Mangroves – Nature’s Hero



by Karen Topakian

On our recent trip to Senegal, Peg booked us a three day stay at this restful spot, Ecolodge Simal, located on the banks of the Sine Saloum River, home to a wealth of mangrove forests.


We stayed in this traditional house, which we fondly referred to as our “furry hut.” A round thatched mud hut. Spacious, comfortable. With the bathroom open to the sky.


On our first morning, we hopped into a pirogue, a long narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk, for a tour of the mangrove swamps/forests.


On the second morning, we paddled out ourselves in a double kayak to explore the mangroves up close.

These short shrubby trees deserve hero status. It not only manages to survive in salty conditions, it thrives. Plus it traps sediment and colonizes mudflats.


According to the Livelihood Funds: Mangroves protect vital arable land and serves as effective filtration systems that prevent the influx of saline water which renders soil unfit for agriculture. Without mangroves, the salt content of water increases, impeding the growth of rice. Lastly, it boosts depleted fish stocks along with shrimp, oysters, and mollusks that mangrove forests harbor.




Mangroves store carbon, provide breeding grounds and nurseries for fish, prevent erosion during tropical cyclones, and help cleanse waters of pollutants, says Earth Observatory.

What more do you want from a plant?

The male plant forms a pod, a propagule, which falls into the salty water, floats on the current before dropping to the muddy bottom and taking root far from its parents to establish a new mangrove colony. Roots form and others join the fray to form a swamp or forest.


Once again, nature proves resilient, if we humans would just step out of the way and let it perform its miracles.

In Senegal, Women Carry Everything


by Karen Topakian

While traveling in Senegal, I intentionally paid attention to women, noting what they wore, did and carried.

Clad in bright colored tunics (boubous) with matching head wraps or in long skirts with matching blouses, women walked with perfect posture.


Women work in fields. Till the soil behind a horse or donkey. Sell clothes, jewelry, bottled water, fruits and vegetables and fish in make shift stands on the sides of dusty roads or in the market place. Care for children. Pull water from the well, Tend to goats and sheep. Work in hotels. Clean.

Women often work in groups, Sharing the shade under the broad canopy of a baobab tree. Eating communally from a big metal bowl.


Women carry children. Mostly on their backs tied with an mbotu, a broad piece of soft cloth, like a sarong or pareo that keeps the baby close to the woman’s back.


Or they walk hand in hand with a child.

Women carried everything, often on their heads.


Empty gourds full of greens. Plastic buckets full of water. Pans of fresh fish, whole mangoes. Or cut up mango pieces parceled into small plastic bags. Shelled peanuts in small plastic bags.


Women carry everything.