VETS Adventure Series Visits Rwanda


     In July 2018, twenty Adventurers (veterinarians + family members) visited Rwanda to track and observe the Mountain Gorillas.  The VETS Adventure Travelers flew from across the USA into Kigali- the capital city of Rwanda. From there, we were shuttled (2 1/2 hour drive) by Primate Safaris to the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Volcanoes National Park.

     The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is lovely. The rooms were excellent with comfortable beds and nice bathrooms.  Each room had a magnificent view of the Volcanoes National Park. The food was amazing and there were plenty of outstanding African wines to enjoy with dinner.

     The Sabyinyo Staff was friendly and helpful. The parking lot is at the base of the facility and it was a little bit of an uphill walk to the lodge-- at 9,000 feet-- so those of us not acclimated to the high altitude were quickly winded and appreciated that the Staff would carry our bags and backpacks for us!

Here's the view out our window at Sabyinyo

Here's the view out our window at Sabyinyo

There are about 170 gorillas in the park. They are social animals that live in groups generally composed of a dominant male and up to five or more females and their young. Each gorilla group is continually foraging for food.  Their food consists mainly of leaves, buds, tubers and wild celery.

Trackers went out in front of our group to locate the gorillas and our Guides communicated with the Trackers to lead us right to the gorillas. Well, there actually was some hiking through the jungle (~9,000 ft above sea level) before we actually got to see the gorillas!


Once we arrived at the gorilla group, we were allowed one hour of 'viewing time.'In this video, you can see the gorillas tumbling around like a couple of unruly kittens.

We had the opportunity to "track and trek" a different group of gorillas on the second day.   

Every gorilla family is different, just like every human family.  Our second group of gorillas has a dominant silverback and a subordinate silverback. Here is the subordinate in deep thought . . .


This young 'blackback' gave us some excitement when he jumped out of the brush and chased another juvenile along our path. We always tried to maintain a 7 meter distance from the gorillas, but they didn't always follow that rule!  After his game of 'tag' with the other gorilla, he decided to sit down along our trail and strike a pose.


The trek to find the gorillas ranged from about one hour in the jungle up to 3 hours (plus drive time.)  Once we found the gorillas, there is a one hour limit on the visitation.  Though we were sorry to see our hour come to an end, we understood that the gorillas had important things like foraging and playing to do and we bid them 'farewell' with smiles on our faces.

The VETS Adventurers at the conclusion of our second Gorilla Trek!

The VETS Adventurers at the conclusion of our second Gorilla Trek!

For more information about the veterinary-related trips and continuing education that we offer, go to!  


Na Pali Adventures with Cap’n Andy

This amazing adventure involving the Na Pali coastline is a possible excursion options for your pleasure. 

o   A dinner sunset sail using a sail or motor boat

Cap’n Andy, our operator, has provided excursions for our meetings for many years and has been selected based on the quality of his people and equipment, safety, quality of food and overall value.

Bev and I think of the Na Pali Coast is one of the wonders of the world and something we enjoy revisiting time after time.  You never know what kind of wave action, wind and sky you’ll get and we’ve been out and had a great time in all kinds of conditions.

More often than not we’ve seen spinner dolphins on our way out or back, and usually have had dolphin pods running along the boats. Obviously their presence is beyond our control;  however our luck in the past has been exceptional.  It’s especially wonderful to see them jump and spin.  The prevailing opinion is this behavior helps rid them of external parasites, but as we look at them it just seems to be for plain fun.

The cave exploring in the raft is amazing.  How much you get to do depends on the sea conditions but it’s a real thrill to move in and out of those areas as the sea rises and falls.  Your captain will be very experienced and only attempt what is safe.

Be prepared, the ride out and back in the raft isn’t the most comfortable on your back.  As you go over the waves it can be a bit pounding and you’re sitting on the sides of the raft more or less facing the center.  I found I needed to put my outside leg over the side and sit facing more forward to keep my back relatively happy.  If you have back issues I’d recommend the sunset sail (the easiest) or the snorkel (much easier than the raft).  The bigger boats can’t get into the caves like the raft, so the experience is different, but anything you do on the Na Pali coast will be a one-of-a-kind adventure you won’t ever forget. 

The snorkel areas depend a lot on weather and can be amazing or sometimes only just “wonderful”.  Exploring the reef is quite an experience and don’t be surprised if you see critters you don’t often see while snorkeling elsewhere.

If conditions allow the raft will land you on a beach (where an ancient 800 year old Hawaiian village once stood) and allow you to eat on land and then snorkel the nearby reef.

In all cases the late afternoon/setting sun on the Na Pali hills should provide AMAZING photo opportunities.  I put my camera in a plastic bag for much of the ride out and back, but when the light was right it was around my neck and getting a good workout.

No transfers from or to the hotel are provided for these tours, so you’ll need to leave early for check in.  The location is Ele Ele and they’ll transfer you to Port Allen to get on the boat.  This is at least 35 minute drive if you know where you’re going and add 15 minutes if you don’t.  Cap’n Andy’s is located in the building below the McDonald’s in Ele Ele. 

If we're very lucky you may find some whales while we’re there as well.  We hope so!

Thar she blows.. . 

Don Klingborg, DVM






Kauai ATV Waterfall Tour

A guided tour taking about four hours and covering 23 miles of back roads and trails through tunnels, forests and farm/range lands.  Includes visits to a waterfall along with beautiful landscapes where parts of Hollywood productions including Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Days and Seven Nights, among others, were filmed.


Wear a swimsuit and water-friendly shoes/sandals, and bring a towel.  They’ll provide a freshly laundered shirt and riding shorts to absorb most of the dust and some of the mud.  You’ll also receive a helmet, goggles and a great bandana that can serve as a mask over your nose and mouth.  They have dressing rooms, toilets and lockers at the starting (and finishing) point.


Depending on weather you may experience splashing water, mud, dust, debris and other fun stuff.  I experienced a “mini” exposure while doing a site visit recently and made it through unscathed wearing one of their shirts over my clothes and camera.  If I were on the full trip I expect I would have come away considerably more dirty.


I don’t recommend taking expensive cameras on this trip – very bumpy and potentially very dusty, wet or muddy.  Their motto is “Do Something Dirty” and they mean it (in the nicest way).  Plenty of pretty things to photograph, but phone photo should meet your needs.


A deli lunch with a local snack and beverage will be provided and you’ll get some history, geography, geology and Hollywood information from the guides while on your journey.  You’ll have time to frolic in a freshwater mountain pool at the base of Mount Kahili before returning to the starting point at the old sugar mill.


They provide a variety of ATV’s.  The Mud Bunny is a single passenger vehicle (the driver) for those going solo.  The Mud Bug is for a driver and passenger, and the Ohana Bug is for a driver and 3 passengers.  There are two types of Mud Bugs available, the fancy and colorful model imported from China, and the plain utility models that are imported from Israel. 


My experience was in the Israeli model and it was a blast.  Noisy and a bit dusty, it handled the dirt roads and trails beautifully and was surprisingly comfortable.  Be forewarned, however, this in not recommended for people with bad backs or those concerned about keeping clean and tidy.  Should you be pregnant I strongly suggest a different excursion.



Transfers from and return to the hotel are included, and only about 10 minutes away so your time is spent playing rather than driving to and from the location.


Do Something Dirty!


Don Klingborg, DVM









Grand Hyatt Anara Spa -- VETS Attendees get a discount!

The Anara Spa is located adjacent to the fitness center, and offers all the amenities in its 45,000 sq. ft. 

 The fitness center is spacious with lots of equipment scattered among a few connected rooms.  Flat screen TV’s, the latest in cardio and strength-training equipment and available to hotel guests 24 hours a day.  They offer treadmills, cross trainers, upright and recumbent bikes, free weights, strength machines, stability balls, stretching mats, resistance tubing, jump ropes and weighted bars. 


In the spa ancient healing traditions combine with island botanical essences to inspire lokahi—balance and harmony of body and spirit.  Massages, body treatments and facials are offered in elegantly appointed treatment rooms, each opening onto its own tropical garden.  Unwind in the dry sauna, steam showers, or relaxation room.  Swim in the lap pool, or soothe those gnarly muscles in the Jacuzzi.  Water, tea, fruit and nuts are freely available.  You may also order a light lunch from a menu.

 Following your treatment, shower in the secluded outdoor lava showers then enjoy a full compliment of toiletries, including sunscreen, body lotion, and deodorant.  There are blow driers and hairbrushes (each one sealed in plastic) as well as styling gel.  With any purchase of a spa treatment, you have full use of the spa for that day.

 I had a 50 minute massage followed by a 50 minute facial.  The masseuse and the esthetician were both very professional and experienced.  They graciously personalized their treatments to address my requests and the result was one contented wet noodle.

 Bev Klingborg

Koloa Zip Line

“Holy Zip!!”

This is a great course for both the novice and the experienced “zipper”. 


The equipment is excellent, the guides are well trained and they provide a very useful “ground school” at the starting point.  I appreciated the attention to safety, the excellent launching and landing platforms and the unique options to match your experience with your preferences.

The “Flyin’ Kaua’iian” harness allows you to be hands and feet free, comfortably suspended and “Flyin” like Superman.   Another option is the “Aerobatics” harness that allows you to “Fly” upside down, backwards, spinning, in a spread eagle and starfish, and maybe in some other positions?  “Tandem” allows you to “Fly” with your kids (7 years and older) which is a great way to introduce them (or have them introduce you) to zipping.  Some of these options require a $20 upgrade fee and you can decide at the ground school.

Novices will want to ask for the rigging with the handlebar pulleys, allowing them more control as they fly between platforms.

Offering fantastic views, the course includes eight lines and takes about 3.5 hours to complete.  It runs through Hawaiian forests and hillsides with lovely views of the ocean, forest, rivers, mountains and the largest fresh water reservoir on the Island.  It includes three of the longest lines on Kauai with “the whopper” being Waita – ½ mile in length. 

A snack including a tasty tidbit from Anahola Granola, plus juice and water.  Only 12 at a time to minimize waiting and maximize “Flyin’”.

Minimum age for kids is 7 years, and those from 7 to 17 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.  Weight limit is 270 lbs. max for solo zippers, 280 lb. combined weight for tandems.   You will have a couple of walks up the hill, each about 400 feet in length, and one is at a 45 degree angle, so low to moderate physical strength is required.  Those of you with heart conditions, bone/joint injuries or a bad back should seek out a different excursion.  Similarly, those of you who are pregnant are not allowed to participate. 

A shirt with sleeves is recommended (no tank tops).  Knee length or longer pants, bring a jacket just in case and sturdy CLOSED TOE shoes are required.  Sneakers and boots are great.  Sandals and Crocks or other slip-ons are not allowed.   You can bring a small backpack for personal items.  One bottle of water is supplied.  You’ll have great still and video photo opportunities, but be sure the camera is secured to your body as they are very difficult to find if they fall.

It’s only 10 minutes from the hotel and transfers are provide from the hotel and the return.

Whether you’re a novice or expert, I think this course has something for you to really enjoy.

Be your own version of a “Flyin’ Kaua’iian”!

Don Klingborg, DVM




Hanging out on the Big Island–Gill’s Lanai and Pololu Lookout

One of the best things about mornings-only lectures at a VETS conference is getting to choose your own adventure every afternoon.


After a great time in the canopy thanks to our new friends at Kohala Zipline, we decided check out the town of Kapaau and the surrounding area.

Our first priority was to eat, and we were fortunate to find Gill’s Lanai.  Word on the street was that if Gill’s had mahi mahi for the Fish & Chips then it couldn’t be missed.

Now Gill’s Lanai is appropriately named, it’s basically a one room restaurant where you walk inside to order and then dine on the “covered patio” (which, as you undoubtedly know, is the English phrase for lanai in Hawaiian.)


Gill’s Lanai is locatedon the right hand side of Highway 270 in the town of Kapaau. I
don’t want to jinx you, but “you can’t miss it.”  As you can see, it’s centrally located.😉

I did have the Fish & Chips– and appreciated that the seasoned coating on the mahi was very light. This wasn’t one of those heavy beer-battered deep fried coatings that made you drink a gallon of water for the next eight days. Instead, Gill’s seasoning on the mahi complemented the moist, tender, flaky and succulent fish beautifully.

Others in the group enjoyed the Fish Tacos, the Lobster Tacos and even a Hot Dog.  All meals were prepared fresh and were equally delicious (even the hot dog was great.)  I also enjoyed a mango smoothie, which was incredibly refreshing on a warm Hawaiian day.  There are no pictures of the food because: 1) I think that posting pictures of food can be annoying, 2) it’s food– it really can’t be appreciated until you taste it, and 3) we were hungry.


After lunch, we continued the journey to the Pololu Valley Lookout . . . just a few miles further down the road in North Kohala.

It was a scenic drive made more interesting by glimpses of the untamed Big Island coastline and the occasional home, barn or church.

At the end of the road, you’ll find a parking lot and the Pololu Valley Lookout. Turn to the right and you’ll see that the Pololu Valley looks as though it was carved out of the surrounding jagged rock by a giant plow.



Look to the left, and you’ll notice that the Pololu Valley leads straight toward the ocean.  From this vantage point, there is a steep hike down to the water below, if you should wish to take it. I followed the instructions, and since this is the “Lookout” point, I chose to look out and not hikeout.  Rumor has it that the black sand beach below is gorgeous, but swimming there is strongly discouraged.



Ah, another glorious afternoon in Hawaii.  Now, it’s time to head back to the hotel and drink a Lava Flow! 

An Abbreviated History of Australia

(Shamelessly plagiarized from a number of sources by Don Klingborg)


     The continent went “walkabout” 65 million years ago, separating from the supercontinent Gondwanaland and slowly migrating into the Pacific and Indian oceans.  While the highest point on the continent is just over 7,000 ft. (Mount Kosciuszko), Australia is the flattest of all continents having been worn down by rain over millions of years.  It is one of the world’s most stable landmasses in regard to seismic activity, and is considered “a finished product” by geologists.

     The first Australians are thought to have arrived between 50,000 and 120,000 years ago.  This was during the ice age and the frozen ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere consumed so much water that the world’s sea levels were 400 feet lower than they are currently, making it possible to walk across many areas that are under water today (e.g., you could walk between the Australian mainland and Tasmania and New Guinea, and only a short boat ride to some of the Islands in Indonesia).

     Two types of people were early immigrants to Australia:  a heavy framed group referred to as “Robust” people (who didn’t survive to modern times) and a slender race named “Gracile”.  Today’s Aborigines are descendants of the gracile people. 

     About 8,000 years ago the earth began to warm and sea levels began to rise, isolating Australia.  Little happened to change the landscape during the earliest visits from European explorers predominantly in the 16th century, including the Dutch, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and the English.   They found a continent with many strange animals and plants along with a widely dispersed population of Aborigines.  The distribution of water created huge desert areas and resulted in the continent being largely unpeopled.  With the exception of the fertile area along the eastern coast and a small green area in the southwestern corner, the continent is arid with inhospitable scrub and outright desert. 

     Eighteen year’s after Captain James Cook “discovered” Australia in 1770 the English sent eleven ships carrying 778 convicts (men, women and children as young as nine) to Cook’s landing spot, Botany Bay (about 20 km from Sydney) to create a colony.  These ships are called the “First Fleet” and are considered as their equivalent of our “Mayflower”.  The first recorded words spoken by the Aborigines and directed to these “invaders” were “Warra Warra”, meaning, “Go away”.   They didn’t.

     The 1788 shipment of convicts from England to Australia was in part as a consequence of the successful American Revolution, thereby eliminating the ability for England to continue to ship her convicts to Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas (which was a common practice).  A backlog of prisoners in English jails resulted, growing at a rate of about 1,000 per year.  At the same time French ambitions in the Pacific spurred the English to secure a position in the region and they adopted a policy of exporting their backlog of prisoners “down under”. 

      When Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1770 it was the rainy season, however when the First Fleet arrived in 1778 it was the dry season and the fresh water and green grasses Cook described were nowhere to be found. The fleet sailed about 19 km north and discovered a great harbor with fresh water and settled there, naming it after Lord Sydney, and the colonization era began. 

     The first years were very difficult and the success of the colony was in jeopardy until 1791 when a second fleet arrived with supplies and more convict labor.  Most of the convicts were petty criminals charged with minor offenses such as stealing food for their kids.  Some were political prisoners, and about half of all those transported had received a seven-year sentence and could return to England at the end of their term if they could pay their way. Those with skills or wealth might be freed early and were able to establish small businesses around Sydney.  The distance and cost of securing passage back to England meant most who were transported to Australia were there for life.  With the exception of South Australia all other Australian territories were founded with convict labor.  Transportation of convicts to Australia ended in 1868 at which time about 160,000 people had been exiled there from England.

      Captain William Bligh, of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, became the second governor of the colony in the early 1800’s but was unable to break the power of the “Rum Corps”, a gang of ex-army individuals from the first voyage who controlled all aspects of the colony and used rum as their currency. I think most of us will be surprised to learn that Captain Bligh suffered a second mutiny as governor and lost power to the “Rum Corps” who remained in power until a third governor arrived.  The “third time was a charm” as Mr. Lachlan Macquarie from Scotland was successful in wrestling power from the Rum Corps, organizing and stabilizing the colony and eventually was pivotal in Australia officially being so named. 

      Australia has one large and navigable river, the Murray-Darling that flows for over 1,500 miles from the Victorian mountains west and south to the cost of South Australia.  This river irrigates the majority of the prime farmland.  Many of the ranches today, especially those outside of Victoria or South Australia, encompass hundreds of thousands of acres.  There is abundant water that can be harvested with wells, but most of the land requires about 50 acres to produce enough feed to sustain one cow for one year.  With as many as 160 million sheep in the country a ranch needs to be pretty darn big to feed all those mouths.

      Gold rushes in the 1850’s attracted tens of thousands of miners and are thought by some to be the major force that made Australia into a prosperous colony.  Additional strikes followed in Western Australia and Queensland, attracting about 90K prospectors per year.  Today Australia produces more than 200 tons of gold per year.   Much of this production comes from huge open-pit mines in Western Australia, northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

      Other minerals found in Australia include silver, lead, zinc, copper, uranium, opals (85% of the world’s known supply), diamonds (>1/3 of the world’s supply), coal and petroleum.

      Australia grew as independent territories reflected in the map below.  They apparently didn’t agree on much (for example every railroad had a unique gauge and it was not possible to take one train across territorial borders). In 1901 the politicians came together and formed a commonwealth.  As part of that agreement the new capital could not be in any existing territory so some land was given by New South Wales to create an independent area (the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra)(sounds like what we did in Washington DC)).

      Following World War II Australia set on a policy of inviting immigrants under the banner of “populate or perish”.  The population grew rapidly with immigrants from all over the world throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. 

      In 1788 when the First Fleet landed it is estimated there were about 300,000 Aborigines on the continent.  These people were scattered among over 400 tribes all with distinct languages and customs.  The history of Australia and their aborigines in many ways paralleled our history with America’s native populations.  

     In the 1960’s Australia experienced civil disobedience associated with Aborigine rights.  In 1967 Aborigines received full citizenship and voting rights.  Subsequently, two major court decisions provided the Aborigines with legal title to their lands (in 1992) and with title allowing for mining and pastoral leases while still retaining ownership (in 1996).  While land issues remain politically contentious and continue to play out in Australian society, the Aborigine population has made inroads to more equitable treatment.

     Aborigines today continue to suffer from three times the rate of infant mortality compared to the rest of the population, have a life expectancy that’s more than 15 years less than average, and suffer higher rates of alcoholism, tuberculosis, heart disease, diabetes, and hepatitis.

     On the animal scene about 17 species of kangaroos have gone extinct since the Frist Fleet’s arrival, but there are more kangaroos today than 200 years ago (now about 50 million, approximately three times the number of humans).  There are 150 marsupial species and more than 750 species of birds.

     Merino sheep were imported in 1795 and currently there are an estimated 120 to 160 million sheep in Australia.  Merino provides the fine wool (very thin) that makes up the best in clothing.  Today Australia produces about 70% of the world’s supply of premium wool.

     If you’ve never sheared a sheep you’re really missing something quite special.  Everyone should do it, but only once, as it’s backbreaking and exhausting work.  Big Jackie Howe holds the world record for hand shearing, having done 321 sheep in the standard shearer’s workday of 7 hours and 40 minutes with a hand shear in 1892.  His record stood until 1950 however the new record was accomplished with mechanical shears rather than hand shears.  The record with electric shears is 805 sheep in a day set by Alan MacDonald in 1990.  We had sheep when the kids were growing up and I regularly sheared them, and then sutured them up as I was not a gifted shearer (but pretty darn good at suturing).

     There are a number of experiences with people importing animals to the continent that have had major impacts.  In 1859 Thomas Austin was missing his foxhunts and brought in a couple of dozen rabbits as an alternative sporting animal.  Six years later they were shooting about 20,000 a year and still losing ground to the rapidly growing population.  By 1930 it was estimated there were 1 billion rabbits there and in 1950 they imported and released a myxomatosis virus that killed most but not all of the rabbits.  By 1990 the population was back up to 350 million and in 1996 they imported another virus, this time a calicivirus that killed about 98% of the population.  That surviving two percent is growing the population again.

     Foxes, trout, the cane toad, domestic cats and domestic dogs (the dingo is native), pigs, horses, sheep, donkeys and camels have all been imported and there are problems with each of these species impacting native species. 

     You’ll find a vibrant and varied restaurant scene.  Their immigration policies resulted in more than 160 different nationalities represented by significant numbers of people.  While Sydney and Cairns are known for their seafood, you’ll find Asian, Indian, Italian, Greek and Lebanese eateries abundantly available.

     You may even want to try a traditional staple, the Aussie BBQ, consisting of burned lamb chops and sausages with potato salad.  Goes great with a Foster’s lager.

     You’ll find Australia to be filled with wonderful and happy people, amazing scenery and quite a mixture of animals.