As a continuation of last week’s discussion with Dr. Jane Goodall, we’re back to hear about some of her most memorable travel experiences. For someone who has been actively traveling the world for more than 50 years, we were anxious to see what she had to say. Read on for Part II of Dr. Jane Goodall’s Jetsetter Series post. (Above photo courtesy of Anthony Collins / the Jane Goodall Institute.)
One of my most memorable travel experiences was a journey from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to the Ruaha National Park. I was with my late husband Derek and my son “Grub” when he was about 7 years old. We were in a four-seat Cessna plane and a small wisp of smoke curled up from the instrument panel for the last 45 minutes of the flight. Needless to say, we were all relieved when we finally made our descent.
However, our relief lasted only a few moments. A herd of zebras were grazing along the landing strip, blocking our touch-down. The pilot flew low to scare them off, but panicked and ended up among trees on the wrong side of the Ruaha River. Derek, a Second World War pilot, told me afterwards that had one wing tip not clipped a tree and slowed us down, we would have had a less fortunate outcome.
As it was, we got out safely – but on the far side of the crocodile-infested river. It was Grub who said “If God didn’t let us die in the crash, he won’t let us be eaten by crocodiles”. And so we carried on, crossing the river with water up to our chests, rather than wait for rescue by ferry and Land Rover.
Without a doubt the most significant journey I ever made was back in 1957. I had been working as a waitress to save up enough so I could get to Africa. My family came to London to see me board the Kenya Castle, an all-one class ship, and I was off. As we travelled to Africa, we stopped and went ashore briefly in the Canary Isles, Cape Town, Durban and what was then Lorenzo Marx. Those glimpses of new lands and cultures were fascinating to me, though the apartheid system in South Africa was utterly horrifying. There was beautiful scenery, marvelous animals and exotic fruits, but it was a horrible regime.
What I remember most from that journey is standing alone watching the sea; the grey water of Britain giving way to strikingly blue tropical waters. The first flying fish I saw and the dolphins that occasionally played around the boat were simply magic.
I was met in Nairobi by my school friend, whose invitation to stay had provided the opportunity to follow my dream. We drove to the Kinangop, an area of what was then known as the White Highlands. There, I saw my first wild giraffe up close, an aardvark cross the road in front of the car and, once at the farm where I was staying, I was shown the pugmark of a male leopard who had passed through that evening.
I knew then I had truly arrived in Africa.