MyDogKyle is going back to Africa!!

May 16th, 2008, 02:59 PM
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MyDogKyle is going back to Africa!!

As some of you know I went on a trip to Kenya and Tanzania last year and then wrote a very long trip report for this board, hoping to share some of what I learned and experienced, and also hoping to convey how much I love East Africa. I was thrilled to find so many like-minded folks here -- to read about all of your adventures in various countries, and to be able to share my story with people who understand what’s so incredible about Africa. I ended my report by saying that not a day goes by without me dreaming about going back someday, but also that I realize how lucky we were to visit even once and that we had enough amazing memories to last us the rest of our lives.

Well, I am thrilled to share this recent news with you guys, many years sooner than I ever expected to be able to – we have an incredible opportunity to return to Africa in October, and we’re going to go! I still can’t really believe it, but here’s how this happened…

After we returned home, my husband and I decided that we wanted to find a way to do some volunteer work with animals and/or a conservation organization, to try to give a little back in thanks for all the incredible experiences we’ve had with wildlife in Kenya, Tanzania, India, and North America. We discovered a volunteer opportunity at our local zoo, where we could train to be a part of the behavioral observation team that assists zookeepers and researchers in studying the animals’ behavior – as part of larger research projects beyond this particular zoo, as well as a means of helping these animals have the best lives possible in their zoo environments. (Now, I know how some of you feel about zoos, and I really hope this thread won’t turn into a debate about the relative merits and detriments of zoos. I definitely don’t think all zoos are created equal, and of course I would prefer to see animals in the wild… but I also think they can be a really important tool for education and awareness of conservation issues, and not everyone can afford a trip to Africa, especially in the city where I live. Growing up with this particular zoo was a big factor in my wanting to go to Africa in the first place. Okay, back to my story…)

At our first volunteer training session, our teacher told us about a “conservation in action” trip the zoo was organizing for staff and members to visit Uganda and Rwanda – they would be going on several chimp treks and a gorilla trek, visiting national parks in both countries, and (so exciting!) participating in service projects with the Budongo Forest Project and Kibale Fuel Wood Project. The trip was already planned, itinerary and flights arranged, and there were a few spots left. Did we want to go? Are you kidding?? We thought it would be years before we’d get back to Africa -- just because of the sheer expense of it, but also because the kind of trip we’d taken before required lots of advance planning and circumstances in our lives and jobs right now prevent us from doing another book-a-year-in-advance vacation. I had about ten minutes where I wondered whether we’d enjoy traveling with a group, since we usually travel on our own… but in this case, the group will be people who are so interested in and passionate about conservation issues and wildlife that they want to spend their vacation time and dollars volunteering. I think there’s a pretty good chance we’ll find people in this group whose attitude to Africa is very much like our own (as opposed to those “I only want to see LIONS!” folks or those “Everything in Africa is so yucky and dirty!” folks, for those of you who remember my trip report). We had a few days to think about this, and believe me when I say it is pretty much ALL we thought about for those few days. Could we afford it? It’s a stretch, but we have the savings and we really don’t spend money on anything else. Was this the right time? Of course! When would we have an opportunity like this again? Maybe it’s not the absolute ideal time of year to go and maybe we’d have to take a few days off work without pay to fit it in, but lots of factors in our lives seemed to come together to make this right thing to do. And so, we’ll be off to Uganda and Rwanda in October!

This time I don’t need itinerary advice, since I’m not in charge of planning that part. But I can’t wait to dig in and read all the primate-related trip reports on this board, which I was avoiding (for the most part – I couldn’t resist reading about Predator Biologist and the chimps!) because I knew we couldn’t afford to add gorillas or chimps onto our already-crammed-full itinerary last year. I know visiting this board will help me get through the next five months of counting down to another African adventure!

We’ll be visiting the chimps at Budongo Forest and Kibale, gorillas and golden monkeys in Parc National des Volcans, and also going to Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, as well as Kampala, Masindi and Kigali. Any gorilla or chimp trekking tips that you want to throw at me, or general thoughts about Uganda or Rwanda are certainly welcome, and I do plan to eventually post our itinerary, if anyone’s interested. Meanwhile, I will keep lurking around on the Kenya and Tanzania threads, as always.
Okay, now I’m going to go pinch myself, just to be sure I’m not dreaming…
MyDogKyle is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Woohoooooo!!! How exciting! Yes, please do post the itinerary
Patty is online now  
May 16th, 2008, 04:46 PM
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This is incredibly exciting! How long is the trip? Sorry if I missed that. Your itinerary looks fascinating with some great destinations. What a wonderful way to return.

If you search for gorilla on here, there are lots of in depth threads.

atravelynn is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 06:10 PM
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Very interesting MDK... I've been looking around for an appropriate volunteer program and will be interested to hear how your experience works out. If others out there have volunteer experience, it would be nice to hear about them too. Maybe I'll post a thread on that topic...
rickmck is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 06:54 PM
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Outstanding MDK!!

I am very happy for the two of you and I think you will very much enjoy traveling with those who have dedicated themselves to a similar interest. I would imagine that the zoo staff will have some connections and arrangements for you that may be a little extra beyond what the normal tourist gets too. Sounds like a great learning exprience and a chance to give something back.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 07:34 PM
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What a wonderful opportunity and great news that you are going back so soon!


Treepol is offline  
May 16th, 2008, 07:51 PM
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Congratulations MyDog! It was destined that you would return, sounds like a great trip!
matnikstym is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 04:18 AM
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How wonderful. Any which way to get back to Africa and you hit on the right one... and doing good work at the same time. Happy for you!
sandi is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 05:13 AM
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I'm excited for you. Your trip sounds like a perfect match.
cybor is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 05:50 AM
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wow - that's wonderful.
ldtc2 is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 07:42 AM
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Yay! Whoopee! Hotdiggitydawg!
doohickey is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 08:25 AM
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Congrats MDK...that is so exciting!!!
going_2_africa is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 08:32 AM
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Lucky dog.... are you going with him ? he he!!!
keah05 is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 03:09 PM
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MDK, congratulations! This sounds absolutely wonderful. You’ll be travelling to and with some quality primates.

I see a problem here and everywhere as I think Fodor’s is keeping people away from Africa, not only because I’m sure some sad posters hanging on the Europe board although they’ve always dreamt about going to Africa sneak in and see posters here talking about $500 pppd as moderate and then realize they have to forget about their dream, but because of all these hysterical several year long plannings. MDK and her husband actually had the savings for an Africa trip and really wanted to return to Africa, but thought they wouldn’t be returning in many years. I’m going to Kenya in a month and a day and I have nothing booked, except the air ticket. If it was just a holiday trip and I could afford $300 per day, I would not consider myself as having a problem. I could book a really nice safari next week or after landing in Nairobi. I guess what I want to say is that anyone without serious family obligations or health problems, who has the money for the trip and a job waiting at home after a paid or un-paid time off (if returning home is what you want to do) just don’t have a reason not to go to Africa. I don’t know if this makes sense, but I could have written it in almost any thread.
Nyamera is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 12:35 PM
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MDK--jealous but glad for you.
Nyamera--good advice.
bat is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 01:45 PM
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Thank you, everybody, for your kind words and for sharing in our excitement about this unexpected trip! I knew I could count on some enthusiasm here... when so many people we know in our everyday lives react more like this: "Uganda? Why?" or "Isn't that dangerous?"

I think Nyamera makes an excellent point -- there are many ways to visit Africa, and not all of them require advance planning or a phenomenal chunk of cash. And someone casually glancing through this board might indeed get a skewed idea about what it takes to travel to Africa. But I want to add that in our case there were many, many reasons related to family and jobs that were our main concerns about not being able to return to Africa any time soon (not an expectation that we'd have to save up big bucks). We've done a lot of budget-style travel on our own, and I wouldn't rule that out in the future for Africa. But sometimes life conspires against your travel plans in general. In this case, happily, it turns out that things are working in our favor.

Once I get the final version of the itinerary I will post it here. Thanks again for sharing my happiness!
MyDogKyle is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 07:35 PM
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How terrific, MDK.

How true, Nyamera.
Leely2 is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 12:52 PM
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MDK - sounds like a wonderful opportunity and a great trip. Looking forward to seeing the itinerary and hearing more about the trip.

Nyamera - very true and great advise. If I had waited until I could plan my safari ages ahead, I'd still be waiting. We found out in April last year that my wife was going to be in SA for business the end of June. My first thought was to add on a safari after she was done with her meetings and not knowing it was "suppose" to take months of planning ages in advance, I spent a week doing research of places to go in SA, settled on the Krueger area and based on a number of reports ended up at Mala Mala the first week of July. So it can be done.

brw is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 01:33 PM
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MDK, I’m looking forward to your trip report.

Bob, I suppose you discovered Fodor’s after your trip.

Who is Leely2??? :-?

Nyamera is offline  
May 20th, 2008, 03:37 PM
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Looking forward to your itinerary. Will the other participants come from the program at your zoo? If so, you can establish relationships before leaving, a nice possibility.
atravelynn is offline  

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