Following in the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace
June 15, 2023
When a young woman decided that she was ready for an adventure in Africa, she couldn’t have envisaged the life it would lead her to. Her roots in the sedate seaside resort of Bournemouth held no clue to her eventual life’s work: living among and studying the chimpanzees of East Africa.
Jane Goodall was born in London in 1934 and loved animals from an early age. Particularly drawn to exotic animals, she loved zoological books and spent her childhood dreaming of the varied and vibrant wildlife of Africa. She carried out her own studies of the creatures that surrounded her in her world, complete with illustrations and notes.
When Jane was in her early twenties she worked two jobs in order to save up to go to Africa. A childhood friend was based in Kenya and, once Jane had enough funds, she arranged the trip. On that first trip to Kenya, Jane serendipitously met Louis Leakey, a famous anthropologist and palaeontologist, who invited her to get involved in his studies. He was investigating the evolution of man, and needed people to assist him in his observations of primates. This was to be the defining moment of Jane’s young life, as this is the opportunity which led her to discover her fascination with primatology.
At the time of Jane Goodall’s first major study, it would have been improper for a young, single Western woman to set up camp in the Gombe Stream Reserve to study chimpanzees, so Jane brought her mother and a cook with her. Patience was an essential asset while waiting for the chimps to become accustomed to her, and Jane spent many years observing the Chimpanzee groups living at Gombe Stream. She observed chimps eating meat and making simple tools, both of which were previously undiscovered behaviours, and established herself as a pioneer of her field. She was recognised as an expert in primatology and, as a result of a film made about her, became a well-known face around the globe. Alongside her groundbreaking studies of Chimpanzee behaviour, Jane Goodall gained a PhD from Cambridge University and founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which promotes the protection of animals and their habitats.
Even today, aged 85, Dame Jane Goodall spends much of her time travelling the world in support of her many interests and good causes. She has had a huge impact in the fields of science and activism, and has used her voice to influence tourism legislation and practices in Africa. She is a truly inspirational force for good, and holds many accolades. Not only is she a UN Messenger of Peace, but she has also been awarded the Kyoto Prize, a UNESCO Gold Medal Award, Dame of the British Empire and France’s Legion d’Honneur.
If spending time with a Chimpanzee group to experience a taste of Dame Goodall’s observations is your priority, Tanzania is a great option. As well as Gombe Stream, where Goodall’s studies took place, the Mahale mountains are a great area for chimp treks. Rangers accompany you as you search for one of the habituated groups and spend a magical hour in their company. Chimp trekking is also possible in Uganda, another great destination for primate enthusiasts.
Feeling inspired by the biography of Jane Goodall? The wonderful local experts in all of our East African destinations are truly knowledgeable about the wildlife in their lands. They also care deeply about preserving biodiversity for future generations to enjoy and put together exciting itineraries based on your own preferences. Have a look at some of the itinerary ideas for Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to get inspired! If you want to learn more about Jane and her work, head to her website: www.janegoodall.org.uk
To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.