“We admit that we like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes.” – Richard Dawkins Our fifth edition of Leading Ladies champions our pioneering primatologists. Women like Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to the conservation of Mountain Gorillas and brought this endangered species back from the brink. Women like Jane Goodall who arrived in Tanzania, age 26 with a notebook, a pair of binoculars and a strong desire to study wild chimpanzees. Now one of the worlds leading primate ambassadors whose conservation work continues to protect chimps, habitat and local communities worldwide. Ashley Leiman, who first visited the rain-forests of Malaysia in 1974, set up the Orangutan Foundation UK to help primate conservation and today leads our Borneo Orangutan conservation tour to Tanjung Puting National Park.

Every hour rain-forest areas the equivalent to 300 football pitches are being destroyed in Malaysia and Indonesia by the palm oil industry.

Ahead of her time


Dian Fossey changed the future of gorilla conservation. In 1967 Dian Fossey set up camp in Rwanda’s Parc des Volcan. She found a species on the brink of extinction. Although Dian was not an advocate of gorilla tourism – it is this aspect and the money generated from tourism that has helped fund their conservation and pay the park guides to protect these great apes. Almost 50 years later they are still endangered but protected and the population is slowly climbing with an estimated 880 Mountain Gorillas in the world. “The man who kills animals today is the man who kills the people who get in his way tomorrow.” – Dian Fossey

FOLLOW IN HER FOOTSTEPS Gorilla trekking holidays

Currently top of the tree

Jane Goodall

Pioneering Primatologist & UN Messenger of peace


Dr Jane Goodall DBE is one of the world’s leading primatologists in chimpanzee behaviour. 

“What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” – Jane Goodall

Best know for her 55 year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Goodall’s research challenged long term beliefs that only humans could construct and use tools and that chimpanzees were vegetarian. She observed chimpanzees feeding at a termite mound placing grass stalks into the mound to fish for termites and also stripping leaves from twigs to make them more effective as a tool for capturing. She also observed chimps hunting and eating colobus monkeys.

Follow in her footsteps

One of our own

Ashley Leiman

Expert leader on our Borneo Orangutan Conservation Tour


Ashley Leiman founded the Orangutan Foundation UK in 1990. One of the leading figures in orangutan conservation, Ashley spends approx a third of her year in the field (predominatly in Indonesian Borneo). She is also leading our trip to Borneo

We asked Ashley to share her thoughts on who has inspired her to do what she does, what advice she would give and more…

Who has inspired you to to what you do?

Growing up I wanted to be Albert Schweitzer, the French-German theologian, organist, philosopher and physician. He inspired me with the words “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

What inspires you?

My first experience in 1974 in the rainforests of Malaysia, I knew I was ‘home.’ Today it’s the continued motivation and enthusiasm of our Indonesian staff and knowing we make a difference.

What advice would you give to young ladies wishing to follow in your footsteps?

They are future conservationists – change is in their hands.

Read our full Q & A with ASHLEY here



 11 DAYS FROM £2,795 PP


Download our guide for expert tips and FAQ on what to pack, which parks to visit, our choice of accommodation and what family groups and behaviour you might see.


Join other leading ladies

Alex Walker Ladybug safaris In conjunction with Alexander Walker’s Serian, we are offering the first-ever fully female guided safari. Start your journey in Kenya’s Mara North Conservancy and then head into Tanzania’s Northern Serengeti.


Votes for Women



Who has inspired you? Cast your vote as to who we should feature next. Send your suggestions to leadingladies@steppestravel.co.uk

On Location


“It is thought that one in ten products found on supermarket shelves today come from palm oil. Rainforest areas the equivalent to 300 football pitches are being destroyed every hour in Malaysia and Indonesia.” According to the UN  there is risk that by 2020 there will be no wild orangutan remaining outside protected areas. What can we do to help protect the habitat of the orangutan?