Off Grid Living - DIY Stoves


DIY Stoves for Off Grid Living


My wife Emma and I have been farm-hopping for the last two years, volunteering with off-the-grid gurus who are doing all sorts of ingenious things.


We’ve learned a lot about several cool, low-impact cooking/kitchen devices that work to leave but a smidge of a carbon footprint behind. I’m talking about DIY-style, no-electricity-needed cooking appliances that are fun to make, awesome to use, and fantastic for impressing folks.


Many of these have been developed by NGOs looking to combat the negative health and environmental impacts of cooking over wood fires indoors, as much of the world still does (The WHO estimates 3 billion). But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t take advantage as well!


Check out some of these simple but brilliant off grid living ideas, and maybe try making one or all five of them…

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Trekking in Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans


Trekking Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans


There’s a powerful transformation that happens within the soul and spirit anytime we take the first step of a journey. And sometimes even the anticipation of adventure can be just as powerful as the adventure itself. Such was the case during our first visit to Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans, more commonly known as Volcanoes National Park (not to be confused with the park on Hawaii’s Big Island).


Located in northwestern Rwanda and bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes is home to 5 of the 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains. It’s most famous as home to more than 50% of the world’s endangered Mountain Gorillas, thanks in large part to the groundbreaking research and conservation efforts of Dian Fossey.


The excitement was palpable from the moment we entered the visitor center parking lot. There are 80 tourists a day who gather at sunrise for a once-in-a-lifetime trek to see one of 10 habituated gorilla groups. There were over 100 guides, trackers and porters there to ensure things run smoothly, as well as a young group performing traditional Rwandan songs and dances in front of a spectacular volcano backdrop.


We weren’t there to see the gorillas that day. Instead, we joined a group of 8 other travelers for a gentle trek to see Rwanda’s endangered Golden Monkeys, an endangered species found only in the Virunga Mountains. Found in groups of up to 60, the Golden Monkeys are significantly less well-known than the gorillas, and have only been habituated to human presence over the past 15 years.


The hike was almost impossibly picturesque, with majestic mountains towering above us on all sides. We passed by glorious fields of Pyrethrum flowers, which are known as “nature’s insecticide” and constitutes one of Rwanda’s most important cash crops. Kids from neighboring villages walked beside us for part of our journey, waving “Hello” and then giggling uncontrollably as we responded in kind.


The hour we spent with the monkeys, watching them leap from tree to tree and gnaw on bamboo shoots contentedly, was wonderful. But the journey was perhaps even more memorable than our ultimate destination, surrounded by spectacular sights we’d dreamed of seeing for decades. In this case, to paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous quote, the great affair was to move. –Bret Love; photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


If you enjoyed our post on Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans, you might also like:

INTERVIEW: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International CEO Tara Stoinski

PIC OF THE WEEK: Baby Mountain Gorilla in Parc National des Volcans


GO GREEN TIP #112: Simple Wildlife Photography Tips

NEPAL: Hiking The Annapurna Circuit

Volcano Concepcion Isla de Ometepe Nicaragua

Volcano Concepcion

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

A Guide to Exploring the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve


We caught the ferry to Isla de Ometepe, as most people do, from the western side of Lake Nicaragua. Before we’d even left the mainland, the two adjacent volcanoes that form the island already seemed imposing.


As the boat neared Volcano Concepción (the larger and more active of the two), it mutated into something out of a cartoon, rising in perfect conical form with the top ensconced in clouds. It was hard to believe anyone in their right mind would voluntarily strand themselves at the foot of this monolithic beast… and I couldn’t wait to do it.


The grandeur of Isla de Ometepe has been admired through countless centuries. It was even thought to be sacred by its indigenous inhabitants. Truth be told, though we were far from the first visitors to set foot upon the island’s shores, our opinion was pretty much the same.

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Sunset On The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania


Sunset On The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania


There are few places we’ve ever traveled that had the immediate “WOW!!!” impact of Tanzania’s massive Ngorongoro Crater. Formed two to three million years ago when a volcano exploded and collapsed on itself, this is the largest intact, inactive and unfilled volcanic crater in the world.


But as breathtaking as the scenery is from afar, exploring the 2000-foot-deep, 100 square mile-wide crater reveals amazing details you won’t see from the observation deck. Ngorongoro provides a home to more than 25,000 large mammals. There are buffalo, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, a remarkably dense lion population and even rhinos and elephants during the wet season.


Based on fossil evidence found at the nearby Olduvai Gorge, where Louis and Mary Leakey began their famous archaeological excavations in 1931, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has been inhabited by various hominid species for approximately 3 million years. The Mbulu people arrived around 2,000 years ago and were joined by the Datooga in the 1700s, but the Maasai drove both tribes out of the region in the early 1800s and have lived here ever since.


Separated from Serengeti National Park in 1959, Ngorongoro (whose name in Maasai means “the gift of life”) became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It’s unique because it’s the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while also allowing humans to live there, prohibiting cultivation of the land at all but subsistence levels.


The number of tourists allowed into the park each day is very limited, with your admission including just six hours inside the crater. But that’s plenty of time to explore its surprisingly diverse ecosystems, which include montane forest highlands, open grassland, Acacia-dotted woodlands, Lake Magadi (which attracts thousands of Lesser Flamingoes) and various springs and streams.


We spotted a remarkable array of wildlife during our afternoon in the crater, from Warthogs, Hyenas and Hippos to Grey-Crowned Cranes and a Lion pride crossing the open plains. But our favorite image came as our guide, Rama Mmasa, raced up the hill towards the park’s exit. The gates close promptly at 6PM, so leaving late requires a government official’s approval.


We had less than 10 minutes left when we saw this stunning sunset shot between two hills and urged Rama to stop. A few clicks of the shutter was all we had time for, and we ended up making it to the gate with only a few minutes to spare. –Bret Love
Our trip to Tanzania was sponsored in part by Adventure Life and Tanzania Journeys, with safari clothing provided by ExOfficio. But we will never compromise our integrity at the expense of our readers, and our opinions remain our own.


If you enjoyed our Ngorongoro Crater photo, you might also like:





10 Great Australian National Parks for Your World Travel Bucket List 10 Australian National Parks

for Your World Travel Bucket List


Australian National Parks rank among the most diverse in the world. Their protected landscapes are so varied, you could dedicate years of your life to exploring them. The country’s 500 National Parks span over 28 million hectares of pristine land, protecting delicate ecosystems ranging from alpine regions to lush green forests, red sandy deserts and the purest of white sand beaches.


While these are highly sensitive environments, the parks are remarkably accessible, having been set up to accommodate ecotourism. Most Australian National Parks offer educational programs and adventurous pursuits, such as meeting Aboriginal elders at Uluru, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking through the wilderness in Tasmania, or taking a 4WD across sand dunes on islands off the Queensland coast.


In addition to those 500 national parks, there are also 14 World Heritage sites in Australia (most of which are classified as natural wonders) and 13 stunning marine parks. In fact, a full one-third of the world’s protected marine areas are located on the continent. So you can imagine the difficulty in narrowing down your must-see list down to just a few.


With the main mission of “protecting significant sections of landscape, delicate ecosystems and precious cultural heritage for future generations,” the following are my Top 10 Australian National Parks for your World Travel Bucket List.


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Destinations We’ve Covered:

Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities


Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba