More Than Birding: Observations from Antarctica, Madagascar, and Bhutan
Harriet Denison (Tanzania 1966–67)
Peace Corps Writers
$15.00 (paperback); $7.99 (Kindle)
Review by Fritz Snyder (Tanzania, 1965–66)
Harriet Denison, a Peace Corps Volunteer with me in Tanzania (she wrote about her adventures there in Leopards at My Door, also published by Peace Corps Writers), visited three of the most interesting places on the planet: Antarctica, Madagascar, and Bhutan. She traveled with birding groups each time, but her interests range to the history and varied wildlife of each location. Her descriptions and experiences nicely take the reader to these exotic places where few of us will actually go.
Altogether Harriet has been on 16 international birding expeditions.
Her trip to Antarctica 2001 was her first. It is a delightful saga for those of us who have seen the movie “March of the Penguins” — which is nearly everybody. She was with 22 fellow birders, among the 75 passengers on the good ship, “Clipper Adventurer,” which started from the Falkland Islands and then made the 500-mile voyage to the northern tip of Antarctica. She gives a brief, but interesting, history of Antarctic exploration, particularly the Shackleton expedition and its amazing survival. Of course she sees hundreds of penguins (and other birds as well). Truly a magical time. On the passage back to Tierra del Fuego, she and her fellow passengers had two scary days riding through hurricane-force winds. A great adventure — the isolation of Antarctica and its pristine landscape.
In 2004 Harriet went to Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, twice the size of Arizona. It is east of Mozambique, Africa, and has idyllic forests. There she and her fellow birders had to get up at dawn every day. The marvelous lemurs are found only in Madagascar, and in particular locales ring-tailed lemurs surrounded her up close. Of course there were exotic birds also . . . the paradise flycatcher, the cuckoo roller, among many others. She treasured “those uplifting moments that make me smile.” However, she notes that there are only about a thousand golden bamboo lemurs left because of Madagascar’s environmental decline caused for the most part by massive deforestation as its people pursue agriculture and ever more logging.
In 2007 Harriet visited Bhutan, which is between China and India, on a birding company tour. She gives a brief history of this unique and gentle country. She spotted pheasants at 12,000 feet.
She notes that the Bhutan government charges a tourist fee of $250.00 per person per day (in addition to all the other tour expenses), so Bhutan is not overrun with tourists. She discusses the government’s policy of Gross National Happiness and also the philosophy behind the national religion of Buddhism. And the exquisite birds (e.g., the black neck crane) are everywhere. Fantastic mountains, rushing rivers, deep valleys. An incredible place.
Harriet has written a wonderful book about widely different places. She takes us with her on splendid journeys. She is not just a tourist; she is a thoughtful and observant traveler.
Reviewer Fritz Snyder is a retired (emeritus) law professor of the University of Montana School of Law, where he was also Director of the Law Library. He was a university librarian for for 38 years (University of Hawaii, University of Kansas, University of Montana). Originally from Kansas, Fritz has lived in Missoula, Montana – 18 years, Okinawa, Japan – 6 years and Hawaii – 8 years. For almost 3 years he has been living Monterey, Californias.
Click on photos for Wiki source.