Desert Elephants in Namibia

The term Desert Elephant sounds like an oxymoron.  How could an animal that eats and drinks as much as an elephant find enough food and water to live in a desert.  Savanna elephants yes, forest elephants yes, but a huge pachyderm surviving in an environment that is primarily sand, rocks, and gravel is not an easy concept to get your head around.  But a few desert elephants do manage to make a home for themselves in Mali and Namibia.

On a recent trip to Namibia I specifically went to the north west part of the country to look for these elephants.  I was staying at the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge.  I assumed with a name like that I had a good chance of success.  Early one morning we set out from the lodge and quickly found a small group of five elephants at a river in one of the canyons.  I though it had everything these big eaters could want, mainly lots of food and water, and some shade that offered a break from the intense sun.  With those amenities, it would seem logical that the elephants might hang out here for days on end.  But when we went back to the canyon in the afternoon, the elephants were gone, having struck out across the open nothingness in search of something else.

What they possible want and where did they go.  For more than two hours we followed their tracks until we finally caught up with the elephants dinning on a few little scrub trees that must be rather addictive to have lured them so far.  I talk about the desert elephants this week on my radio show National Geographic Weekend, and this video shows my day chasing desert elephants and the harsh environment in which they survive.

Hurts Me Too: Blues Adventure

If you like the blues, here’s a little Christmas gift for you.  I shot this last spring, but just put it together.  It features some of my friends, Hadley Hockensmith guitar, Bill Maxwell drums, Phil Driscoll vocal and trumpet, Michiko Hill organ, and Pee Wee Hill bass who did me a big favor by recording some music for me at Phil Driscoll’s studio.  These guys are so good this is their only take of, “Hurts Me Too”, and they nailed it.  I’m using the music on my radio show and cutting video of a few of my adventures to some of the songs.  I’ll post more of the music in the coming weeks but for now enjoy this blues classic.

One Very Brave 12 Year Old Girl

How many cows would you give in exchange for the woman who is your wife?  No, not today, after years of marriage, I mean how many cows would you have paid when you were young and head over heels in love.  For many young girls in Kenya their value, their total worth to their family to their village has been reduced to their bride price, the number of cows they will bring to the family in exchange for their hand in marriage.  Kakenya Ntaiya was one of those girls, until she defied tradition, stood up to her father and tribal elders and said no to marriage at 12 and insisted on staying in school.  She came to the U.S. earned her PhD and has now returned to her village and built a school for girls to give them the same opportunity she fought for.

This week on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend, I talk with Kakenya, who is one of our National Geographic Emerging Explorers, about the success of her school and how it’s changing the attitudes of the men in her village about the value of women, and effecting how they view their own daughters.  Two years ago I went to visit  Kakenya  in her village and see the school for myself.  The school has more than doubled in size since then, but from this video you can see the difference it was already making in the lives of the girls and their parents.

Strangers in a Strange Land

She tells me, “I am not from this planet.”  I’ve occasionally had that suspicion about some people I’ve known, but never before has anyone just come right out and confirmed they are not of this earth.  Uriel however has no secrets she’s trying to hide, and tells me and anyone else who will listen that she has in fact lived on thirty-three different planets.  She has come to earth to prepare a landing site near San Diego, California which will be the future home for her brothers from other planets.

Uriel revealed her mission to me for a series I was doing on UFO’s.  For the series, I talked to several people who had seen UFO’s, and a few who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, but Uriel was the first and only space alien willing to sit down for an interview with me.  This story aired in 1990 and the space ships she promised were to have arrived in 2001.  Last time I checked in San Diego they were apparently running late.  Or maybe they are using the Mayan calendar and will instead be arriving within the week.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of her story was Uriel, or Ruth Norman, as it said on her driver’s license, had a foundation, called the Unarius Society, to promote her other worldliness , and the foundations had members, followers, earthlings who believed her story and were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be part of her brave new world.