Experience Nomadic Cultures of the Wodaabe and the Tuareg


In October, Leslie Clark, founder of The Nomad Foundation, will lead an expedition in Niger to explore Nomadic Festivals of the Wodaabe and the Tuareg. This expedition will be a search for the annual nomadic festivals which are held each year after the rains when pasture for the herds is plentiful. It is also an intimate visit to the camps and villages of the Wodaabe and Tuareg of Niger. The excursion is an immersion into their lifestyles and traditions. Be welcomed into their homes and hearts; be delighted at the friendliness and warmth of these people. After fifteen years of traveling and managing humanitarian projects among these nomads, Leslie and her foundation are welcomed as part of the family. Her guides are Tuareg, those who have turned in their camels for 4wheel drive Toyotas, the best guides around.
The Tuareg are a nomadic camel herding culture that has dominated the Sahara for over a thousand years. The Tuareg are often referred to as “Blue Men of the Desert,” because their robes are dyed indigo blue and the color runs off and dyes their skin a rich blue hue. The Tuareg tribes are excellent craftsmen renowned for their indigo cloth, gold and silver jewelry and carved wooden masks.
The Wodaabe are traditionally nomadic cattle-herders and traders in the Sahel, with migrations stretching from southern Niger, through northern Nigeria, northeastern Cameroon, and the western region of the Central African Republic. The number of Wodaabe was estimated in 1983 to be 45,000. They are known for their beauty (both men and women), elaborate attire and rich cultural ceremonies. Wodaabe weave and dye beautiful cloth that is considered extremely valuable throughout western Africa.
Niger is the poorest country in the world; it is ranked the worst place on earth to be a mother and child. Like many areas in Africa, it doesn’t take much money to make a difference in the lives of children and families. Health statistics in Niger are appalling: one doctor for each 33,000 people; one woman out of every 20 dies in childbirth and about a quarter of all babies die before age 5.
Leslie, founder of the Nomad Foundation, is an artist whose career has always included travel, before completing her art degree; she attended a small Catholic girl’s high school in Ventura, where we were schoolmates.
In 1993, she made her first trip to Niger to look for exotic subject matter. She found that and a lot more. A chance meeting with Wodaabe nomads took her on a path that changed her life. A year later, after visiting this nomadic family and seeing the poverty they lived in, she gave them a gift of $200. On her return the next year the family explained they had purchased a cow with the gift that allowed them to remain nomadic. Realizing this relatively small sum could transform a family’s life made her understand that she could make a difference. In 1997 she started the Nomad Foundation seeking to balance economic opportunity and cultural tradition. Helping people support themselves using skills they already possess. Cultural exchanges, bringing African musicians to the US to increase awareness of the beauty of the music and art forms have also raised funds for the projects. The foundation has always tried to work with the local populations to decide what it is they need and want to improve their lives. Today the projects include nomadic schools, wells, women co-operatives, micro-credit, cereal banks, health and nutritional support for people and animals.
A short list of the Foundation accomplishments: 28 Cement Wells, 26 Cereal Banks, 5 Schools built, 8 schools annual support, 16 animal fodder banks, 10,000 animals vaccinated, 6 women co-operatives and 423 animals purchased.
Besides raising funds and awareness and improving the lives of the locals, Leslie leads Nomadic Expeditions to Niger several times a year. The expeditions are working trips or purely touring to meet nomads in their native lands. She has many years experience successfully managing fund raising in Niger and in leading intimate tours in this area.
There are many ways to Make a Difference: buy an animal for a Nomad as a gift for a friend or for yourself: Goat, Sheep, Camel, Donkey or Cow (under $100).
Adopt a child for a year $150
Pay for a teacher’s salary $1440
Build a temporary school $1500. http://www.nomadfoundation.org/donate.html
Nomad Foundation website http://www.nomadfoundation.org/
Tuareg guide serving Tuareg tea–known as the whiskey of the desert. There are always three cups, the first is very strong and is said to be bitter like death. The second is sweeter and weaker and bitter and sweet like life. The third is for the children and is said to be sweet like love.

Exclusive Domestic Adventures Alaska Heli-Fishing for the Intrepid! Winter glacier trekking for the adventurous!

Sample suggestion for summer fishing. Arrive Anchorage for one night before you depart to Lake Hood by float-plane.  In true Alaskan style, you’ll fly via float-plane to Winterlake Lodge, with opportunities to see the imposing Mount McKinley en route.

Winterlake Lodge is in the beautiful high country near Rainy Pass on the historic Iditarod Dogsled Trail.  Its idyllic setting, on the shores of a peaceful lake, is home to a family of loons in the summer months.  Swans migrate through in the fall and the ground is covered in wildflowers and berries. The views over the lake from the main lodge are staggering. 
A chef will be at your disposal to prepare gourmet meals in the main lodge’s huge and well- stocked kitchen. A canoe is available to explore the lake in front of the lodge, or a hike to Wolverine Ridge with an experienced naturalist guide. Other more relaxing options are massage and relaxing in the hot tub, a yoga class, or a cooking class.
Winterlake Lodge also boasts a team of sled dogs, which are tethered near the main lodge. They are used in the winter for the Iditarod dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome. 
The days are intentionally flexible, with a Robinson R-44 helicopter at your disposal each day.  Unrivaled helicopter access to rivers rarely visited (even by Alaskans), you’re almost guaranteed some memorable fishing adventures. Other activities include glacier trekking, hiking, kayaking, and rafting.  
Evenings are spent in the comfort of Winterlake Lodge, where a soak in the hot tub is always a welcome relief after a long but memorable day in the impressive Alaskan wilderness.  

Transfer via float-plane to Redoubt Bay Lodge; enjoy a full day trip to Redoubt Bay for bear viewing. Redoubt Bay Lodge is located within a 171,000 – acre critical habitat zone at the entrance of Lake Clark Pass. Perched atop a knoll, the location of the lodge affords great views of the Big River Lakes. You will enjoy an afternoon of guided up-close bear viewing or fishing. Redoubt Bay Lodge is noted for its resident bear population, one of the densest populations in Alaska. This will be your best bear viewing opportunity on the trip, with up-close encounters virtually guaranteed.

This morning, fly from Redoubt Bay to Anchorage and connect to Juneau. Transfer to the float-plane dock to connect with your scenic 40-minute flight to Admiralty Island, arriving at Favorite Bay Lodge.
Located in a Tlingit native village on Admiralty Island, Favorite Bay Lodge is pure luxury set in the midst of tranquility. Set on the waters-edge, with unrivaled scenic views of the Tongass National Forest, the lodge’s exterior landscape is challenged only by it’s opulent interior. Walls of glass and native cedar become the ultimate indoor observation point with majestic views of the bay. 
You’ll need to bring an appetite for a gourmet fusion of Northwestern foods prepared in their Exhibition Kitchen by their Chef. Savor the tastes of Alaska such as fresh Halibut, King and Silver Salmon, Spotted Prawns, and Dungeness crab along with a selection of prime meats for your enjoyment.
Join the Chef in the demonstration kitchen and learn how to prepare fish, create classic sauces, creative desserts and/or help prepare the evening’s four-course gourmet dinner. Classes are tailored to your desire and are an extraordinary culinary experience.
While staying at Favorite Bay Lodge, you’ll have many activities to choose from, including:   
The Salt Water Experience, the Lodge’s location on Admiralty Island is well off the beaten track and provides unparalleled saltwater fishing within minutes of the Lodge.  All five species of Wild Pacific Salmon, monster Halibut and a fabulous variety of Rockfish make your adventure to Favorite Bay Lodge truly unforgettable.  These local guides have been fishing these waters their whole lives. Once you are back on land, they will process your catch to go home with you.
The Fresh Water Fishing Experience, within minutes of the Lodge you travel by small boat to the mouth of native streams healthy with runs of Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout and the seasonal freshwater salmon fishing. You can fish these streams from shore, kayak or canoe following the fish to hidden lakes, which are their source. The experienced Native guides will assist all levels of anglers with fly rod and ultra light spinning gear.
Whale Watching in Chatham Straits, Chatham Straits is one of the world’s richest waterways, where krill and herring, one of the whales’ favorite food sources, is extremely plentiful.  The Lodge is located in one of those amazingly rare places in North America where humpback whales bubble net feed just minutes from the lodge; it is an experience you will never forget.  Both the Discovery Channel and National Geographic have filmed near the lodge; documenting this incredible sight.  Killer whales and porpoises are also feeding in the area.   
Exploring Tongass National Forest, experience the Earth, as you never have before.  Take a trip through one of the most unique forests in the world.  Rivers and waterfalls create magic photo opportunities against the dense green foliage.  Wild mushrooms and a vast variety of wild berries can be gathered along the way. Picnic under the canopy of the forest, or on the shore of a hidden lake.
Kayaking, take a full day guided trip into the most beautiful waterways of Southeast Alaska.  Paddle through fern covered grotto’s of crystal tidal water and view multicolored anemone, starfish, coral and other reef inhabitants. The guides are local artists, educators and residents who love to explore and provide you with a cultural and historical experience along the way.
Pulling Crab Pots, nestled back up inside the picturesque inlets of Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands there are great locations to set crab traps. Target the Alaskan Dungeness Crab and sweet Alaskan Spot prawns. Come on a trip to these inlets and help harvest “your catch.”

Along the way whale watching is a periodic diversion. The traps placed at the mouth of streams also provide the opportunity to possibly see bear feeding on spawning salmon.

Glacier trekking
To the south of the lodge lie the Tordrillo Mountains. This rarely visited segment of the Alaska Range is the location of two accessible glaciers – the Trimble and the Hayes. The mountains surrounding the glaciers and the lodge, born of volcanic activity as recent as a 1992 eruption of Mt. Spurr, provide the backdrop for our glacier explorations.
Depart lodge with your guide via helicopter and after a 10- minute scenic flight up the Hayes Valley, you land on the glacier itself! Dwarfed by the peaks and awed by the alien surroundings, you begin your trek. Depending on your interest, you can take a brief 30-minute walk to explore the crevasses, moulons, icefalls, snowfields, and other glacial features. The glacier here is nearly flat affording easy walking.

Your guide will outfit you with ice creepers to assure good traction on this section of the walk while the pilot stands by. For the more adventurous, you can stay the afternoon and enjoy lunch while on a trek. Both options allow for spectacular photo ops of the nearby mountains, and wildlife.
Bring some glacial ice back to the lodge for your evening cocktails!