Friday, May 28, 2010

Hike to Olmoti Crater in Africa with Masai Guide Continues

We had picked up a Masai warrior who was sitting beside the road and asked him to guide us on a hike to Olmoti Crater in Tanzania, Africa. After hopping in the Land Rover—with his spear—the young man shared a bit about his background.

John (his Christian name, given at school) was 22 and had learned English while studying a science track that included chemistry, biology, and geography. He was on holiday from school and would return in a few days.

John’s father was a wealthy tribal man--he had 15 wives. John’s future wife, whom he will marry when he is 25, was chosen for him when he was a little boy. If he kills a lion or acquires many cattle, he can have as many wives as his father. His goal is to have more.

John explained that cattle are given to a boy to mark important stages of his life. As the cattle breed, his herd increases in size, providing him enough for a dowry (about 40 head) to give his future wife’s family when they marry. Marriage is necessary because women do the work: They build mud and dung huts to live in, collect fire wood, wash clothes in the river, fetch water, and tend the children.

John’s dialogue reinforced what we had observed during our earlier visit to a different Masai village, where people still live the same simple, centuries-old lifestyle of their ancestors. Despite his outside schooling, including knowledge of the Internet and an email address, John apparently had no interest in changing the culture—something that surprised (and saddened) me.

Starting out on the hike, our foursome tromped through waist-high grass, shorter where it had been chopped off for building roofs of the huts. We followed John to the base of the mountain and found a well-traveled trail to follow. Elevation was 8,000 feet, and we trekked up another 1,000 feet, picking our way over rocks and stubble and kicking up clouds of red dust (hard to breathe and not good for our camera lenses), while John skipped nimbly along. Masai tribesmen had brought cattle to graze on the green hillsides and drink from available water.

We stopped often, partly to view beautiful vistas of mountains and plains and partly to catch our breath in the thin air. It was a scene far different from the savannas where we had taken wildlife safari drives for several days. It felt good to be trekking in open air--outside of the van that was our usual refuge from unpredictable wild animals.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hike to Olmoti Crater in Ngorongoro Park in Africa Turns into an Adventure

Our itinerary said a park ranger would lead us on a hike to Olmoti Crater.  The itinerary was planned in America.  We were in Africa.

"No park rangers are available," Didas, our driver, said as we drove to the Ngorongoro Park station.  After picking up our group from lunch at a resort in the Tanzanian park, Didas headed out on the typically pock-marked road for the mountains.

My husband Larry and I, along with another couple, had been in Tanzania for almost a week enjoying wildlife safaris in Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Great Rift Valley.  Didas had plenty of experience in this environment, having worked 10 years as a park ranger and more than two decades conveying visitors like us around the wilderness.

He didn't seem surprised that we'd be on own for the hike--except we weren't allowed to tromp through the park without an armed escort.  But Didas knew where to find a guide.  As we drove along the dusty road, he suddenly stopped the vehicle and backed up.  Standing beside the road were two Masai warriors (young men between the ages of 18 and 36), doing what most tribal warriors do--hanging out under the guise of protecting the village.
"Can you speak English?" Didas asked in native Swahili.  One young man jumped up excitedly,.  "Would you take these people to Olmoti?" Didas asked.  The warrior nodded "Yes" and ran to get his spear from under a tree. 

He was happy--this would be a great payday.  He knew the drill: Wait beside the road, take tourists on a hike through a region he knew well, tell them a little about Masai traditions, and pose for pictures.  For that he would receive a bounty of American dollars.

He hopped into the Land Rover with a quick "Jambo" (hello), laid his spear on the floor, and introduced himself as "John."

Stay tuned for "the rest of the story."

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Argentina, You Gotta Tango

I wrote a guest post for Caroline Clemmons' blog "A Writer's Life" that you might enjoy reading.

In Argentina, You Gotta Tango!

The link is

From Caroline's intro to my story on learning to tango: Beverly Burmeier is a freelance writer based in Texas. She writes for national and regional publications on a variety of topics including travel. Find her at and  Check out Beverly's blog

Travel to Ireland with author Caroline Clemmons

Texas author Caroline Clemmons writes Romance and Adventure  Today she shares her love for Ireland--a place on my "short list" to visit--in a guest blog.

Do you love green rolling hills, thatched cottages, corner pubs, and friendly people? Who doesn’t love those things? Which is why Ireland is a great travel destination.

The Irish are friendly to Americans. After so many Irishmen emigrated to America, Irish citizens seem to consider that visitors from the U.S. are only coming “home” for a visit. My husband and I found open, welcoming people wherever we traveled in Ireland.

Our first visit was through Brendan Tours, and Willie Guilfoyle was our driver and guide. His knowledge of Irish history amazed us. In other trips since then, no guide has been as well informed as Willie. In fact, Brendan Tours is a lovely group with whom to travel on all counts.

Flying in to Shannon airport, the verdant landscape surprised me. I’d heard about the Emerald Isle, but was unprepared for how green the landscape really was. In travels across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and western Europe, I have to say that Ireland is the prettiest spot we’ve seen. In fact, I wanted to move into a lovely cottage in Adare, but my husband dragged me to the rest of our tour.

Yes, we visited Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. My husband climbed to the top and kissed the stone—not an east feat. To accomplish this, he had to lie on his back partially suspended over a wall and tilt his head to kiss the opposite wall. Fortunately, there was an assistant to keep him from plunging to his death. Me? I waited at the bottom of the 110 steps for my husband to return. After all, no one in my family needs to actually kiss the Blarney Stone. We were born with the gift of (sometimes creative) gab.

Across Ireland, we saw celtic crosses either as tombstones or decoration. Beside the roads in many places are creches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Ruins from when the English destroyed Roman Catholic chapels litter the country. I hate to make general statements, but I consider the Irish to be religious and most to be Catholic. We stopped at the site of miraculous healing at Knoch.

Dublin is a bustling city formed where once sat a Viking stronghold. The town’s name means black pool. It’s a modern city with cheerful businesses and lots of flower boxes and hanging baskets brightening up the streets.
Our first visit was all too short, as was the second. Next time, we plan to rent a cottage and purchase a rail pass and spend a month in Ireland. I wonder if that cottage in Adare is available?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Get Personal with Alaska's Glaciers

For a unique tour that provides a bird’s eye view of Alaska’s splendid glaciers, step aboard the luxurious catamaran, the 137 foot M/V Klondike Express. This boat, the mainstay of Phillips Cruises and Tours, leaves the port of Whittier for a fully narrated tour daily from early May until mid-September.

Even if you’ve seen glaciers from a mega-cruise ship in Alaska’s Inside Passage, consider taking the Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise. It may appear that your large floating resort ventured close to the masses of ice, but reflections from water and sun make sea side mountains appear closer than they really are. Large cruise ships must stop about two miles out, especially when fjords and bays are filled with floating ice chunks broken off from the main masses. The Klondike Express skims through the water, arriving a scant two-tenths of a mile from the huge glaciers.

In four and one-half hours, this catamaran glides 135 miles through the protected waters of Prince William Sound, zipping smoothly at speeds up to 46 miles an hour over routes first explored by British navigator Captain James Cook and railroad financier Edward Henry Harriman in the late 1800s.

Large picture windows offer unobstructed views from inside (while you’re enjoying the included hot meal and drinks), and three outside viewing decks put you right where the action is. Early in our journey 10,000 blacklegged kittiwakes blanketed the sky. These birds spend their lives at sea except during nesting season when they go cliffside to lay eggs in spots safe from predators. Further on, you may glimpse humpback whales swimming and otters floating on their backs. With over 125,000 sea otters and 7,000 bald eagles in this area, opportunities abound for great wildlife photos.

Visitors on the excursion experience College Fjord as Harriman and his family did in 1899. Glaciers had previously encompassed all the territory, so there was no bay; however, as the ice gradually receded, navigable waters opened up. Then Harriman sponsored a steamship expedition so scientists could record information about glaciers and mountains in the area.

Harriman’s family labeled glaciers in the fjord with names of familiar Eastern colleges—women’s colleges on the left and men’s colleges on the right. Holyoke, Barnard, Wellesley, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, and Smith lead the way to Harvard, the largest glacier in the fjord. Centrally located, Harvard is the second largest tidewater glacier in Alaska. It measures 38 miles long, one and a quarter miles wide, and 400 feet high, with another 300 feet of ice hidden below the surface. Continuing around the fjord, Yale, Dartmouth and some smaller glaciers spread seaward.

Passengers see nine of the Sound’s seventeen tidewater glaciers--glaciers that come to the edge of a mountain and go directly into the sea. As the catamaran leaves College Fjord, alpine glaciers Amherst and Crescent—entirely in the mountains, never reaching open water--come into view. Limitless peaks and spikes of ice and rock provide panoramic scenes of indescribable majesty.

Moving into Barry Arm, the Klondike Express glides by more tidewater glaciers, which converge at the tip of the fjord. Spectacular views of massive ice formations dating back hundreds of thousands of years surround the boat. One of the loveliest is Surprise Glacier with waterfalls cascading down the mountain.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, May 14, 2010

Win a Luxury Cruise

If you travle a lot you're probably familiar with TravelSmith, the company that offers fashionable, high quality clothing, luggage, and useful items for the road (or air). TravelSmith has a contest underway now in which you could win a $10,000 luxury cruise.  Sign up now and win extra entries by playing a fun geography game (I was surprised by the answers I got right and those I was way off on). Try it here, and good luck:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mobile tent camps take you into the African wilderness

Our tent was not luxurious but still comfortable.
Camping in tents may remind you of early explorers, but today's mobile tent camps in the wilderness of East Africa, while primitive, are far from roughing it.  True, your tent must be sprayed inside for mosquitos nightly, there's no running water, the only light comes from one 15-watt bulb, and  Masai warriors roam the perimeter of the the camp 24/7 on the lookout for wild animals wandering too close. 

Beverly, Larry, and Beverly's sister Dorothy
Still, you'll sleep in a canvas tent that's open to cool evening breezes fluttering among the trees that hide it.  You'll dine by candlelight--romantic even though it's the only way to see what you're eating.  Water is heated and delivered to your tent for showers by attentive Masai staff. Gourmet-quality meals are prepared and served by the Masai, and you'll gather in the evening to sip wine and exhange tales of the day's adventures around a glowing campfire.  Not a bad way to camp in the African bush.

Masses of wildebeest migrate into Kenya late summer.
Tucked in a remote loction near the Mara River in Kenya, the Siringit tented camp where Larry and I stayed was ideally situated for the annual migration, which is the incredible march of more than a million wildebeest and other native animals from the Serengeti in Tanzania through the Masai Mara in Kenya. During August and early fall hoards of animals migrated across the plains.  Watching wildebeests jump instinctively into the Mara River and splash across as crocidiles snared unlucky victims was an unforgettable sight. 

Wildlife viewing is the highlight of an African safari.
Day-long safari drives across the endless plains of Masai Mara Game Reserve brought amazing views of elephants, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, cheetahs, ostriches, and bird varieties too numerous to remember.  Each morning we left camp after a breakfast of fruit, cruissants, omelets, and sausage (delicious--not what you expect for camp food). 

Bernard, our driver, maneuvered the Range Rover through the daunting landscape.  We splashed through rock-studded river beds and went off-road across harsh grasslands.  Herds of wildlife roamed on the savannah with mountains in muted hues painting the background.  At lunchtime we looked for a solitary balanite tree for shade and unpcked the generous picnic provided by our Masai chefs.

Mobile tent camps (as opposed to permanent tent camps) allow you  to feel part of the wilderness instead of just an onlooker.  It's as close to an authentic bush camp as you can get but far more luxurious than in the days of Hemingway or Roosevelt.

Our fabulous photo safari experience in Tanzania and Kenya was arranged by International Expeditions.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
 and Michael Treadwell


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Royal Caribbean ships all have rock walls.

Royal Caribbean ships have long been on the cutting edge regarding available activities (you've probably heard about all the new Oasis ship has to offer), especially for guests who don't mind stretching outside their comfort zones.

Every Royal Caribbean ship features a climbing wall with routes for various fitness levels.  On Radiance of the Seas (picutred here from our Mexican Riviera cruise), the yellow rocks (I guess that's what you call them) are the easiest path to the top. So that's the route I chose first. Leg strength is the key, since pushing is how you inch your way up, not by pulling with your arms. Of course, you wear a harness, so even if you slip you won't go crashing to the ground.
Later I climbed the red route. Rocks were spaced farther apart and there were fewer of them to choose from when looking for a hand or foot-hold.  Being short (5'1") meant I had some real stretches to stabilize my body--but I climbed both routes successfully and managed to ring the bell at the top.

Climbing walls are usually only open during sea days and at specified hours, so check times if you want to try it.  It's really fun, and you'll feel a sense of accomplishment for having done it.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rent a Floating Hotel

Do you feel the need for a truly stress-free place to hang out? Try vacationing on a houseboat—a floating hotel where waterfront views are guaranteed.

Splash into refreshing water from the on-deck slide, dive off the back-end swim platform, or toss out your fishing line with hopes of catching dinner. Watch wildlife scamper on the shore during early morning or evening hours, and stargaze at night with no city lights to interfere. The possibilities are endless for relaxing and enjoying life with family and friends. In fact, houseboating is great for reunions, multi-generational holidays, or couples’ getaways.

Two-thirds of U. S. states have at least one lake that is suitable for houseboating, often lakes created when dams were built. Rentals are available from Alaska to Florida, from California to New York, and dozens of blue water spots in between.

At least two areas call themselves the Houseboat Capital of the World. Shasta Lake near Redding, California claims the title because of its 370 miles of shoreline, deep azure water surrounded by breathtaking mountains, and spectacular natural scenery. Eleven commercial marinas offer houseboat rentals there.
On Lake Cumberland in southeastern Kentucky, where most houseboat manufacturers are located, houseboats are tucked into hundreds of private coves--more than any other lake in the world.

Modern houseboats generally sleep from six to 14 people and are well equipped with all the amenities you expect in a vacation accommodation: full baths, more storage room than a typical cruise ship cabin, clothes dryer, fully furnished kitchen, multiple televisions, hot tubs, and plentiful outdoor furniture for lounging. Rates vary according to location, size of boat, and season.

Here’s a geographically diverse sample of lakes where you can do as much—or little—as desired on a houseboat:
• Lake Lanier in Georgia

• Lake Ouachita in Arkansas

• Lake Powell in Utah--sometimes called the king of houseboating

• Lake Mead in Nevada, just outside Las Vegas

• Lake Havasu in Arizona.

• Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, the Midwest’s premier lake destination

• Lake Amistad on the Texas-Mexico border

Although living on the water is most popular during summer months, houseboats are found on lakes in southern areas of the country year round. Check out this environmentally friendly vacation option on a lake close to wherever you live.

Photos by Beverly and Larry Burmeier

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

One of the pleasures of having adult children comes when they move away.  But it's not what you may be thinking.  (Mother love never expires).

When close family members live in another state, I have a good excuse to travel to wherever they are.  And that provides lots of opportunities for new adventures.  Not only do I enjoy activities with children, stepchildren, and grandchildren when visiting their towns, but road trips provide even more opportunities for experiences in places I might not travel to otherwise.

While I'm not the best road warrior (don't put me in a car for more than 10 hours a day--and that's a stretch), I've learned to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.  Every town has something interesting to offer if you just look for it.

For example: We went to the Iowa State Fair when visiting a daughter attending graduate school in Ames.

In Michigan, a favorite spring outing for my grandchildren is the butterfly exhibit at the Dow Gardens in Midland.

My husband is from Oklahoma City, so we've spent time exploring the city and scoping out changes through the years.  And that's just scraping the surface.

Spending time with loved ones may be the motivation for these trips, but don't overlook the enrichment that comes with any kind of travel. Sharing new experiences with family and friends makes the events even more memorable.

Happy Mother's Day, especially if you or family members have traveled to be together.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Swimming with Dolphins

I’ve seen dolphins in water shows, but after swimming with these amazing animals and actually riding on a dolphin, I gained a greater appreciation for their ability to perform such tricks.

Bottlenose dolphins like the ones we cavorted with at Vallarta Dolphin Adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are the second largest dolphins (there are more than 60 species) in the world. Their sleek, streamlined bodies can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and grow in excess of 12 feet long—very imposing when you’re nose to nose with them. At this facility dolphins are researched and studied as well as trained to perform, something they actually enjoy, according to our guide.

After donning life jackets, Larry and I slid into the 80 degree salt water pool for our first encounter with a pair of gray female dolphins, each about two years old. We stroked their soft, silky skin, obliging each as they rolled over on their backs and “asked” for belly rubs. Our trainer, Chuy, cautioned us not to touch the dolphin’s eyes (located on sides of the head near the corners of the mouth), blowhole (the means by which a dolphin breathes), or put our fingers in the mouth (88 sharp teeth might hurt!).

After this get-acquainted period, Chuy instructed me to spread my arms out on the water’s surface. As the dolphins swam up from behind, one on each side, I should grab onto their rigid dorsal (back) fins and hang on for a spin around the pool. The dolphins are amazingly strong and quick, and I missed the first attempt prompting them to circle around me a second time so I could latch on for a thrilling ride.

Dolphin kisses are, predictably, wet and sloppy—but still delightful to experience. After high-fiving the cuddly (?) dolphins for their hugs, I rewarded each a slimy fish. When we counted uno, dos, tres the dolphins jumped out of the water and danced on their tails—individually and in tandem-- across the pool, splashing us as they swam within a few feet. Amazingly agile for such large animals, dolphins respond to whistles and hand motions. Wiggling our fingers above the water’s surface was the sign for twirling on their tails.
Finally, it was time for the highlight of our adventure—riding on the dolphin’s belly. Getting on was tricky: As the dolphin swims by—fast—it rolls over, and you grab the strong pectoral (bottom) fins. Then hold on tight as you go zooming around the pool perched on the dolphin’s exposed underside.

As we recovered from the adrenaline rush of the Dolphin Signature Swim experience, we watched the dolphins perform more tricks—tail-walking, leaping vertically out of the water, balancing a ball on the nose, diving and springing in graceful curves above the surface then crashing back for an underwater swim.

A variety of dolphin encounters are available, some geared to young children or people with disabilities. You’ll learn about these lovable mammals in a fun, interactive program as well as have an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Penguins--In Africa?

Water pounded the shoreline of South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, a dangerous place for ancient sailors to round the tip of the continent. From our rocky sea-ward vantage point in Table Mountain National Park on the southwestern coast of Africa, we marveled as two oceans swirled together—the calm Indian Ocean and rough Atlantic—in frothing white waves. But then we drove to another part of the park, a sheltered cove between Simons Town and Cape Point—arriving at Boulders, home of a thriving colony of African Penguins.

Before visiting South Africa, I thought penguins only lived in frigid regions like Antarctica. But Boulders has proven to be an ideal nesting spot for African Penguins, a species found nowhere else in the world. The flightless birds have thrived here, wandering around the area freely and nesting in simple burrows in the sand or under bushes. The sea and beach provide a natural sanctuary for the fast-swimming, deep-diving penguins, while large granite boulders on the beach offer shade and shelter.

Although 1.5 million penguins lived in the region in 1910, uncontrolled harvesting of their eggs nearly drove the species to extinction. The colony has grown from only four penguins in 1982 to more than 3,000. They can be observed at close range from a raised trail of boardwalks at Foxy Beach in Boulders Bay. As soon as you hear their distinctive donkey-like shrieks you’ll understand why these birds were once called “jackass penguins.”

While walking within a few yards of the birds, visitors can search for nests hidden among indigenous brush, observe hens tending their chicks, watch the penguins waddling and prancing, and delight in their splashing antics as sea water sweeps up on the beach. Their humanlike interactions are amazing and fun to watch. African penguins mate in January (they’re monogamous), nest from February to August, and molt in November and December.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Splash into summer at Great Wolf Lodge

Check out my examiner story on Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas near Dallas.  Now that summer vacation time is near, this is a great option for family fun. Great Wolf Lodge is always the perfect temperature, no matter if it's a scorching 90 + degrees outside. It’s the best fun a family can have, in water or out—and all under one roof.

Anchored by the 80,000 square foot indoor water park available exclusively to guests, Great Wolf is loaded with activities for all ages. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of swirling, sloshing, sliding water provide fun in a safe and controlled environment that’s always 84 degrees. It's an easy half-day drive from Austin, but you'll feel worlds away in this fantasyland.


With 12 waterpark locations nationwide, Great Wolf Lodge is the largest family of indoor water park resorts. Read more at
Besides Grapevine, TX, find fun at:
Pocono Mountains, PA

Williamsburg, VA

Grand Mound, WA

Niagara Falls, Canada

Mason, OH

Sandusky, OH                                           

Wisconsin Dells, WI 

Photos by Larry Burmeier                                          

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kayaking is a peacful way to experience Mazatlan

Paddling a kayak is a piece of cake in a river or lake, but it can be a challenge in the ocean if breezes cause swells to kick up. Fortunately, our recent kayaking adventure at Mazatlan on the Pacific coast of Mexico was just about perfect with calm seas, sunshine, and temps in the low 70s.

We were on a shore excursion from our cruise to the Mexican Riviera aboard Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas (sailed from San Diego). Called the Pearl of the Pacific, Mazatlan is the busiest port between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal. It’s a favorite stop for cruise ships as well as tourists looking for an authentic Mexican destination for their vacation.

After boating to Stone Island (really a peninsula) from the ship, we kayaked to nearby Goat Island. A planned hike to the top of a hill had to be scrapped because rain the night before made the trail too slick. That gave us extra time to kayak around Kaktus Island, so for more than an hour we followed our guide Alejandro on this pleasant five-mile excursion.

After coming ashore at the beach, we sampled a delicious snack of fresh fruit—bananas, cantaloupe, pineapple, and mangoes—finished off with sweet pastries and cold drinks. We walked along the beach, snapping photos of the picturesque setting. The sun was warm enough to give me a rosy glow despite using sun screen, although the slight breeze quickly dried any sweat beads that dared pop out.  We watched a group of horseback riders trot along the beach and soaked in the quiet peacefulness of this remote location.

The area around Mazatlan has been settled since prehistoric times, although development of the city itself is relatively recent, with expansion in the 1970s to the white sand beaches of Playa Norte. Dramatic ocean views and golden beaches invite visitors, and tourism has grown in importance to Mazatlan (population 750,000).  But it also has a strong industrial and commercial base that keeps the economy strong.

A large part of its attraction is that it remains a traditional Mexican town.  Colonial architecture is featured in Plaza Machado. Monumento al Venadito (monument to deer) honors the Aztec name of Mazatlan—“place of the deer.” On the waterfront Malecon links the old section of town with the hotel-packed Zona Dorado. Tourists gravitate to the Golden Zone, filled with shopping, dining, and beach-combing opportunities. Several shore excursions from ships will take visitors sightseeing here. A hike up to El Faro Lighthouse provides excellent panoramas, if you can work it in.

Back on the Radiance, we took the free shuttle to the terminal building--and a brief shopping jaunt. I have a hard time resisting native-made items and purchased a small embroidered cloth purse (which I love to use now that we’re back in the States).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, May 1, 2010

See actual human bodies in traveling exhibit now at UT Austin

If you had a biology course in school, you probably remember pages of line drawings attempting to show the inner workings of a human body. Now you can actually see organs, blood vessels, muscles, and more in an exhibit called Our Body: The Universe Within.

My husband Larry and I visited this educational exhibit at The Stark Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin last Thursday. Beginning in late 2006, the exhibit has appeared in museums in cities across the U. S. including Orlando, Detroit, Tallahassee, Hot Springs, Mobile, Wichita, and others. It will be in Austin through late September 2010.

Using about 200 donated specimens, including whole bodies and specific organs, the exhibit gives you a close look at the complexity of human physiology. In fact, this is the closest the general public can get to viewing what only medical personnel and scientists see—and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what makes us tick.

For the few people who may think using actual human body parts is in poor taste, let me assure you that the fascination factor outweighs any imagined grossness. The bodies are preserved through a process called polymer impregnation, in which the bodies’ water and fat are replaced with reactive plastics. The specimens are vivid and detailed; bones, muscles, other anatomical parts are labeled with their correct names (which you may recognize but not remember), and the emphasis throughout is on making lifestyle choices for better health.

One of the most interesting exhibits showed an entire body dissected in ½ inch increments for an incredible look at how everything under the skin fits together. Specific rooms are devoted to the musculoskeletal system, head and nervous system, urinary and reproductive system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and respiratory system. High-magnification images of healthy and diseased skin, organ, and cell samples allow visitors to understand medical conditions in a whole new way. Photos are not allowed, but you can get a good idea of what is presented at

Our Body: The Universe Within is a traveling science exhibit developed by the Anatomical Sciences and Technologies Foundation LTD, a non-profit organization based in Hong Kong. The specimens, all donated, were provided by various accredited Chinese universities, medical institutions, and research centers interested in promoting educational and medical research of the human body.

Plan to spend about two hours viewing exhibits, which also show how anatomical knowledge developed through history (surprisingly accurate even in the B.C. years but not widely accepted). Children should be accompanied by a parent or teacher who can guide them through this educational tour.

For more information, visit or call 512-471-4800.

Adults: $21.00; seniors $16.00; Children 4-12 $11.00

M-Th: 10-6; F/Sat 10-9; Sun 12-6

On weekends, tickets are issued for 15-minute increments; weekdays are open visitation.