Friday, 29 March 2013

Gorillas in the Mist

Muzungus* in the mud

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Another animal highlight of my trip (of which there were so so many) was without a doubt gorilla trekking in Uganda. 

We trekked in the ever so aptly named Bwindi Impenetratable Forrest for the Nshongi family of gorillas.  A 7 hour round trip trek, both the toughest and the most rewarding, amazing day hike I’ve ever done.  Making things easier was my wonderful porter, Norman, who along with carrying my bag for me and helped me up and down, kept spirits high with his entertaining stories and jokes.
We hiked with a guide up front, porters throughout and a gunman behind with the aim of finding our family’s trackers who had in turn, found our family.  Trackers for each family set off around 7am to where the family was last seen the day prior and track them from there.  We then set off at 8am, walking poles at the ready to meet the trackers and then the gorillas.
After about four hours tough slog we met up with our trackers.  We removed bags, dropped poles and set off on the final trek to the gorillas.  Thinking it would be a few hundred metres, I was stunned when I turned the first corner and came face to face with them. 

What followed was an hour in their company, some with the younger members (there are no infants in this family due to a family split a few years ago) and some with the silverback.  They’re peaceful, expressive majestic animals. 


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{The last photos shows just some of the mud this muzungu was covered in after sliding a good 20metres down a hill in the splits position, left leg leading.  The other two on the last row show the gorillas without zoom to give you an indication of just how close we were to these beauties}

After our hour was up, we coasted back to the starting point, all on a high from what we had just experienced.  Covered in mud, I don’t think I’ve ever been so in awe of nature.



{a short clip where you can hear just how loud the insects were}

*Muzungu – an often used swahili word for white person / tourist.

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Specifics:
I did the trek as part of Acacia Africa’s Gorilla Encounter 14 day tour and they organised our permits. We stayed by Lake Bunyoni both before and afterwards so had a drive of a couple of hours each way to the trekking start point. Permits to trek with gorillas in Uganda are $500USD ($400USD in the DRC and $750USD in Rwanda) and specify which family of gorillas you trek with.  50% of the permit is refunded if you don’t see the gorillas but trekking can continue for up to 8hours (1 way, so in theory 16 in all) before they consider it a fail.  Porters can be hired for the day and Norman, our porter (shared with a friend) was the best $20USD I spent on the trip).  The family I trekked is one of 9 family in Uganda habituated to humans.  Maximum trekking group size is 8 and maximum time spent with the family is 1 hour.  It’s not a cheap outing but a phenomenal one.

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{Lake Bunyoni at dawn and dusk} 

2 comments:

  1. Wow, that's so amazing! Such wonderful photos. Sounds like a crazy cool trip!

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    1. Thanks - it was such a highlight. Reliving it looking at the pics today has left me with an ear to ear smile!

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