A determined, compassionate and fearless woman…A lonely abused and orphaned chimp…A story of love…

Gail and Missy in Liberia by the pool.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

While at the “lookout” a few days ago we spotted these four waterbucks on the Crocodile River, one male, and three females.  Such beautiful creatures!

It’s not unusual for those of us who revere wildlife and conservation to have dreams of somehow “making a difference.”  With the best of intentions, in small ways, we may encounter opportunities to do so should we be in the right place at the right time and circumstances prevail.

Few are fortunate enough to have the passion and dedication to make such a dream become a reality.  It requires a degree of willingness to “step outside the box” of our everyday lives, faced against the tremendous odds of bureaucratic interference, prejudice and apathy to make something magical happen.

Gail and Missy.

Gail Gillespie-Fox is just that person…in her boundless and fearless compassion and determination to have rescued bound-for-a-sorrowful-life-or-death chimpanzee in Liberia in 2013.  No, we don’t mean rescuing in the sense of taking in orphaned Missy as a “pet” as many supposed rescuers wrongfully assume is what one must do.

Gail’s only objective, unselfishly in her love and many months of care for Missy eagerly and relentlessly searched for a safe and loving means for Missy to live out her life in an environment of her own kind. 

This is the first day Gail and Mark met Missy.

In Gail’s heart and mind, only a sanctuary where Missy could thrive, not as a spectacle of curiosity and revenue generation but, as a member of a safe and natural habitat providing the utmost in care and love among other chimps would suffice.

The obstacles Gail faced in accomplishing this lofty goal were insurmountable.  Living in Liberia, the poor, war-ravaged country with then-fiance, Mark (now her husband) who was there on a work project, was an adventure Gail never anticipated in her otherwise traditional life as a citizen of South Africa.

Missy in a makeshift backpack holding onto Gail.

Mark never faltered in his dedication to support of Gail in saving Missy from a life of hunger, mistreatment and possible death.  Together they created an impenetrable bond that beautifully remains today, now as residents of Marloth Park with their continuing compassion for wildlife.

Liberia has a plethora of problems after years of rebel warfare and political unrest.  In 2003, a ceasefire was declared but Liberia remains, even today, decades behind many African nations in its development and infrastructure which only added to the challenges Gail and Missy faced daily.

Missy learning to be a chimpanzee.

In 2014, during the time of the Ebola outbreak, a scenario of terrified and often unwarranted mistrust and fear of chimpanzees and apes was rampant.  They were wrongfully considered as carriers of the deadly disease when in fact, it was the slaughter and unsafe handling of bushmeat, that ultimately spread the disease.

Getting Missy out of Liberia became seemingly impossible when news of Ebola spread throughout the world and with it, the rumors of what and who was responsible for spreading the disease. 

Missy in the car with Gail and Mark.

Through lack of factual data in the news (not uncommon, as we all so well know), the world too believed chimpanzees and other species in the ape family of animals, were carriers and original perpetrators of the spread of the disease. 

Missy was frail and recovering after Gail and Mark had returned to Liberia after a short necessary visit to South Africa. They had no choice but to leave her in the care of others until their return to find her in this heartbreaking state. In no time at all, she was thriving with Gail and Mark’s loving attention and care.

This resulted in insurmountable obstacles in getting Missy out of Liberia to the safe habitat awaiting her in:  “Guinea, West Africa, within the Haut Niger National Park, the Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC) is a sanctuary established in 1997 to address increasing declines in chimpanzee populations due to the pet trade.”

There’s so much more than we can possibly write about this special story of Missy.  Rather than providing spoilers for the heartwarming, educational and inspiring story, Gail wrote in her book about this stunning struggle and profound outcome, “Her Name is Missy” is available for purchase here

Missy with Mogli, her stuffed toy chimpanzee.

As our readers are well aware, we don’t promote products for purchase within the framework of our daily posts.  Today is the exception.  We encourage our readers to purchase this easy-to-read, can’t-put-down book, beautifully described and written experience few of us can imagine.  (We earn no portion of proceeds from the sale of the book).

This adorable photo of Missy makes one wonder what chimps are thinking?

When visiting Gail and Mark last Sunday at their lovely bush home and lodge, it was easy to see the joy in her eyes that will always be a part of the loving and compassionate person she is and will remain forever. 

Thank you, Gail, for sharing your story with us and our readers.  It’s ironic that in this life we live of world travel, we are gifted with endless opportunities to meet those whose inspiring lives contribute to our experiences that we’ll carry with us forever.

A last-minute farewell gathering for Missy.

Finding a purpose, however infinitesimal or profound is the essence of who we become, who we are today and who we’ll be in the future.  May we all find such a purpose.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2017:

Walk along the esplanade near the Sydney Opera House.  For more photos, please click here.

Movie night in the bush!!!…Many visitors wanted in on the action…

“Hmmm…” says Clive to Clove, “I wonder what these humans are up to now.  Are we invited?”

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

An apparently happy oxpecker on the hide of a kudu we spotted on yesterday afternoon’s drive in Marloth.  From this site: Oxpeckers graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals. Certain species are seemingly preferred, whereas others, like the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest or Topi are generally avoided. Smaller antelope such as lechweduikers, and reedbuck are also avoided; the smallest regularly used species is the Impala, probably because of the heavy tick load and social nature of that species. In many parts of their range, they now feed on cattle but avoid camels. They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks, as well as insects infecting wounds and the flesh and blood of some wounds as well. They are sometimes classified as parasites because they open wounds on the animals’ backs.”

When Lousie and Danie invited us to a fundraiser, they did so with the thought in mind that our attending this might be ideal for a post for our worldwide readers.  The intent was clearly not in having us donate lots of money.

About 25 guests had arrived in the bush area for the wildlife rescue event, Wild & Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.  Within minutes there were about 50 guests who stayed for the meal, the presentation, the auction and eventually the movie, Out of Africa.

With the food hosted by local shop owners and the meat market, the US $8.66 (ZAR 100) per person donation for attendance was a mere pittance for the quality of the experience bestowed on the 50 attendees, most homeowners in Marloth Park or nearby surrounding areas.

We may have looked like idiots wearing our bug resistant “Africa” clothes while everyone else was wearing shorts, tee shirts, and flipflops. But, this time we aren’t taking malaria pills and feel it’s diligent to be careful especially with my weakened immune system after taking so many antibiotics.  The mozzies love me.

Louise and Danie showed up at 5:45 pm so we could follow them to the site.  They also brought chairs for us and sat with us for the entire event, although they were acquainted with almost everyone in attendance.  We had a great time at the entire event! Thanks, Louise and Danie!!!

The locals are used to applying repellent especially when out at dusk and into the evening when the mosquitos can be downright annoying and also, carrying many types of diseases besides malaria. 

The event took place on the grounds of a thoughtful homeowner who kindly cooked the fabulous food and hosted the event.

After contracting this awful gastrointestinal issue in Fiji which still plagues me today, we’d both decided that we can’t be too careful.  Illness is the only thing that will put a fast end to our travels and we’re simply not willing to take the risk.  So we look foolish?  Who cares?  We’re happy and continuing to travel the world.

Even now, as I’m posting from the veranda where we spend all of our days there’s a variety of bees and hornets buzzing us, let alone mozzies that find me, day or night.  A little caution can go a long way in protecting us.

Our first visitor to the event, a lone warthog who was curious and perhaps wondering, “Do you have any pellets?”

Anyway, back to the event…Louise and Danie graciously introduced us to many attendees which easily brought us into many interesting conversations about wildlife and Marloth Park.

She was on her knees eating some greens.

Each person we spoke to freely expressed their unbridled passion for this magical place.  Some had been living here for decades, others frequently visiting family who lives in the park.  All of the people we met are from one part of Africa or another although the majority are from South Africa.

At no point, did we or the other guests feel pressured for added donations.  The auctions provided more needed revenue and although Tom bid on a few items we lost to more enthusiastic bidders interested in various types of alcoholic beverages being offered in pretty baskets.

Deidre from Wild & Free Rescue Center in Marloth Park did a heartwarming presentation.

The food was superb as mentioned here, the movie Out of Africa, which we’d seen many times, was again entertaining. But most of all, the visitors who stopped by to check out the evening’s event, left us all in stitches with cell phone cameras flashing along with my camera.

A lookout tower on the property. Notice the kudu grazing beneath the structure.

Sometimes I could kick myself for not seeking the best possible scenes for taking photos.  I certainly have the ability to do so but in my enthusiasm, I get sidetracked by the scene in front of me and I forget to be more diligent.  I promise to work on this after it became especially evident to me this morning when I looked at last night’s photo.

We watched a heartwarming slide presentation of some of the baby animals rescued by Wild and Free Rehabilitation Centre.

Why in the heck didn’t I get the shots of the visitors with the crowd of humans in the background?  This would have created more humorous photos.  Thus, I must describe to you that the following animals came to call and hovered around the perimeter of our event: warthog, wildebeest, zebra, and ostrich.

Note the tiny bushbaby on the end of a finger.  Soon, we’ll visit the center and do a more comprehensive story on this exceptional facility.

In defense of myself to a small degree, based on the positioning of the wildlife when they hovered around our “camp,” I would have had to get behind them to get such a photo.  All of these animals weight 100’s of kilos (pounds) and doing so may have been risky.  One swift kick by an annoyed visitor could result in a tragedy.

The food was excellent; pulled pork, pulled chicken, homemade pickle slices, coleslaw, and buns.  I ate a little of everything but was concerned about the sugar in the delicious barbecue sauce.  Typically, barbecue sauce has a lot of sugar.

And so, I ask you to use your imagination and picture the animals shown in today’s photos, standing very close to us, smelling, snorting and making a variety of sounds and gestures wondering what we were all about.

I could have easily eaten twice as big a serving of the meat, it was so good but I refrained.  Tom had one bun filled with pork, coleslaw, and pickles on the side.  We noticed the locals putting the pickles in the bun with the meat.  That looked good!

Throughout the movie, we continued to hear the music-to-our-ears sounds us bush-dwellers continually strive to identify.  Tom and I are learning those sounds more this time in Marloth Park as opposed to four years ago. 

This delightful man sang a few times during the evening.  He is Etienne van der Nest also known as the “Cooking Tenor.”  What a voice and special unexpected treat!

Perhaps we’re a little wiser, a little more appreciative, and a little more in awe than we were four years ago.  A reader wrote to us a few days ago asking, “Since you’ve been in Marloth Park before, is it any less interesting and magical this second time around?”

The zebras were hovering around the perimeter of our group curious as to what was going on.

We wrote back to our reader, stating it like this, which we’ve said before, “Being here again is like having an “E” ticket to Disneyland…the anticipation of the “next ride” is almost as exciting as the ride itself.”  Even when “they” don’t visit us, our perpetual state of expectation is indescribable.

Louise explained that wild animals are often attracted to the noise of human activity and of course, like the other visitors at the event, curious as to what’s going on.

For example, the above photo featured in “Sighting of the Day in the Bush” of the oxpecker with its mouth agape while sitting atop a kudu is another of those bonuses we never seek or expect.  It’s sheer joy in the simplest of terms.

Please continue to enjoy the “ride” along with us!

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Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2017:

Had we arrived a month or two earlier, the hilly countryside in the Huon Valley would have been a lush velvety green.  For more photos, please click here.

Accomplished another task…Plus, sightseeing in Costa Rica..

Tom shot this good photo of a leopard high above the ground on a perch.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Early last evening, before the most powerful rain storm since our arrival in Atenas, this fire was burning on a hill.  We took this photo from the veranda.  Only moments later thunder and lightening filled the sky and pouring rain put the fire out in a matter of minutes.  Our pool was almost over flowing from the rain.

When the shipped package from our mailing service became lost in the mail while we were in Tasmania, one of the main reasons we were worried was the fact that Maillinkplus.com, as requested, had placed our paper mail and tax documents into the shipped box along with many other important items.

Ducks and lots of turtles.

When we didn’t receive the package in time to do our 2016 taxes (it was later found and shipped to us in Sydney), our new accountant in Nevada filed an extension for us.  Our prior accountant had decided to quit the business that eventually led us to Donnie Castleman who proved to be fast, efficient and reasonably priced in getting our return completed. 

With the extension, we had until October 15, 2017, to file the return.  But, with a plan to put anything weighing heavily on our minds behind us, I got to work over this past week and sent Donnie everything he needed to complete the process.

We’ve seen these “flowers” in many botanical gardens throughout the world.  Thanks to friend Louise in Kauai Hawaii, she’s identified this as Pine Cone Ginger.  Thanks, Louise!

This morning at 5:00 am, I received an email from Donnie that he’d completed the return and all we needed to do was print the signature page, sign it, scan it and send it back to him.  By 6:00 am, we’d reviewed everything, completed the few tasks, saved the documents to our external hard drive and cloud, and paid his bill via PayPal.  Whew!  That’s a big relief.

Now, the only big items to accomplish between now and the next few months is extending our visas for Costa Rica by 23 days and Tom waiving Part B Medicare when the documents arrive in the snail mail in Nevada before his 65th birthday on December 23rd. 

As in my case, Part B does Tom no good outside the US which results in the necessity of us having International Health Insurance.  Neither of us has made a health insurance claim of any type in almost five years.  We’ll write more on these two topics as it transpires. 

There are six varieties of Toucans in Costa Rica.

Also, by November, we’ll need to select our clothing for the Antarctica cruise and have a physical exam by a local doctor certifying we are fit to travel to this remote location.  Neither of these items causes us any concern and we’ll be diligent in getting them done on time.  

In the interim, we can begin to relax a little and check out some sightseeing venues here in Costa Rica.  We’re not going to go crazy and go out every day.  Although we do plan to do something special at least once a week while spending plenty of time exploring on a variety of road trips.

We’ve yet to see a Toucan in the wild but surely over these next many months, we expect to.

Many have the perception that Costa Rica is run rampant by wild animals, birds, and colorful frogs. This is not necessarily the case when staying in a vacation home, resort or hotel.  No doubt, there are plenty of colorful birds flying about but we’ve yet to see a colorful frog.

Many tourist activities include hikes through the rainforests where one may be more inclined to encounter unusual wild animals.  Right now, as I continue to recover from this outrageous gastrointestinal thing, I’m not feeling like hiking in a rainforest.

I gushed over these baby rabbits as they crawled out of a hole in the ground.

Instead, yesterday we embarked on a two-hour hilly walk at what is called Zoo Ave located not too far from Atenas.  As many of our readers know, we aren’t big fans of zoos.  We prefer to see native fawn and flora in a natural setting, not behind bars. 

However, when a facility advertises itself as a rehabilitation center we’re more inclined to check it out.  As it turned out Zoo Ave (ave means “bird” in Spanish), located in La Garita, Costa Rica was well worth the trip, especially when we observed signs that depicted they’d rescued over 1000 animals in the past year.

White and black bunnies hanging out together.

It doesn’t appear that Zoo Ave has its own website so we’ve included tourist’s comments from TripAdvisor here.  With positive reviews of 4.5 of out 5, it appears others have enjoyed this facility with its intent to return rescued wildlife back to the wild when they are sufficiently healed and able to do so. 

Of course, some native animal can’t ever be returned to the wild when they’ve become dependent on human supplied food sources, making them incapable of foraging on their own.  This is particularly sad but a necessary reality of rescue facilities.

We had the opportunity for numerous Iguana sightings at the facility including some not in cages with one walking across the path we walked.

The hard part for me was being unable to take good photos of delightful creatures who were ensconced in cages.  Although none of the animals were housed in small or inadequate cages they had plenty of room to wander, fly and navigate. 

Taking photos through chain link fences is impossible for an amateur photographer like me.  So I apologize for any of our less-than-clear photos we’ll be posting over the next several days.  But, we did enjoy ourselves and we easily managed 10,000 steps on my FitBit, a goal I try to reach as often as possible.

This bird is huge, about half the size of an Ostrich.

It’s funny how during our two-hour walk through the facility, I kept thinking of Africa and how practically face-to-face encounters with wildlife has become so important for both of us.  And yet, we’re still drawn to the opportunity to see what each country has to offer in the way of its native wildlife and we often seek rescue facilities when we’re unable to spot them any other way.

Actually, even in South Africa, we visited a few rescue facilities finding them dedicated and interesting in their commitment to returning as many animals as possible to their natural environment. 

Any suggestions on what this bird may be?

Now as I look back, I could kick myself for ever going to a facility that “trains” its inhabitants to perform for humans.  We’ll never visit such a facility again if we can help it.  Over the years, we’ve become more educated and informed about wildlife which has had a tremendous impact on our views.,

After last night’s massive rain storm today is damp and humid.  We plan to stay put, continuing to work on small tasks and perhaps relax and enjoy ourselves a little now that some bigger tasks are behind us. 

A green Parrot, comparable to the one that had flown into the glass on our veranda and survived.

May you have a pleasant day!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2016:

Many residential streets are narrow with room for only one car to pass without a bit of maneuvering.  The previous night there was a bombing at a nearby location.  At this point, we had nine days remaining until departure and we were anxious to be on our way.  For more details, please click here.