Why this OAT traveler can’t get enough of Africa—her own “adult” summer camp
January 19, 2012
For some people, there are destinations that capture their hearts … places that have an effect on them unlike any other they’ve ever been. You might say that’s true for Ann Barkley—a 5-time traveler from Portland, Oregon. You see, Ann has been to many places in her lifetime, but there’s one place in particular that she can’t seem to get enough of: Africa.
“Traveling on an OAT African safari is a lot like adult summer camp,” shares Ann. “It’s a really active trip, and you’re away from the modern world—without all of the push buttons of everyday life. As you get used to the sounds of the animals around you, you begin to tell the differences between them. It’s really amazing.”
One of the things Ann loves most about travel is learning about other cultures and interacting with the people of the places she visits, just as she did when invited to dance with a group of Maasai women during OAT’s A Day in the Life program.
Ann has traveled with several tour companies, but she keeps coming back to OAT. Not only does she cite her terrific guides and her fellow travelers as reasons for this, but she especially likes the small group size found on OAT adventures. “When I travel to places like Africa, I want to see herds of animals, not feel like I’m part of a herd myself,” Ann says. “The smaller group lets you get really close to the people of Africa … simply having lunch with them is such an informative experience. No other company gets you to learn about a destination like OAT does.”
Of course, Africa isn’t the only place Ann has been. After her children went to college, Ann began working for a company that allowed her to travel to Western Europe quite a bit. Once she retired, she decided she wanted to begin going to places that weren’t just like the western world—places where the culture was still very much intact. She also knew it was important to travel to places that required more vigor and activity first—then she would tackle the less active destinations. Since she retired, she’s been to destinations like India, Vietnam, Egypt, and Africa—twice.
Ann says she can’t get enough of Africa, especially since—no matter where you go—the landscapes and wildlife are vastly different. “I had no idea I’d see penguins in Africa!” Ann shares, which she witnessed during her visit to southern Cape Town in South Africa.
“Why do I love Africa so much? I love being out in the bush, and getting away from everything,” Ann says. “I love waking up in the morning, having my tea and cereal, and then heading out to find some animals. It’s so dusty out there … but it’s magic. Then, we come back to camp, take a divine shower and a little rest, and head out again in the evening for a sundowner safari. And then we cap off the evening with a gin and tonic. It really is like adult summer camp!”
Although Ann normally travels with her cousin Sally Shannon, an 8-time traveler from Lemoore, California, or one of her friends, she especially enjoys meeting the fellow travelers in her groups. “Many travelers are educators, or—like me—just love to learn,” Ann says. “The camaraderie between these people that want to have a safe adventure, and learn more about the world around us, is great.”
During her Ultimate Africa safari, Ann and her cousin Sally (left) met this local witch doctor in Botswana.
Of course, Ann can’t get enough of the wildlife and landscapes she’s seen in Africa either. Although she’s already been on two African safaris with OAT—Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari and The Best of Kenya & Tanzania—she says that both trips have been very different. “On my Ultimate Africa safari, the topography differs considerably between each country, and we tracked lots of animals," Ann shares. “But on my Kenya/Tanzania trip, the plains are so vast and the animals so plentiful, they were almost sitting on my lap."
She even added another African country to her Kenya and Tanzania adventure by traveling on the extension to Rwanda: Mountain Gorilla Trek. “I didn’t really know what to expect from Rwanda,” Ann admits. “But when we landed—much to my surprise—it was a beautiful country.” One day, while on a trek to find some of the gorillas the region is known for, Ann encountered a once-in-a-lifetime scene: “We came upon a troupe of gorillas with a silverback male, twin gorilla kids, a few uncles, and many mama gorillas,” Ann says. “As we approached, the silverback looked right at me. It was as if our souls were communicating. It was the most amazing feeling.”
During Ann’s extension to Rwanda, her group encountered a troupe of gorillas during a trek, where she spotted this female gorilla.
Besides the wildlife and diverse topography, Ann says that the people of Africa are what keep her coming back to the continent again and again. “You see these people who have just enough food and shelter to get by, but you also see an incredible joy inside of them,” Ann shares. “When you return home after seeing such things, you can’t ignore it. It stays with you.”
One of Ann’s favorite aspects of Africa is the local people she’s come across along the way, like this basket weaver she met in Rwanda.
And Africa has certainly stayed with Ann. She’s says she’ll go back to Africa in a heartbeat if she can. “I’m the type of person who wants to learn a little bit of everything,” Ann says. “I don’t need to be an expert, but I want to be informed and see things for myself. I’m on a quest to see the world … what brings sadness and joy to other people. These trips give me time to reflect on my world, as well as theirs.”
Do you, like Ann, have a place that holds a special place in your heart? I’d love to hear about it, and why it’s had such an effect on you. Email me at email@example.com.