Travel with GLOBIO
**Travel in Turbulent Times – Special Coronavirus Announcement **
Travel is core to GLOBIO, in our Programs like Apes Like Us and with you our donors, and we will be back traveling just as soon as it is safe to do so. While we understand you won’t be traveling until the pandemic clears, staying at home will only make dreaming of travel that much more tantalizing. We will be here when you are ready to grab your passport and go. During this pause we are designing new travel options and opportunities to make travel post-pandemic even more exciting, educational and personally valuable. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on travel and everything else we do, and if have any questions please reach out to Meg@globio.org — to all of you from us, stay home, stay safe and stay healthy.
October 2022 – Explore the incredible primates of Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”. These two-week Ugandan trips discover chimps in Uganda’s Kibale Forest, look eye-to-eye with critically endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and discover a dozen monkey species.
Uganda Apes Behind the Lens Tour 2023
2023 – Pack up your camera gear and get ready for an intensive 2-week practical course with award winning wildlife filmmaker/photographer Gerry Ellis around the jungles of Uganda. Learn the ins and outs of wildlife photography while capturing wild chimpanzees, wild critically endangered mountain gorillas and a huge variety of other primates and wildlife.
Bornean Orangutan Adventure 2023
2023 – Explore the wonders of the Bornean jungles with GLOBIO’s Bornean Orangutan Adventure! These 9-day long excursions will bring you up close and personal with wild critically endangered Orangutans, as well as multiple primate species and countless amazing birds. Optional 5-day Sumatra post extension available for those keen to experience wild Sumatran Orangutans.
Uganda/Rwanda Silverback Safari 2024
2024 – Experience the wonders of Rwanda and Uganda with GLOBIO’s Silverback Safari. These two week trips will take you deep into the lush forests to see the critically endangered mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and countless other primates, while also visiting historic sites of the late Dian Fossey.
Private trips are available upon request. For more information on these and future excursions, contact email@example.com
At GLOBIO we have long seen travel and education as partners in creating a greater understanding of our shared world. GLOBIO grew out of founder Gerry Ellis’s global travel experiences, film-work, and commitment to education and we have continued to see exploring the world as a key opportunity for people of every age and background to discover, learn and engage.
Travel is a prominent part of our education program. As the most genuine form of experiential learning, travel invites you to immerse yourself within the world, and inspire the curiosity within you. Your journey begins from the moment you book — with educational resources sent right to your inbox to prepare you for your upcoming adventure. With GLOBIO, you won’t just see incredible wildlife and spectacular biodiversity but experience and understand them within their greater global context. In order to understand the broader conservation picture, you will have the chance to:
Pre-trip receive specific GLOBIO created books and resources
Meet GLOBIO’s local wildlife and conservation partners on the ground where we travel
Dinners with conservation partners and researchers
Visit local communities that are instrumental in the
preservation of their environment
Your adventure doesn’t end when you arrive back home — you can look forward to continued engagement with the GLOBIO team over email and special events — to learn more.
We invite you to join us on that journey.
Much of this blog was drawn from a conversation with Dr. Rick Quinn on our Talking Apes podcast, and from his wonderful book, Just Like Us: A Veterinarian’s Visual Memoir of Our Vanishing Great Ape Relatives.
One of my favorite quotes is from Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” My alternate version would read, “Life is a book, and those who do not travel read only one chapter.”
Travel has been more than something I occasionally do, more than a couple of weeks holiday break from my everyday life, in many ways it has been what I do. It has been the only thing I have ever truly wanted to do. For those of you that have traveled with me, you know my passion for traveling, exploring new places, food, culture, natural history, wonderful people, and of course apes and primates. But what travel has taught me more than anything, especially this past year having it quarantined away, is how it adds experiences and memories to the everyday. Travel ensures every day is a punctuation mark on the timeline of life. In turn, every year is indelible.
Those indelible marks can add up – changing everyday life forever. As itinerate traveler Anthony Bourdain remarked, “The journey changes you; it should change you.” I feel like I have been on an eighteen-month change fast. I am so ready for change. Mostly I hunger for those indelible moments missed — it feels as though someone cruelly ripped pages from a chapter of my life book.
The Magic (and Science) of Inspired Travel
Travel with eyes wide open and it works its ultimate magic, an everyday change changes your life every day, forever. Travel has introduced me to an amazing handful of people that have been so changed. With physical travel arrested, my travels this past several months have been vicarious, through the tales of adventure shared by the guests on Talking Apes. Recently one of those guests was Dr. Rick Quinn, a kind and caring Canadian veterinarian ophthalmologist, whose passion for wildlife photography and curiosity of mountain gorillas turned into a travel adventure to the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa, an adventure that would change his everyday life forever.
A decade ago, inspired by a 2007 National Geographic article about the attack on and death of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virungas, Rick was determined to experience gorillas, and see where his years and skill as a vet might contribute to the work of the Gorilla Doctors, the famous veterinarian team that has for more than a quarter-century been attending to the healthcare of the Critically Endangered Mountain Gorillas. He did travel to the Virungas, and did meet with Gorilla Doctors, and did share his ophthalmological knowledge, but he discovered much more. Rick discovered great ape conservation is a truly multifaceted experience.
For Rick, that inaugural trip changed everything. In 2012, it was meant to satiate a need to connect and help, but the journey brought clarity, it triggered change. He set off on a seven-year great ape odyssey to answer his insatiable curiosity and see how his life could support those risking their lives to save and protect great apes. Profoundly he came “to understand that each species of great ape faces different threats, and local people have different challenges and needs… We need to accept that no one government or organization can come up with the definitive way in which to protect great apes, a giant jigsaw puzzle… Small victories, taken together, create momentum.”
“The journey changes you; it should change you.”
In the Epilogue to Rick’s book he says, “Many of us regularly hear the call to do something that might make a difference. It’s important to listen to what resonates within you, what stirs you, what seems to awaken you from complacency and push you from the sidelines into engagement. My journey began in my study when seemingly unrelated interests collided deep within me. For once, I refuse to ignore the spark it created and made a plan based on a whim.” That plan turned into change, inspiring Rick to found Docs4GreaApes: a charity dedicated to a vision of a world community that is passionate about improving the health of Great Ape populations, the communities that surround them, and the ecosystem that we share.
What has always inspired me about travel, and the desire to guide others into places unknown, is that travel-unknown holds potential for self-change like virtually nothing else we do as humans can do. Travel has always done that for me, and I have seen it over and over in others. From children to adults. Travel, real travel, not holidaying, can and does change people. Sounds anecdotal, as hundreds of travel quotes imply, but there is some science hiding in all those quotes by itinerant wanders. A travel study in 2018 by a team of social scientists at Rice University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina revealed that people who live abroad or travel for long periods of time have increased “self-concept clarity” – essentially, they understand themselves better than people who never live in a different country.
Join Us In Change…
We created our Travel with GLOBIO program to inspire the kind of change that Rick Quinn and others have reacted to. That program is instrumental to us creating greater awareness and understanding of what is at stake. Our travel goal is exactly to, “awaken you from complacency and push you from the sidelines into engagement.”
This past year has been a rollercoaster, it has had us shuffling our GLOBIO team travel to our partners in the field and the trips we had planned for you to join us. Our priority as always is safety, yours as well as the species we are seeing. If you would like to join us once we are back in the air and on the road, sign up for our travel-specific e-newsletter. A monthly update on incredible adventures we are planning and the opportunities for travel to change your everyday life.
“The shortest path to oneself leads around the world.”
— Hermann von Keyserling
Catch our latest episode with Dr. Rick Quinn by clicking the photo below!
For someone who has spent the majority of their life traveling, the first time you hear a question like, ‘Why travel?’ it comes as such a ridiculous shock that you’re stunned to articulate an answer. You stumble through an awkwardly assembled collection of descriptive words that you think will somehow say exactly what travel means and why you think that the question they’ve posed is so ridiculous. And then you see the look on their face that tells you, they simply don’t get it. They don’t relate to that ramble you’ve just babbled. And they aren’t convinced spending thousands of dollars to travel half-way around the world to see, well almost anything, is worth it.
I couldn’t leave it alone. As a passionate traveler, I felt compelled, dutied, to find an answer. One that made it clear to anyone, everyone. Then one day the answer to Why Travel, in the most unexpected form, walked up a gangplank in the world’s southern-most town, Ushuaia, Argentina.
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” — Anthony Bourdain
The Why Travel answer started a year earlier, in Antarctica, aboard a truly wonderful Finnish-built, converted Russian research ship, named The Loffe, I wandered out to the back deck after giving a lecture on the Convergence Zone, which we were fast approaching. This magical invisible line a few dozen meters wide, and thousands of meters deep, that circumnavigates the south polar ice and divides life as we know it from life as only Albatross, leopard seals, and penguins know it. Cross that “invisible” line in the sea and the temperature drops a handful of degrees, birds of the north won’t follow, some fish as well, and you have officially entered the waters of the South Pole. There are two such invisible lines in the world, the one we were crossing and the Wallace Line, far off in the tropics, separating New Guinea and Australia from Indonesia. From the world of kangaroos and wombats, and the world of cats, woodpeckers, and ungulates.
A tall broad-shouldered passenger walked up alongside me at the railing, and said, in the most gently firm but honest voice, like a man who had spent the majority of his life making tough honest, but blunt decisions that shape a company into success, which he had, “I just don’t get it.” After a pause to watch the 11-foot winged Wandering Albatross sail past, in one of its endless loops of the ship, soaring on the unseeable wake of air pushed by our hull; so close I knew I could touch it if I tried. “What”, I said, “the albatross? “As if not getting it was beyond absolutely my comprehension. “No”, he said. “I don’t understand the whole thing. The Antarctica thing.” Staring down at a dozen checkerboard-costumed Pintado Petrels riding in synchronicity a slight swell off our stern, I said incredulously, “Really?” and turned to look at him. “You really don’t get all this?” gesturing to the petrels, but my question focused on everything beyond. “Then… why did you come?”
He said he had come for his wife. She was passionate – obsessed – I think was his actual word, about penguins. “We have penguin everything at home”, he said, in an ‘I don’t really understand it’ kind of tone. “Her dream has always been to see penguins in Antarctica, so here we are.” He was here because she wouldn’t come alone.
The next day we officially entered Antarctica some would say, we saw our first tabular iceberg. A mammoth thing, easily a kilometer long, rising at least a hundred meters out of the water. The Loffe’s captain steered clear.
After a week sailing channels and islands of the Antarctic Peninsula, seeing enough penguins to make his wife and everyone else onboard feel as if there were no more to see in the whole of the continent, we headed north, and with the incredibly good fortune of weather, were able to slip out of the Gerlache Strait through the icy maze-like passage between Anvers Island and Brabant Island. Often iceberg choked, the passage is where bergs that have spun and tumbled a lifetime in the Gerlache finally cue up to wait their turn to escape into the Southern Ocean. These are not mere worn building-sized pieces of ice, they are twisted sculptures at the weathering hands of Nature’s own Picasso. Each it’s own. And each appeared on that sunny day as though lit by an eternal light of indescribable… blue? But unlike any blue color your mind can imagine.
The calmness allowed every passenger to line the Ioffe’s railing for their own private gallery viewing. I looked a dozen people down and there he was with his wife, but I could see at the same time he wasn’t. It was as if he had entered the Louvre and someone had said the museum is yours for the next hour — ALL YOURS.
“It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.” — Anthony Bourdain
A year later I was back in Antarctica, this time to spend the entire summer season. Antarctica gets in your soul that way. When people ask me the impossible question “where is your favorite place to travel?” which is really their question asking, to where I think they should travel, I always add Antarctica. If it is the last dime you spend. I say, it is like traveling to another planet. And you really do travel there. Maybe the last place on Earth you still have to travel to. It is a journey, leaving behind everything you thought you knew about life on Earth.
As he walked up the gangplank, I thought I recognized his face. He smiled, “Yes, I’m back.” The shocked look on my face was nothing I could hide. I shook his hand and he said, I’ll meet you in the bar.
That evening, as we sat floating in the quiet waters of the Beagle Channel — so everyone could get a full meal under their belt before waking up to the rocking and rolling of the South Atlantic Ocean — I found him in the bar, his smile, and mine, rose again. “Where’s your wife I asked?” Handing me my beer he said, “At home.” My face once again gave me away.
“She saw her penguins, and was happy.” He said. “And so… why are you here?” Well … he started, “you remember that day in leaving the passage off Anvers Island?”
“Ya, that was an amazing afternoon.”
“I have never been able to get that blue out of my mind, I told her I have to go back, I have to know it was real.”
Why Travel? To know it’s real. That thing that defies description.
I’ll openly admit my addiction: I hunger to travel. This past year has been like going cold-turkey through an unforeseen rehab. It’s the first time in thirty-two years I have not ventured overseas, and it has been, well, painful — it’s the only word I know. A pain like no other, a pain as difficult to describe as Why Travel? Travel going forward I know will be different. Travel even in the face of more complicated health restrictions, more security, digital health passports, increased airfares, and an unknown list of unknowns. But as the itinerant Anthony Bourdain would surely have said, unknowing makes it all worth it.
As we began rebuilding our Travel with GLOBIO program I kept thinking about how we could help people explore the world of great apes and primates, how we could, even in so-called ordinary places, where you think thousands have traveled before you, we could still ensure a moment that would defy description. A moment that would forever, in the end, “you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.”
“When dealing with complex transportation issues, the best thing to do is pull up with a cold beer and let somebody else figure it out.” — Anthony Bourdain
Our travel program is about figuring out complex travel issues for you, so that you can focus on “that blue” or “that gorilla” or that trekking to find the thing you never see, but know you are a different person because of the journey.
The Landcruiser pulled into the drivers’ back parking area behind the lodge at Kechwa Tembo in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the afternoon was hotter than normal and everything worth filming seems to be asleep, so we were going to cash it in for a few hours — taking a rare afternoon off.
Joseph pulled to a stop, tugged on the handbrake, and simultaneously a dozen fingernail-sized fig fruits showered me through the open roof. “Someone awake, bwana”, Joseph said through a smile. Joseph and I had been together nearly ten years, I knew he only called me “bwana” when he was taking the mickey out of me. A couple of meters above the vehicle a half dozen red-tailed guenons were dancing in the canopy. Joseph already was fetching the tripod from the back, after a decade, he knew. He had seen that look in my eye, he knew right then he wasn’t getting the afternoon off.
I spent the next several hours filming and watching the guenons – red-tailed or Schmidt’s guenons are maybe one of the cutest creatures imaginable. Not just for their bright face and the unmistakable “milky chops” they sport with incredible panache, but also for what they have to say. In the years since that afternoon in southwest Kenya, guenons have become one of my favorites. Alongside red-tailed are the putty-nosed guenons for taking the cute and curious award. As their name suggests, putty-noses have a button of creamy-white dabbed on their tiny hint of a nose. But like red-tailed, putty-noses are cute beyond their looks, it’s their chortling, squeaky, questioning voices that charm the socks off you. It’s not hard to see why guenons are one of the most illegally-trafficked small African monkeys.
Fruits, Forests, Focal Regions and the Need For Monkeys
Generally small, monkeys often slip through the branches of the world’s tropics unnoticed compared to their larger ape cousins. An amazing feat when you consider they make up 87% of the primates on Earth. The role of primates as seed dispersers has been observed throughout the tropics: in Latin America, in Asia, and in Africa. How a plant spreads its seeds and how far are key to its survival. Some species rely on wind or water to disperse their seeds, but for trees in the tropics, animals often play a critical role. Primates, in particular, are one of the most important seed dispersers in tropical forests
In 2020 we began implementing a new strategic plan for GLOBIO. At its heart were four Focal Regions where we determined our work could have the greatest impact: Peat Swamp Forests (Borneo), West African Lowland Rainforest, Western Congo Basin Forest, and Upper Albertine Rift Triangle.
Critical to the Upper Albertine Rift Triangle is Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park. For the past two years, we have had it on our Travel with GLOBIO primate program. Exposing more travelers to the magic of monkeys is critical to our mission. Primate researchers from around the world also travel to Kibale for its primate richness. For the past 17 years, anthropologist Joanna Lambert has been studying seed dispersal in the park.
“What I’ve found is that depending on the species of tree and the fruit that’s being consumed,” Lambert said, “primates are responsible for 78-92% of the removal of the seeds,” Lambert points out that, the monkeys and chimpanzees of Kibale move an astonishing 34,000 seeds in a square kilometer in a day. And many of those seeds grow into trees used by local people for fruit or for medicinal purposes. According to Lambert, 42% of the fruit species dispersed by primates in Kibale have resources that are used by people.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), close to one-third of the world’s primate species are in danger of extinction. In Asia and Latin America, tropical forest clearing for human settlement, agriculture (principally palm oil), and commercial logging are destroying primate habitat. In West Africa and the western Congo Basin, hunting is largely being driven by demand from urban markets. Known as “the bushmeat trade,” the commercial hunting of primates and other wild game species has eliminated all but the smallest mammals and birds from the forests. As the cute chortling voices of monkeys like guenons disappear a phenomenon scientists call “Silent Forest” sets in. The long-term impact of these missing voices – the critical seed dispersers – is still being hashed out.
I have to admit part of my newfound fascination with monkeys comes in part from GLOBIO’s Programs Director, Meg Stark – her passion for monkeys borders on something close to an obsession, and her joy about them is infectious. Meg worked for nearly three years at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa. There she rescued, nursed, and mothered dozens of vervet monkeys. The vervets arrive at the sanctuary after some torturous encounters with farmers and others who see the diminutive vervets as pets or pests. In any case, what’s seen in South Africa is no different from other countries: it’s the wild monkeys that suffer. Vervets, like many monkeys in the world, are not protected and typically fall on the losing end when in conflict with humans.
On the edge of the Kibale Forest National Park is the Bigodi swamp, part of the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. Bigodi has become a prime destination on our Travel with GLOBIO trip in the region. It is home to an extraordinary array of monkeys: the red colobus monkey, baboon, mantled guereza, blue monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, vervet monkey, red-tailed monkey, and the L’Hoest monkey. The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is a great example of a community-based approach to natural resources management which can be of good economic benefit to the different local residents living within this area plus the Uganda safari industry as well. Most travelers see the swamp on a half-day detour from seeing chimpanzees in Kibale. The truth is the nine species of primates generally seen in Bigodi are worth a day of their own. In designing our Travel with GLOBIO Uganda trips we have ensured the monkeys of Bigodi get their just attention.
After a decade of filming in the tropics, that afternoon in Kenya I discovered myself in the spell of these little primates, a kind of monkey magic, and now every journey I make has monkeys somewhere, somehow, on the itinerary.
Interested in Traveling with GLOBIO? We have trips to explore the apes and monkeys in late 2021 and in 2022. Find out more HERE or contact Meg@globio.org.