Five years ago today, I was at the Djoudj National Bird Santuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj)- the third largest bird sanctuary in the world- with a team of mighty adventurers- OAR Northwest, touring the dearly protected park with Ousmane Kane, our guide and national guard. We piled into a boat with Europeans bird watchers, admiring the countless numbers of White Pelicans fly in unison and glide onto the water's surface as they land. Grand cormorants rested in trees with Golden Eagles, African Spoonbill, and Great Egrets.
You may be wondering how I ended up in Senegal... The story is long, but the short of it involves four of the men pictured above. I'd met Jordan Hanssen in 2006 just in time to photograph his record-breaking row from New York City to Falmouth, England (at both ends of the journey, of course). After successfully publishing a book about the adventure, he'd decided to give the Mid-Atlantic a go with a fresh cast of characters, two of which hailed from Canada. Adam Kreek is a Gold Medal Olympic rower who took this opportunity to educate students and inspire countless people through his inspirational speaking business. Markus Pukonen then, was merely an adventurer, but he's now fully immersed in his purpose, currently traveling the world by human power, inspiring a broader conversation about how we can conscientiously respond to global change. Read about his journey HERE. The other American was Patrick Fleming, a ski patroller and avid adventurer in his own right. Their mission was to row to Miami, Florida from Dakar, Senegal... While we awaited the arrival of their boat through customs (it took an entire month!), we adventured and explored the Senegalese coast with Christopher, their videographer, and Doug, Jordan's brother.
The experience was breathtaking, connecting me back to the ornithological roots my Great Grandfather, Robert Cushman Murphy, established as an author, naturalist, ornithologist, and curator of the American Natural History Museum. Ousmane, our guide, and great protector of the Park, is doing everything he can to inspire love and appreciation for the Sanctuary. Nearby villages often compete for food, making poaching something guards like Ousmane have to combat. Through fundraising efforts, Adam acquired a laptop that Ousmane now uses in order to share his story and increase his efforts to protect the land and the migratory birds that frequent the literal oasis.