over 100. In fact, Jonathan, a rare Seychelles Giant Tortoise is thought to be the oldest living animal on the planet,. At an estimated age of 182, Jonathan has seen a total of 28 British governors come and go since he was brought fully-grown from the Seychelles to the island of St. Helena in 1882. Jonathan was estimated to be approximately 50 years of age at that time, and was likely an exotic gift for then-governor Hudson Ralph Janisch.


 Here are some other tidbits about the giant tortoises:

  • They belong to an ancient group of reptiles appearing about 250 million years ago.
  • Some individuals have been known to live over 250 years.
  • They have long necks so they can stretch and tear branches from trees.
Other Wildlife - Giant tortoises aren’t the only splendid creatures living on Aldabra. Coconut crabs—the largest land-living arthropod in the world—can be found scurrying around. These giants can have a leg span of one meter.
Or you might glimpse sharks, manta rays or barracudas swimming in the shallows. There are large seabird colonies on the island and 13 species of terrestrial birds, including the Aldabra rail—the last flightless bird in the western Indian Ocean. Boobies and frigate birds also abound.
Flora is abundant as well, with 273 species of flowering plants, shrubs and ferns on the atoll, including the tropicbird orchid—the national flower of the Seychelles.
Dangers Dodged - Isolation can be a saving grace, but even way out in the middle of the ocean, Aldabra has had its share of threats. In the 1960’s the British military had an outlandish idea to set up an air-staging outpost, with an airstrip and support facility on the atoll. Fortunately,  this idea faced massive national and international opposition and was soon dropped. At one point the BBC even considered locating a transmitter on the island. Today, the atoll enjoys much protection, but there are still dangers. Efforts to get rid of non-native species continue. Goats were finally eradicated in 2012 after years, but cats, rats and introduced birds still cause some problems on the islands.
Planning a Visit  - Aldabra Atoll is not a place you accidentally visit. It takes some planning. It’s 1150 km southwest from Victoria (capital of the Seychelles) and 420 km north of Madagascar— so it’s out there. The island doesn’t have tourist accommodations but you can visit. First you need permission from the Seychelles Island Foundation and then need to figure out how you’ll get there. Once on the island, you must be accompanied by an Aldabra staff member at all times. Because of its remote location, the expense of getting there and the threat of piracy, not many are fortunate enough to visit. But that’s what makes it so special. 
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The Himba of Namibia

In the harsh desert environment of the Kunene region in Namibia, live the Himba People. Despite the modern world creeping ever closer, the Himba have resisted change and preserved their own identity and rich culture. 

On the Move: A Way of Life - Today, the Himba Tribe numbers about 30-50,000 people. They are closely related to the Herero people and speak the language of Otijihimba, a dialect of the Herero language. The Himba people are semi-nomadic, so are often on the move. As a result, they don’t have a lot of possessions. They breed cattle and goats, which are essential to their livelihood, and must move constantly with their herds to new watering places. Their homes are simple round structures, plastered in mud and dung. The roles within the Himba community are gender-defined. The women typically do more of the labor-intensive work. Women carry the water to the village; they build their houses and tend to the livestock. Women also raise the children in the tribe. Men handle the political tasks of their community, including legal issues, but economic issues are usually decided by the women. When a girl is born, her future husband is decided. They are then married when the girl is between 14 and 17 years old. Interestingly, polygamy is allowed for both men and women.

A Distinctive Appearance  - You many not recognize the name, Himba, but you’ve likely seen photographs of people from the tribe. Both men and women go topless and wear lots of leather jewelry.

 But it’s the women’s appearance that is so remarkable. Himba women slather a paste, called otjize, which is made of butter, fat and red ochre, on their skin and hair each morning. The paste gives them a distinctive red hue. It can take hours to apply the paste and to get their elaborate hairstyles just right. The intricate hairstyles include bits of woven hay, goat hair, and sometimes even hair extensions. Appearance is full of meaning for the Himba people. Before puberty, girls have only two hair braids (twins have only one braid each), but get more as they age. After a year of marriage or following the birth of their first child, Himba women add an elaborate animal skin or headdress to their hairstyle. Single men have only one large braid growing backwards from the crown of their head. After they’re married, men stop cutting their hair and wrap it up in a turban. They never remove the turban except for funerals. And after a death, they shave their head.

Western fashion is beginning to creep in to the Himba world, but only with the men. Women are still fiercely proud of their distinctive traditional appearance.


Customs - Spirituality is important to the Himba people. They worship the god Mukuru and their ancient ancestors. An important role in the tribe is that of the fire-keeper, called the “okuruwo.” He is responsible for keeping the family ancestral fire burning. Every 7-10 days, people use the fire to communicate with Mukuru or their ancestors. The village chief has the only house that faces the fire. The Himba people also enjoy traditional music and dancing. A popular instrument is a musical bow, called an ohuta.

Tough Times - The 1980’s brought difficult times to the Himba people. In addition to the always harsh physical environment they live in, war and severe drought visited their homeland. During this time, some people left for Angola, some men joined the South African Army and others poured into the town of Opuwo for relief food. There, harsh poverty forced the Himba people into crowded cardboard settlements—a very different life than they were used to. These harsh times almost completely decimated their way of life. Around 90% of Himba cattle died, according to an article in National Geographic.

Resurgence - The 1990’s brought a return of peace and much-needed rain to the area. The Himba people were able to rebuild their depleted herds, and return to their way of life. There have also been recent efforts to give more local control to the Himba people, through local conservancies. Impressively, despite the ever-encroaching outside world, the Himba people have been able to hold onto a way of life that has been relatively unchanged since the 16th century.

Cover Photo Source: David Siu, Ovahima Mother & Child


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