Did you know that mountain gorillas are endangered?
Did you know that they are habituated only in the Virunga mountains?
Virunga mountains are shared between DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
Mountain gorillas have been declared as endangered. There are only about 700 of them left in the world. These peaceful and intelligent creatures are victims of civil war, destruction of forests and poaching.
They aren’t the target but they are caught in between bullets and snares.
I chose to do the gorilla trekking in Uganda because it is a lot cheaper than Rwanda and a lot easier to access than DRC.
I spent the night before the trek in Kabale which is only 2 hours drive from the forest. The drive was a spectacular view of terraces.
To be honest, I didn’t know about them until I was looking on things to do in Rwanda. And now I want to share with everyone about the largest primate that shares 98% of human DNA.
Here’s what happens during a gorilla trek.
I arrived at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest by 7.45 a.m.; just in time for the briefing.
After that I was assigned to a group with a guide where we had an orientation about the trek and the family to be visited. The family have already been tracked by the rangers which makes the trek a lot easier for visitors.
There isn’t a specific trail in the wild. The trek could last from 1 hour to 7 hours. The chance of seeing a family is 98%. At times, the family gets into an argument and separates which will make it difficult to track them.
But don’t worry because they will allow another trek for free in case you didn’t see them. It would be best to have an extra 1 or 2 days in Uganda for such cases which is rare.
I was pretty lucky that the family I visited was coming down so it took us only 45 minutes until we first spotted them. The trail was 90% on flat ground.
I visited a family of 13 members; a silverback, couple of females and several babies.
I honestly did not know what to expect. The guide informed us to maintain a distance of at least 7 meters, however, we cannot control the movements of the gorillas, especially the juveniles! The guide says they are quite naughty and like to interact with visitors 😀
I hoped for some interaction but it’s probably best for them to not interact with us to avoid the chances of transmitting any human virus. 😀
Once we got within the perimeter of the gorillas, we had to cut through bushes, crawl and slither through vegetation around us. This was the hardest part because our movement was based on the gorilla’s movement.
The guide tried his best to make path by cutting down foliage with a machete, but I still got stuck between twigs, branches and tripped countless times.
Here is the first mountain gorilla we encountered. I was stunned with my first sight of a mountain gorilla only few meters away from me.
The projection I had based from movies are nothing close to what I witnessed. Those ferocious look, chest pounds, roars and charges are far from how they actually behave in their day to day activity.
Surely they poses those behavior but that’s only when they feel like they are in danger to protect the family.
They were very peaceful, gentle, timid yet social.
Watching the little ones were just like watching kids on the playground. This juvenile gorilla at the back was rolling around the pile of vegetation and he kept on falling right through 😀 It’s just like watching a human child.
This guy was flipping himself in all sorts of ways on the tree. He looked like a spinning fur ball from afar. 😛
Then this little one kept on climbing the tree and slid his way down for the fun of it 😀
And then we saw a teensy tiny new born baby clinging on her mama. This sight melted my heart. I was poured with contentment. The sight of a baby shows that they are repopulating. The growth rate is slow but certain. I hope the rate continue to increase. <3
Mama gorilla maintained eye contact with us the whole time. It’s almost like she is always ready for a photograph.
Then comes the silver-back! My oh my. It’s GORGEOUS!
We only get one hour to spend with them and it went by so fast! I could literally just watch them all day.
It is indeed a lifetime experience that I would relive again in a heartbeat!
The vegetation is pretty much everywhere. The guide tried as much as he could to chop them off for a better view but sometimes it’s just how it’s going to be in a jungle like forest.
If you think 600 USD is way too much for a trek. Let me put it for you this way.
Watching an endangered subspecies carry their day without disrupting them is a lifetime experience. I pray that the future generations get to see and learn about mountain gorillas instead of only reading them from a book of extinct animals.
600 USD does not only go for your pleasure and experience, you are contributing to the conservation and welfare of these primates.
We are well aware that those 3 countries; home of mountain gorillas are 3rd world countries and in need of our support.
Think of the hardworking rangers who spend all day of the year tracking the movement of each family, protect them from any harm and ensuring that they remain healthy and live up to their life span.
I urge you to please visit any of the 3 countries, experience the gorilla trek and help in conserving mountain gorillas.
Here are few things to keep in mind:
1. It is important to acquire a permit in advance as they only allow a certain number of people per day to avoid disrupting the daily life of those habituated mountain gorillas.
2. Make sure that you are not carrying any contagious virus. Mountain gorillas do not have the same immune system as us; they are a lot weaker and sensitive to viruses.
3. Carry some snacks and water. You could be trekking for 2 or 7 hours. It all depends on the movement of the animal.
4. Hiking shoes are mandatory. You will be walking in the forest and cutting through branches.
5. Keep your camera protected. I didn’t have my camera bag which resulted in so many scratches on my camera from the vegetation.
Permit Fee: 600 USD
Porter: 15 USD