Afghan wildlife refuge: no hand grenade fishing

Afghanistan is going green. The war-torn country has declared Band-e-Amir its first conservation area. While it may be premature to book your trip to this spectacle, at least there’s hope that you’ll get to enjoy it someday.

Band-e-Amir, like the rest of Afghanistan, has had a rough run over the past 30 years. Let’s face it: that’s how long the country’s been engaged in one war or another. The region’s snow leopards fell victim to the conflict between Soviet troops and mujahideen in the 1980s. Of course, the great Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

The fighting is reportedly in other parts of the country, these days, which the locals will attract foreign visitors. The lakes are the major draw, assuming you’re willing to subject yourself to a brutal daylong drive from Kabul. The destination may be billed as safe, but the journey certainly isn’t. Head into Afghanistan at your own risk.

For now, local merchants have their fingers crossed for Afghan tourists. Westerners, one would assume, would come much later.

If you do throw caution to the wind, be sure to follow the rules. Fishing with hand grenades is no longer allowed.
Among the local practices that are now banned: no more fishing with hand grenades. If you role the dice, don’t worry. The rangers tasked with enforcement are paid less than $60 a month and can be on duty for up to 24 hours at a time.

Trip Advisor donating $1,000,000 to charity. You help them decide where

In an aim to give back to the countries in the world that offer us so much travel pleasure, and to add to the cause of making the world a better place, Trip Advisor will be donating $1,000,000 on November 12. This goodly sum will be divided up among five charitable causes:

(You can click on each link to see what each organization does.)

Trip Adviser wants the travelers of the world to help decide how to spend the money. If you go on the Trip Advisor Web site, you can vote for one of the five. Look to the top of the page for the link. You do need to sign up for Trip Advisor to participate.

All the charities will receive some money, but the aim is to find out how to best divvy up the dough. Each of the causes, in my opinion, are worthy of receiving money so you can’t really make a bad choice.

What a neat way to be involved in giving. Once you click on your choice, you can see how the distributions stack up so far.

A behind-the-scenes tour of Wolong Panda Reserve

Awwww. Who doesn’t love pandas? Especially 20 adorable baby pandas playing in a “panda kindergarten.” Below is a gallery of exclusive photos from my reporting trip to Wolong Panda Reserve, the world’s most famous captive breeding center for these highly endangered animals.

Unfortunately, my big story for Science Magazine is behind a subscription wall, but you can check out a short story about my visit to Wolong here, for another magazine, The Scientist. There’s a fun little slide-show with even more pictures from that trip here.

I highly recommend visiting Wolong, particularly because they have a couple hundred pandas at the breeding center. It’s also set against an absolutely gorgeous backdrop. Oh, and if you have $100 to drop, you’ll even be able to hold your very own panda!

If you want to donate to help save these amazing animals, the two organizations that are doing incredible work (trust me, I interviewed them extensively) are WWF and Conservation International.