The Bwindi Impenetrable Nation Park Rainforest sits in the South West of Uganda. No matter how many photos I had looked at prior to travel, nothing compared in the slightest to actually being there, within it. Feeling it, seeing it, smelling it with my own senses. It was day 1 of my Mountain Gorilla tracking in Uganda and I had a complete sense of wonder and excitement.
In the next post I will discuss the rainforest and the guides in more detail as they all deserve writing about, but today, I want to tell you about my first experience…. Mountain Gorilla tracking.
The trackers and guides gave their briefings. I was going today looking for the Mubare Family. The first family to have been habituated within the National Park. The brief covered all and especially the dos and don’ts. For example… Although the Gorillas are used to some human presence, they are still very wild animals, do not get too close! however you can’t help it if a curious young gorilla comes to you. If so, back away slowly if you can or listen carefully to the guide. BUT, if the Silverback rushes towards you? Stand still and don’t make eye contact, do not run, he wants to show you who is boss, not hurt you…
I must point out to anyone wanting to do this, Gorilla tracking, that you need to be prepared to quite possibly hike, in mountainous territory, through thick, very dense rainforest, for up to 7/9 hours. These are wild animals, moving continuously as a group, anywhere they please of course. And could be miles away from where last seen. For the sake of the animals strictly no contact is made with them for more than an hour in a day and in numbers 8 or less. I was in a group of 3 this day so a small group.
Being in a small group, and with the coincidence of us all being experience hikers, we made super progress. Straight up the first mountain, views within the forest amazing at every step. Chimpanzees could be heard calling not far away (very shy, hardly seen). The odd monkey swinging above, too high and fast to get camera ready. It was magical to just savour each step actually amongst the green canopies rather than spend all day looking down a lens.
In 3 hours we levelled out a little, the humid heat causing a good sweet though. The forest around us was getting thicker and thicker, wild animals do not follow paths. It carried on getting thicker and thicker and as the guide was using his knife to cut branches away in front you could sense he knew we were getting close.
Another hour on or so…. and… There! I glimpsed through the thick of green branches ahead, the dark shape of a mother gorilla carrying a baby on her back. We had found them, and I cannot tell you exactly how that felt or the emotion it brought out. Too hard to explain, the elation, the wonder of the true wild, this was a group of wild mountain gorillas, in their own habitat, no bars or glass, they were doing what they wanted to do.
Gulp, this was real, and it was amazing. We only had 1 hour maximum in their vicinity. Not a moment in your life to just take photos, it was a time to experience, watch, marvel. In fact you need to keep your wits about you too, where is the Silverback? Ah there he is, watching all you do around his family, very very closely!
This Silverback is called Kanyonyi and as he was happy with our small group getting… not too close… so, for the most, he was calm.
Tomorrow’s family leader was a different story altogether! Crikey yes, will talk about it in the next post.
Time was flying fast! I was able to get a few short clips of special moments. Shows just how close they got plus a baby banging his chest in play.
The Silverback is in charge and when he says move, they all move, so I can definitely say that once you have tracked them you simply stand still and watch. They are still on the move and cutting through the forest. Every now and then they stop for a few minutes, parents taking a chance to have a small nap or rest 🙂
That is, if their children will let them… jumping on top of them.
The hour goes so fast. Before you know it, it is time to say goodbye. One of the most memorable hours you will spend in your life I can assure you. I have done some experiences in my life as you know from the pages on this site. But it will take a lot to come close to this. Bye bye Mubare family.
The euphoria was high and so much so you didn’t even think of the miles back down through the rainforest, off the mountains to the base. In any case the nature was to be enjoyed!
And also… I was lucky to have another track to do tomorrow, another part of the forest with another different family. Exciting!
I must thank The Insurance Emporium for helping me get on this trip of a lifetime experience!