Have you ever wanted to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Despite working in conservation in Uganda for nearly three years, seeing the gorillas was never top of my wildlife wishlist – I still can’t get enough of Uganda safaris or birding in Uganda – but I have to say: today was very special. Here are the Muzungu’s reasons why gorilla trekking in Uganda should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
“But the other hills we can climb them seated” advised David, as we slid down a muddy hillside to the edge of the forest.
It was a typical misty Bwindi morning – it’s not called the Impenetrable (Rain)forest for nothing! Treks to find the gorillas vary; occasionally the gorillas are seen in the grounds of the lodges around Bwindi. Sometimes you may have to walk three, four or even five hours before you find them.
The walk through the countryside (one and a half hours in our case) was a big part of the thrill for me: would we turn a corner and find the gorillas right in front of us?
How would the gorillas react when they saw us?
And finally, in a dense section of the forest, clambering through the bushes, we met up with another group of UWA rangers who would show us where the group of 10 or more gorillas from the Habinyanja family were feeding and sleeping.
None of the gorillas seemed at all perturbed by our presence, as we shuffled quietly from tree to tree, peering through the dark green of the forest to make out gorilla mothers’ suckling gorilla babies and young adults grooming each other, all just a few metres away from us. Even the Silverback gorilla, the often awesome male leader, slept through our entire visit (grunts notwithstanding).
But it was the smallest, youngest gorilla that stole the show….
There was no chest thumping, we didn’t get charged at and there were no scenes of drama for the humans to witness on this particular morning.
Not to be ignored, the youngest gorilla of the group entertained us to an aerial display, dangling by one arm and pirouetting above us, eye-balling us with those beautiful big black eyes.
He seemed to share our fascination as we watched, transfixed. I’d trek Bwindi all over again, just to relive those few precious moments.
Next lifetime, I’m coming back as a Mountain Gorilla!
September 2013: With over 7 million views, this Uganda gorilla trekking video has been an internet sensation: showing one tourist having the type of wildlife experience we all dream of. Such moments are few and far between. They certainly can’t be manufactured, nor can these animals be coerced – and it just shows how gentle and inquisitive they truly are.
This wasn’t my first time in Bwindi meeting primates. Coming eye to eye with my totem – the Red-tailed Monkey – is a moment Nagawa (the Muzungu) will never forget!
Bwindi is heavenly. The air is pure. The height and age of the majestic trees are awe-inspiring. Before I came to Uganda, the revered mahogany was just something my great aunt’s table was made of, and now there they were growing tall ahead of me in the forest: century-old mahogany trees.
South western Uganda has become famous for gorilla trekking, but there are plenty more activities for tourists nowadays, including canoe trekking across Lake Mutanda, hiking the volcanoes of Mgahinga, golden monkey trekking, or hiking Bwindi. The day-long walk from Buhoma through the thick of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest south to Nkuringo is one of my favourite Ugandan expeditions.