Great migrations of the animal kingdom: part two

Continuing this week’s theme of amazing animal migrations, today it is the turn of those winged wonders that cover some incredible distances year in, year out. Migration is often associated with flight, and it is no surprise when you consider that birds hold some of the most incredible records when it comes to annual voyages around the world.

Arctic Tern Between Greenland and Antarctica

Currently the record holder of the longest migration of any creature on the planet, this tiny bird has been found to travel distances up to 44,000 miles ever year in its journey between Greenland and Antarctica. Previously too small to be recorded accurately, this illustrious title was thought to belong to the Sooty Shearwater, which is not far behind with a recorded migration of about 40,000 miles. The Arctic Tern can live for up to 30 years, meaning that over its lifetime an individual probably travels a total of about 1.5 million miles, equivalent to three trips to the moon and back. A truly out of this world, head-terning traveller.

Monarch ButterflyBetween Canada/USA to Central Mexico

Not all migrations by air are those of birds: the journey of the Monarch butterfly is one of the most amazing and interesting occurrences in the natural world. A normal Monarch butterfly only lives for between 4-5 weeks. However, once a year, a special Methuselah generation of individuals is born. This individual is remarkably able to live for up to eight months, the equivalent of a human living to the age of 525. The reason for this unbelievable phenomenon is the need to migrate. This special generation must fly between 1,200-2,800 miles south from their breeding grounds in Canada and the USA, to Central Mexico, to avoid the harsh winter. Guided by the sun’s orbit, the butterflies have been known to cover distances of up to 80 miles per day, an amazing feat for such a small creature.

The arrival of the butterflies in the forests between the states of Mexico and Michoacan is a true natural wonder. Here they hibernate from mid-November to mid-February, when they begin the journey back. However, the Methuselah generation cannot make the return journey on its own, eventually dying on the way. In another incredible twist to the journey, a succession of normal generations take over the flight, gradually making their way north. The individuals that return to the original breeding grounds have never been there themselves, with a sense of orientation thought to be passed on genetically from the great, great grandparents that first set out on the migratory trip. Wow. 

By Alex Prior


Frontier Style Special: A natural beauty 

Palm Oil

The beauty industry is a booming one and the boundless lengths some cosmetic companies go to in order to release the latest and most innovative products are all too well known. Animal testing is perhaps the most contentious activity but there are other effects that these products have on the environment.

Palm oil is perhaps one of the most popular components used in every-day products. From margarine, cereals, crisps, sweets and baked goods, to washing powders, soaps and cosmetics. But before you make a dash for the nearest packet of crisps, do not expect to see palm oil there, as it is usually classed as ‘vegetable oil’ in the ingredients section

But what is Palm oil?

Palm oil is obtained from the fruit (Palm) along with the kernel inside. Its trees are incredibly efficient, possessing numerous clusters of palm fruit which individually weigh 50 kg, an astonishing amount compared with other vegetable plants harvested for its oil. Furthermore each fruit contains 50 per cent oil. Due to its profitability companies have invested a substantial amount in harvesting palm oil which as a result effects the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Palm oil trees are grown in seventeen countries with 88 per cent of global palm oil production deriving from Malaysia and Indonesia alone. For anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit these exotic countries you may already be aware that both have incredible rainforests and are the only regions in which orang-utans inhabit. Their habitats however are being continually destroyed, with trees and tropical fauna cut down in order to make way for the harvesting of palm oil. Environmental campaigners claim that in 15 years 98% of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone. The destruction of the orang-utan living space creates further ecological issues; in 1990 over 315 000 orang-utans existed. Yet today sadly less than 50 000 are left. It is predicted that in 12 years the orang-utan population will be driven to extinction.

Olay is one company, amongst many others (including Bumble & Bumble, Elizabeth Arden, and Clinique) which features palm oil as an ingredient in their skincare range. A good example is their Total Effects Wake Up Wonder product that contains both Isopropyl Palmitate (a palm oil derivative) and Palmitic acid (saturated fatty acid found in fats and waxes including olive oil, palm oil and body lipids).   

Whilst many organisations understand the impact of harvesting palm oil on the environment, palm oil still remains in high demand. Experts say that it is virtually impossible to completely remove it from all produce as it is difficult to find an equally efficient and cheap alternative with a high yield of oil. To help solve some of the issues created from the production of palm oil the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2003. Since then RSPO have introduced environmental standards which places restrictions on the methods in which palm oil is harvested, ensuring that both locals are still able to live off the Palm oil plantations and a reduction in the number of forests being cut down. Companies can also obtain Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) and Certified Sustainable Palm Kernal Oil (CSPKO) to show their support of this environmentally-friendly initiative.

For those who want to purchase cosmetics containing no palm oil, Lush use almond and olive oil as alternatives. Alternatively, if palm oil is essential in your daily skin care routine you can purchase certified palm oil based products from Body Shop, which has an ethical range of products sourced only from sustainable palm oil plantations.

Shark Liver Oil

Shark Liver oil is another common ingredient in cosmetics. It contains hydrocarbon pristane and squalene which are natural components of sebum secretions, and a precursor of cholesterol (i.e. the chemicals produced prior to cholestral in a chemical reaction). This oil is used as a non-absorbable (i.e. it cannot be absorbed by the skin) bland cosmetic base material.

Shark livers can represent 25 – 30 per cent of its total body weight, and as a result large quantities of squalene are found in shark liver oil in comparison to the small amounts found in olive oil, wheat germ oil, rice bran oil, yeast and in various other foodstuffs. Considering the higher yield of squalene found in shark liver oil cosmetic companies have consequently featured this efficient animal-based ingredient in a range of their products. This has seen various shark species almost reach extinction, with many being listed as endangered.

Although the use of shark liver oil has seen a decline in recent years due to the 2008 campaign led by a charity called Oceana, which lobbied for the removal of animal squalene in skincare commodities, some products such as those in the L’Oreal’s Shu Uemura range, still contains squalene. Squalene is featured in 12 make up formulas including eight lipsticks in the aforementioned L’Oreal range.

In a world where the average person is bombarded with heavily photo-shopped images on a daily basis it is understandable that everyone wants to feel and look good. Whilst we are happy to fork out sums of money on products that promise to do just that, it seems that our environment pays a higher price.

By Nancy Bukasa


Smoked Salmon Risotto

Mmmm all this talk of Salmon has given us a hankering for a delicious summery dish. Try it out yourself and tell us how it went.

For the risotto you need:

        50g/2oz butter

        250g/9oz risotto rice (carnoroli or arborio)

        2 shallots, finely chopped

        1 glass white wine

        550ml/18fl oz fish stock

        3 tbsp finely chopped dill, parsley and basil

        1 tsp finely chopped lemon zest

        salt and pepper

For the salmon:

        4 lightly smoked salmon fillets

        knob of butter

For the sauce:

        1 finely chopped shallot

        3 tbsp white wine

        juice of ½ lemon

        2.5ml/½ tsp chopped lemon zest

        150g/5oz unsalted butter

To serve:

        125g/4oz baby spinach

        handful fresh rocket leaves

        olive oil

Preparation method:

  1. For the risotto: over a low heat, melt the 50g/2oz butter and sweat the shallots for 1-2 minutes. Add the risotto rice and coat in the butter for a further minute.
  2. Add the white wine and season with a tsp of salt and some ground black pepper, raise the heat to medium.
  3. When the rice has absorbed the wine add ½ the stock and continue to simmer, stir occasionally.
  4. As the rice takes up the stock add more - the risotto will take 30-35 minutes, test for softness and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  5. To prepare the salmon: pat dry the salmon fillets, season and dust the presentation side with flour.
  6. Put a knob of butter in a frying pan and when it is bubbling put in the salmon fillets presentation side down, over a medium heat.
  7. After 2-3 minutes, when coloured, turn and cook a further minute. Turn off the heat and keep warm.
  8. To make the sauce: place the shallot, white wine and lemon juice in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced to a syrup. Reduce the heat.
  9. Chop the chilled butter into small cubes and add 2 at a time until they are all incorporated by stirring the sauce with a fork or whisk. When the emulsion is complete, add the lemon zest. Keep warm.
  10. Blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water until wilted, drain and squeeze out the excess liquid.
  11. To assemble the dish, fold the fresh herbs into the risotto together with the lemon zest. Dress the rocket leaves with a drizzle of olive oil and season.
  12. Divide the risotto between 4 warmed plates, top the risotto with a few dressed rocket leaves. Place a few wilted leaves of spinach around the risotto, spoon the sauce around and on the fish and serve.

Great Migrations of the Animal Kingdom

This week we’re looking at some of the most incredible mass migrations in the natural world. With so many amazing journeys to choose from, deciding which ones to explore was far from easy.

Kicking things off today with the marine world, be sure to stay tuned this week to learn more about some of the most iconic and awe-inspiring voyages undertaken by land and air.

Pacific Salmon Run – North America and Canada
All five species of Pacific salmon migrate between freshwater and saltwater during their life cycle. Having made the journey from the freshwater streams in which they are born to the sea, they then return to these freshwater sites to lay their own eggs. Different ‘runs’ exist within the different species of Pacific salmon, with the Adams River sockeye run being one of the most famous. During their strenuous and lengthy spawning mission, the salmon face many different dangers, such as starvation (they do not feed once they leave their saltwater habitat) and hunting by humans, bears, otters and eagles. Man-made dams are increasingly posing a problem to the salmon. As if this was not enough to contend with, the salmon then fight one-another once they arrive at the breeding grounds.

Sardine Run – Southern Africa
This annual extravaganza is one of nature’s most impressive spectacles. The ‘run’ begins in the cool waters south of the African continent, where large shoals of sardines form before moving north into the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean. This mass migration of hundreds of millions of sardines is brought about by the movement of their main food source, plankton. As a cold-water current moves to the north, the sardines have no choice but to follow. This in turn attracts a vast array of predators to the area such as dolphins, sharks, sea birds and the immense Bryde’s whale, creating what has been dubbed ‘the greatest shoal on Earth’. The BBC’s incredible footage of the phenomenon is a truly amazing watch.

By Alex Prior


Something Borrowed

As many would agree books not only create an imaginary world for us to escape to, they are also a fundamental tool in education. To end this week’s theme on travel writing we'll explain how Frontier volunteers can help to spread the benefits of reading materials to under-privileged parts of the world.

One way in which poverty can be reduced, or better yet eradicated, is through education. Whilst young people in Britain have a wealth of learning opportunities at their doorstep, impoverished children in underdeveloped countries do not. Frontier is helping pave the way towards solving the lack of learning resources in underdeveloped regions by supporting a new initiative that aims to enhance Tanzania’s education system through book-borrowing.

The scheme will construct a lending library that will store available books for schools to borrow. Frontier will be supporting this scheme by encouraging their volunteers to bring along a book or two to donate to the initiative en-route to their projects in Tanzania. The reading materials collected will then be distributed to different schools across the region with institutions being able to use the books for one term. Once term ends the participating schools will return the copies to the lending library and subsequently receive a different set.

The benefits of this initiative are abundant. Firstly this scheme would provide education institutions with exposure to a wider variety of teaching resources, which they currently lack. Secondly the scheme will ensure that books are being used and not being sold. Students will be given access to a range of reading materials, improving their analytical thinking, and increasing their English vocabulary and writing skills as a result.

Desired books to be donated will include children’s books, teaching resources; text books, and adolescent novels. So if you are planning on volunteering abroad with Frontier, specifically to Tanzania, take some books from your shelf and change a child’s life.

By Nancy Bukasa


Short Story Contest

Are you a budding young travel writer? Are you in awe of Attenborough, besotted by Bryson, charmed by Chatwin? Do you have a journal ready to fill with wondrous tales from your Frontier adventure? Well we’re giving you the opportunity to not only show off your abilities as a writer but also win some of the books we’ve been talking about all week.

All you have to do is write us a 100 word short story inspired by the image below:


Send your entries to

We’ll post the winner along with two runners-up on the blog and across our social networks.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

1.    One entry per person
2.    100 word maximum word count
3.    Competition closes: 19th September 2011
4.    The prize will not be transferable to another person or exchangeable for cash


What to pack - Holly - Research and Development Coordinator

"After a heinous 17 hours on a local bus and gaining a far greater appreciation for the public transport system back home, we ended up in the driest and dustiest town in the middle of Laos. We had arrived at the annual Elephant of the Year competition."

Click to read more ...


Frontier goes to the Library

Frontier has projects all over the world. So as part of this week’s theme of inspirational travel writing, we thought we’d have a look at some literature involving some of the countries we work in.

Men Against the Sea by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

The second in a trilogy about the mutiny of HMS Bounty in 1789, this novel documents the journey made by Lieutenant William Bligh and 18 members of his crew following their forced departure from the war ship. In what is frequently described as the most incredible and impressive feats of nautical navigation, Men Against the Sea chronicles the fascinating struggle faced by these men, and how Bligh skilfully led them to safety. The journey sees the crew row closely to Fiji, an area they understood to be inhabited by cannibals.   



Barefoot Over the Serengeti by David Read

This is the autobiography of David Read’s childhood spent in Tanzania during the 1920’s, an area that is today at the heart of the Serengeti National Park. Barefoot Over the Serengeti is an intriguing account of his upbringing amongst the Maasai people, with whom he spent a lot of time. Detailing their unique lifestyle and hunting methods, this book is constantly lauded as an excellent read for anyone remotely interested in the Maasai tribe, or African culture in general.


Ghost of Chance by William S. Burroughs

This short adventure story takes place in the jungles of Madagascar, and tells the tale of an 18th century pirate named Captain Mission who founds a colony on the African island. Determined to protect the region’s natural elements, including its native lemur population, Captain Mission struggles against plans of development for the island. What results is a strange but interesting work.  



Costa Rica:
Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America

An educational but highly accessible description of some of the most interesting aspects of the rain forests of Costa Rica and Ecuador. Covering an array of topics from the symbiotic relationship of the sloth with the trees they prefer, to why some plants have developed hallucinogenic properties, it is a widely respected and enjoyed account of these regions.  It also includes an extensive guide on what to pack, and what to expect from a trip to these amazing locations.  




For the Sake of all Living Things by John M. Del Vecchio

For the Sake of all Living Things is an emotional book dealing with the events surrounding the horrific genocide committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge which was responsible for the extermination of approximately two-million people between 1975-79. It is the second book in a trilogy, and fuses real life analysis of the circumstances leading to the creation of the Khmer Rouge, with fictional accounts of different individuals affected by the dictatorship. A revealing look at this recent and horrifying act of genocide.




By Alex Prior


Interview with Dorothy Conlon

Continuing with this week’s theme we have an exclusive interview with author Dorothy Conlon. Dorothy Conlon is nothing short of inspirational, “a born traveller” she has explored a host of countries and has consequently written her very own travel book titled “At home in the World”. Here we have some interesting insights on her views on travel. I am sure you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

Frontier: You have signed up for our Cook Islands Project – what appeals to you about this particular project?

Dorothy: Well first of all, because it is to a place that I haven’t been to before and I really like the home-stay aspect of it. I will be leaving from Tahiti shortly after for a cruise around the surrounding area including the Marquesas Islands, so I wanted to volunteer in the same general region. It was really hard to find a project but this one just sounded wonderful.

Frontier: Your life has been filled with interesting travels across the globe. Do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

Dorothy: I am always asked that so I have learned to answer, wherever I am at the moment! My favourite places change. I went to Vietnam a few times because I was so smitten with it, but I think my all time favourite would be India as we lived there the longest, so I do keep going back. It’s sort of a tie among various different places, wherever I am is my favourite.

Frontier: Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would like to visit?

Dorothy: Of course! You name it, Mongolia, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Crete, Madagascar… I would love to do the Trans-Siberian railway; I have never been to Russia.

Frontier: What is your view on gap years and people volunteering abroad?

Dorothy: I think it is the most wonderful development in recent years. You people in England are ahead of us, but even here I know some top-notch universities that do not issue a degree to students unless they have spent a semester abroad. My mantra is no tourist sees a country like a volunteer does. Volunteering at a young age will alter your world view for the rest of your life; it’s about experiencing the place rather than looking at it through a tour bus window.

Frontier: Are you planning a follow up to your first book ‘At Home in the World’?

Dorothy: Oh I am so glad you asked me that. Yes, Born with Wings is about 75 per cent finished, at least in draft from. It is more autobiographical than the one I did before, and I am not telling many people this but after that will come Seeing the World through a Volunteer's Eyes. I have written many travel articles on volunteering in different countries because I have had all these experiences, so it will not take a lot of work to expand upon each of these in a book with stand-alone chapters focusing on one particular experience. Of course the Cook Islands will be one of them.

Frontier: This week’s theme on our blog is travel writing, what is your favourite travel book and why?

Dorothy: I am afraid I am going to have to weasel out of the wording of this question. I have favourite travel authors but not one particular book. I really adore the stories of Victorian women, like Gertrude Bell, Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark… I just can’t imagine that in that day and age they had to dress the way they did, and yet they went to all these wild and remote places and had these adventures that were unheard of from that period. I just think we complain about problems with air travel now, but oh boy they had it really bad back then. As for contemporary authors I like Paul Theroux; Michael Crichton who wrote Travels and an Australian woman called Robyn Davidson who wrote Tracks.

Frontier: What advice would you give aspiring travellers wanting to go out on a gap year?

Dorothy:  Expect the unexpected; and go with an open mind, an open heart and realise that you are not only seeing new things there, but back home you'll see familiar things with new eyes.

Frontier: We like to give all our future volunteers some advice on what to pack on a gap year trip.  What one thing do you always take on your travels that you wouldn’t leave home without?

Dorothy: [laughing] I am going to have to weasel out of this too I can’t put it down to one. It would have to be my journal, my camera and a torch.


Frontier Style: Overseas Geek Chic

As our avid readers will already be aware, this week’s theme is travel writing. So it is only appropriate that we dedicate our current edition of Frontier Style to the fashion-forward nerds among us, le Geek c’est Chic. Travelling across the globe can be incredibly tiring, so rest your eyes without fear that your modish glasses will be destroyed by the wilderness with a Fun Spex black & red faux leather glasses case. With soft lining to protect your specs and a magnetic clip on the side, this case is practical yet still oozes the phrase Geek wears Prada. It can be purchased for as little as £7.99, and if you don’t fancy the traditional red and black colour trend, there is a wide choice of colour tones to pick from, so get choosing!

Now, one is only a true nerd if along with their various travel essentials they are lugging around numerous hardbacks en route to a wild location. Do not despair fellow literary people, pack Orwell, Larkin, and Tolstoy in this comfortable and yet incredibly trendy Herschel rucksack. Inspired by classic mountaineering, this contemporary bag, aptly named Little America, can carry as many books as you can possibly fit in.

The story of the Herschel bag began in the early 1900’s, in Wick, Scotland where Peter Cormack’s wife, Annie, packed the belongings of their entire home in preparation for their exciting journey across the Atlantic to Canada. The government of the time encouraged families to immigrate through the homestead program. Since then the great grand children of these extraordinary characters gave birth to this classic rucksack, giving it an edgy, modern twist. Adventure and style are effortlessly entwined, making the Herschel bag a perfect travel accessory.

By Nancy Bukasa


Travel Writing: Frontier Staff Picks

Continuing this week’s theme of travel literature, Frontier staff have been talking about their favourite travel books. For your chance to win a copy of each of these exciting titles, as well as some other travel writing goodies, keep your eye on our blog this week to find out the details of our latest competition.

Paul Thompson – Partner Projects Manager

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

This book is set in one of my favourite eras, the 1950’s.  This easy to read fictional rollercoaster carries you through the debauched and hedonistic lifestyle of Paul Kemp, a journalist in Puerto Rico with a taste for rum and a general disdain for authority.  Hunter S. Thompson has a writing style that I like a lot and really captures the mood of what it is to be young and ambitious with the odd vice or two, and to have as much a passion for life as for work, which hopefully most of us can relate to.  A good one for the beach!




Drea Davila – Events and Marketing Intern

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

It’s the story of a brave girl called Maia who moves to Manaus in the South American jungle to join her only living relatives, after the devastating loss of her parents in a terrible train accident. She moves in with her uncle, his controlling and selfish wife and spoiled two daughters. Maia embraces this new life and becomes friends with the natives and a half-Brazilian Indian, half-European child called Finn Taverner. Thanks to Finn, Maia sees the beauty of the jungle and together they embark on an incredible adventure. I won’t tell you more because that would give the story away. I liked it firstly because it’s set in the South American jungle. Secondly, because it is the story of a young English girl who moves away to a completely different country, which I can relate to. And lastly, it is just a really fun and inspiring read.


Jo Pollett – Volunteer Co-ordinator

Life on Air by David Attenborough

I found this book fascinating. Obviously he’s a really interesting man having travelled so extensively and witnessed so much of the natural world, but I had no idea about some of the other stuff he’s done, like being made Controller of BBC2. If I could choose an extra grandad, it would have to be Sir David; he’d just have so many stories to tell. For example, his travels to Indonesia where he visited islands that were off limits to visitors and his description of the infamous encounter with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda back in 1978. Great stuff!




By Alex Prior


VOX POPS - Travel Reading

This week’s feature focuses on travel writing. To kick things off we took to the streets around Frontier HQ and questioned people on their favourite, most inspirational travel reads. So what did they say:

Name: Robert Phoenix
Occupation: Artist
Choice: Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Author: Rebecca Solnit
What he said: “It interprets walking as a wider activity than just putting one foot in front of the other”

Name: Pia Chaudhuri
Occupation: Art Director
Choice: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
What she said: “Set in the time of India gaining independence, he uses magical realism to portray people’s struggle in a really surreal way”

Name: Claudia Schroegel
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Choice: The Various Flavours of Coffee
Author: Anthony Capella
What she said: “It’s set in London and Africa. It describes the different flavours of coffee, like perfume. It’s amazing”

Name: Daniel Gilbert
Occupation: Social Media
Choice: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
What he said: “It’s just an amazingly descriptive book, evocative of traveling by train in Japan”

Name: Matteo Merla
Occupation: Contemporary Artist
Choice: Peer Gynt
Author: Henrik Ibsen
What he said: “It tells the story of Peer Gynt who leaves home in search of his fortune. His adventures take him to places like Morocco and Italy. It’s a very good story.”

Name: Hannah Wray
Occupation: Teacher
Choice: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
What she said: “It evokes a different and interesting period”

Name: Vidak
Occupation: Inventory Manager
Choice: A. A. Gill is Further Away
Author: A. A. Gill
What he said: “A collection of different travel accounts. It’s just good writing”

Name: Jake Brewer
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Choice: Long Way Round
Author: Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
What he said: “It’s definitely inspiring. I like it because what they did was such a simple idea. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the fact that Ewan McGregor is involved; it could be anyone and still be just as good. It’s just so real and personal”

Name: Billy Holland
Occupation: Marketing
Choice: Less Than Zero and Imperial Bedrooms
Author: Brett Easton Ellis
What he said: “Not the most beautiful picture of LA, but intriguing nonetheless”

Name: Rhianna
Occupation: Research intern
Choice: Down and Out in Paris and London
Author: George Orwell
What she said: “It’s just a really good book”

Name: Tom Vaughn
Occupation: Film Distributor
Choice: A Sport and a Pastime
Author: James Salter
What he said: “It really made me want to go to the south of France”

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