Michael Georgallis tells us about his first experiences in Mefou and why he decided to join the handshake in Cameroon.
What made you want to join the Primate Handshake??
First of all, I enjoy travelling a lot, so experiencing something new with the handshake as a guide follows part of my dream to travel the world and to experience new cultures and ideas.
I love a good adventure – something that is new and exciting with an element of exploration was right up my street. I’ve never been to central Africa and don’t know many people that have, let alone stayed at primate a sanctuary in the middle of the rainforest. It was an opportunity not to miss.
As a keen amateur photographer, I enjoy taking pictures of things I’ve seen and sharing them with others. I feel a great satisfaction with getting a good photograph when the right things to come together it always gives you a great sense of pride in your work.
I suppose one of the main reasons I’m here, is to do with my friends Lucy and Mike who shared similar passions of adventure and conservation. They also shared their passion for primates and that made me want to learn more about them.
What is your background and how does it relate to the trip?
I come from a very technically focussed environment, I design and guid race cars for a living, it is a completely different world here in Cameroon to what I am used to.
Quite honestly, I have no real experience with primates or conservation as such, but I have always dreamt about heading to the amazon to catalogue tropical fish as a marine biologist. Tropical life and biology has been something that has always held a great interest for me, so having the chance to go a trip to a similar climate with my friends while also getting to learn about primates and conservation seemed like a no brainer.
I’m an avid cyclist and runner, having the chance to compete in a few Triathlons this year. Pushing myself to go further and improve is something I always aspire to in everyday life and I felt I could contribute to that goal with the handshake trip by broadening my horizons and seeing a different side of the planet.
The opportunity was there for the taking and I went for it, with a once in a lifetime experience like this – it was impossible to say no. All of the aspects came together, volunteering and helping people, conservation and primates. Somewhere you can see these great apes in a sanctuary much closer to their natural habitat – the closest thing I’d experienced before coming here was London zoo.
What are your first impressions of Mefou?
On the plane, I had no idea what to expect, my imagination stopped at the airport, it was a completely new continent and experience for me. It was very hard to know what was going to happen, even from the get go.
As soon as I saw Kennedy, our driver from the airport, I knew this was going to be a special trip – something out of the ordinary was about to happen. In the truck on the way down Magique System came on the radio. It was like a dream, something so familiar to me in such a foreign land. Amazing.
Just a few hundred metres away from the airport you realise just how rural Cameroon is, the forest is right there and something you hardly see in any other city I’ve been. Driving down the dirt road to the sanctuary in the back of a 4×4 as there are lightning storms rolling over the hills on the horizon, the sense of adventure really starts to kick in.
One of the things that really hit me was the sound of the Jungle at night, the noise and volume is incredible.
What do you hope to gain your experience here in Cameroon?
To see these great animals up close and getting the experience of helping to conserve them, while also improving my photography and media skills is a great opportunity.
I am here to learn and experience new things. I hope to learn much more about Cameroon, to see how people live here, learn more about the primates at the sanctuary and understand why they’re here in the first place. It is important for me to understand what work people do here to care for the primates that have been orphaned by the bush meat trade and poaching. The next step for me is to see how we can help and what people like me at home in the UK can do to for sanctuaries like Ape Action Africa.