Gorilla Tracking Uganda – The Habinyanja Family

Gorilla Tracking Uganda - The Habinyanja Family 1

It was a new day and was lucky enough to have a second day of tracking a Mountain Gorilla family. After the trek, excitement and amazement from the previous days meeting with a wild Gorilla family, I was so very much looking forward to meeting another group today. Having that previous day’s experience allows me now to relax more and look on and see deeper into these truly wonderful wild animals.

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I must thank firstly The Insurance Emporium for helping me make this special trip! A trip of a lifetime I assure you!

Before we could back into the rainforest and tracking the Gorillas it was time for the briefings from the excellent local guides here at Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest. Gad (below) gives a top brief that puts everyone at ease and also answers any questions with great expertise and authority.

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It was time to go look for a different Gorilla family to yesterday, the Habinyanja group. Named from how they were first discovered, ‘Nyanja’ – a place with water, as they were first found near a swamp.

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I have also explained more previously how these Mountain Gorillas are very carefully managed and looked after. They are wild, go where they please, and never ever around humans for any more than an hour. Nor in groups larger than 8. Hence be prepared to hike and hike in the humid mountain terrain. I loved it and was in my element. The rainforest is out of this world. The sounds, the smells, the colours.

Yesterday we trekked for a few hours to find the family. Today we were luckier, we actually found the Habinyanja Family within an hour, it is not always so, as I say these animals go where they want.

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That same feeling as yesterday came out, seeing the Gorillas appear amongst the thick dense green all around. Impossible to describe fully! Emotion overwhelms. As I had the experience the day before, I took more time today truly observing them with my own eyes instead of using all moments with my camera.

I found this particular scene truly wonderful. A mother nursing her baby! 🙂

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Unlike yesterday also, this group’s Silverback was a different beast altogether too! Makara, he weighs nearly 200 kg, stands 6 ft tall, and is 42 years old. That means he never grew to dominance with human habituation around. He has much of his wild traits, which were ever present. Yes, he charged us, more than once.

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This is where the briefings came in so handy. He charges because he is showing you he is the dominant member and protector of the family. Warning you to behave. If this giant charges you? Stand still, don’t give eye contact, and bow your head subordinately. I can say with experience now this works. No matter how much the fear of this huge gnarling wild animal gets to you, do not run. He gets to a point, sees he has won, grunts in satisfaction, and moves on with his family.

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As you spend time around his family you will have his eyes watching you all the time! Move slowly and quietly around his family 🙂

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This family also had a different angle, it had a stroppy…. Blackback. This is a male that has not taken over and grown its silver back, although it would like to for sure. Whenever I got glimpses of him he was always away from the group, always seemingly in a huff, and although whenever the Silverback says move, the whole group moves, the blackback seemed to push it and stay behind or away, just enough.

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Of course, the babies and youngsters always steal the show. In the moments the parents stop to eat or rest, they take the opportunity to play or be cheeky. The whole dynamic is a joy to watch. Something you would never ever get in any captivity at all!

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These are wild Mountain Gorillas and today there are only around 800 of them living in this mountainous rainforest area between Rwanda, DRC and the Impenetrable Rainforest here in Bwindi. Half of them live in Bwindi and it is thanks to the area being designated a National Park, education of the people, and money from tourism that has helped their number grow to this number. Having seen them, met them, and how the park is run, this number is sure to rise even more.

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Also, it must be noted, there are NO Mountain Gorillas in captivity in the world. The ones you may hear about in zoos are all lowland Gorillas. The Mountain Gorilla, no matter how hard malicious zoo keepers tried in the past, namely the 70s and 80s, never survived captivity. Be it susceptibility to illness and viruses and a very unique rainforest diet that cannot duplicated, it is a great that all these animals are wild. If you want to see them, come to their habitat, and controlled habitat where it is carefully managed.

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Alas, the hour was up. Time to leave these animals in peace. I watch them wander and disappear into the green of the rainforest……

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Goodbye Habinyanja family, thank you for memories that will stay with me for ever!

And a huge thank you also to the guides and porters that all together not just make the treks very safe and spectacular as they can for you, but also add to the joy of this part of Uganda.

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    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks very much for the kind words

  1. This is definitely on my wish list of things to do next year. I’m not sure if Im making it to Uganda, but I love Gorillas, and would love this! Thanks for sharing

    1. Paul Steele says:

      It is something you will never forget… Go for it, thank you

  2. Keri Jones says:

    How amazing. Your pictures are wonderful. It must have been breath taking to see wild gorillas in real life. Being charged at must have been, erm, exhilarating?! I would have been terrified.
    I will enter the competition, especially as me & my husband were talking about gorillas the other day. Thank you for letting us know about it 🙂

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Keri, Thank you very much! Yes I can honestly say that every single minute of this trip was breath taking. Very hard to explain the feeling of seeing Mountain Gorillas in the wild, on their turf, plus all the experience of the country around it.

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