Posts Tagged ‘Lake Victoria’

Aping around in Africa

July 20, 2009

(“Where they Went,” published May 24, 2009, Boston Globe)

Debra Walk on safari in Seregeti, Tanzania

Debra Walk on safari in Tanzania

WHO: Debra L. Walk, 60, of Revere.

WHERE: Tanzania and Uganda.

WHEN: Three weeks in November and December.

WHY: “When I turned 50, at a spa in Utah, I thought, in 10 years, you’ll be 60. Where do you want to be?” Walk said. An African safari was the answer. “Elephants are my favorite animal, and the thought of being so close to them was really exciting, with me being confined and not them. I saved for 10 years, and it was worth every penny.”

Debra at at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania

Posing at Ngorongoro Conservation Area

INSTANT KARMA: Walk started with a two-week “classic safari” with Thomson Safaris, which featured several days of wildlife viewing. When she spotted an elephant the first day, “I screamed,” she said. “Later we were so close to them we could see their eyelashes. Our jeeps were surrounded by them. It literally took my breath away. We spent four days on the Serengeti, and we were there during wildebeest migration.”

Debra with guides before boarding the plane to leave the Serengeti to Arusha, Tanzania

Debra with her Serengeti guides before boarding the bush plane for Arusha

KINFOLK: Walk arranged for her final week to be in Uganda, and set up gorilla and chimpanzee activities through Adventure Trails. She’s drawn to the animals because “they’re our cousins and I think eventually they’re not going to exist anymore out in the wild. Humans are destroying their habitat.”

GROUP OUTING: She spent the first few days in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a rain forest known for its mountain gorilla population. “You’re allowed to spend up to an hour with them. You can’t eat anything, run around, or make eye contact with the silverback, the leader, and you can’t use a flash. There’s a good chance you’ll see them, but it’s not guaranteed.” Walk was lucky enough to see gorillas on both outings. “We spent an hour with the second group. The silverback’s first-in-command was no more than five feet from us and actually posed for us.”

Debra standing on the equator in Uganda

Debra straddles the equator in Uganda

PERSONAL ATTENTION: Her trip ended with three nights at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria. “Even though elephants are my favorite animal, my favorite day was on Ngamba when I got to walk with the chimpanzees. One of them jumped on my back and I gave her a piggyback ride. I have a tattoo on my wrist, and she was grooming me, trying to get it off with her fingernails. She untied my shoes, pulled out my laces, and tried to relace them.”

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