Though most visitors to Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage (http://www.chimfunshi.org.za/) visit for a few weeks or more via an organized university group or long-term volunteer agreement, my renegade, four-night visit was a definite highlight of three weeks spent roaming Zambia. If you are lucky enough to arrive in the town of Chingola at the exact right time and lucky enough to find Chimfunshi's base office there and lucky enough to find someone working in the base office, you just might catch the bi-weekly supply run made by orphanage staff and snag yourself a spot in the back of the truck for an incredibly bouncy, two-hour-plus ride to the Orphanage. You'll have to stay on constant alert not to be knocked out by flying stalks of sugarcane along the way. It will be worth it. You can pitch your tent and spend your days watching the resident chimps do their thing, dodging sifaka (fire ants!), helping out with chores, and watching Billy, the resident hippo, lumber dangerously around the yard. If you're REALLY lucky, you'll get invited to help take a group of young, rehabilitated chimps into the forest for some exercise. Two hours of swinging heavy chimps in circles, serving as a springboard, and dodging them so they don't jump from a tree directly onto you will leave you bruised and exhausted. But did I mention?: it will be worth it!
Photo credit: Anita Gardner