People often as me what I do on my day off on the road. Well,… clean.
Clean camera gear, clean clothes, clean bags and support gear, and finally clean me. Not really a day off, just a cleaning day.
After the past few weeks in hot and dusty Zambia (temps climbed to near 40c/100+F) the body and gear are welcoming the cooler, moist air in Entebbe, Uganda. Two weeks of chimp and gorilla trekking are just a day away. This is our inaugural Travel with GLOBIO trip — the Uganda Great Apes Safari — and haven’t been this excited to guide in years. Working on Apes Like Us these past few years has been challenging as we tried to figure out how to connect people to great apes. How to make what is happening across the planet to apes like us, and what it inevitably means to us. The Apes Like Us YouTube channel has been one avenue, the education and field programs and projects we have re-invented and re-defined have been another, but getting people out to see apes and what’s happening in the real world is incredibly exciting. Nothing will ever replace the face of a gorilla staring eye-to-eye with you just a few meters away. After three decades it still races my blood with anticipation and excitement.
Sharing the experience of seeing great apes in the wild is not easy. The Congo would be perfect… all of Africa’s great apes are there, bonobos, mountain gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas, chimpanzees, are there but, and it’s a big but, it is simply too difficult to access, to dangerous to risk, and constantly flirts with Ebola outbreaks and rebel break-ins. Uganda, on the other hand is known as the “Pearl of Africa”, it is definitely the jewel of primate discovery, and it is safe. Acclaimed for its outstanding natural beauty and diversity – Uganda is the center of Africa’s “Great Lakes” ecosystem. Over 5,000 chimpanzees populate the lush hilly western region. It’s also in these densely vegetative, “impenetrable”, forests that Uganda’s most famous residents reside—the breathtaking and endangered mountain gorillas. Recent surveys tally just over 600 of these powerful gentle giants, half the world’s population, living in the rainforests of Bwindi. That’s where we will finish this trip in two weeks.
Anthony Bourdain, the travel entrepreneur and global food gypsy, was sharp in his observation that “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.”, and it should. The traveler who returns unchanged, unfazed, suffers from a black soul.
As the group trickles into the Protea Hotel, transatlantic time zone victims, weary from sitting for hours, I’m confident there are no black souls. I intend to do everything in my power to shed light on each and every soul joining this trip. To make certain these two weeks leaves at least a mark or two. And one of those marks is a new awareness of great apes and their shared place on our planet.
— Gerry Ellis
For more information on our Travel with GLOBIO trips