Gorilla trekking in Uganda to Bwindi impenetrable forest
August 24-25, 2010
A gorilla trek is probably one of the most important reason for which tourists visit Uganda. Indeed, meeting the gorilla in their natural wilderness is an experience that cannot be forgotten. Our gorilla trekking is made in Bwindi Impenetrable forest in southwestern Uganda, near Rwanda, where we have met a large gorilla family with its silverback, several females and many cubs, including a small gorilla baby just three weeks old.
Early in the morning, our trip southward to Bwindi Impenetrable forest begins. Traveling from Ishasha requires several hours, not for the distance, but because of the bumpy road (only a small segment is asphalted).
Political election in Uganda. During our tour, Uganda was in the middle of an election campaign, with advertisement and meetings reaching even the most remote villages in the country.
Early in the afternoon we reach the small community of Buhoma, along the outskirts of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. From here, the next day, our gorilla tour will depart. In the meanwhile, we get a comfortable tent at the Buhoma Community Camp, having a beautiful view onto the Bwindi forest.
The mountain gorilla is an animal in great danger of extinction, of which there are only a few hundred individuals, mainly concentrated in the mountains between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorillas are threatened by human activities, especially agriculture, which subtracts the forest area, and in the past have been targeted by indiscriminate hunting. In order to better protect the animals and keep away the mass tourism, that could have disastrous effects, the number of tourists is "closed" to a maximum daily number. In addition, is necessary to buy an expensive permit (currently sold at $ 500 per person) whose profits are used in part to promote the development of poor local communities (20%), while part goes to either central government of Uganda, and national park organization. When the gorilla permit is purchased, a gorilla family is assigned to the tourist in order to evenly distribute all the visitors towards the gorilla families available. These animals are in fact organized in small groups (families), which are located in various parts of the forest of Bwindi. Our assigned family was Habinyanja (a term meaning "marshy place"), composed by the gorillas depicted in the picture above. Each gorilla has a name, and they can be easily identified by the facial features that, like humans, vary from individual to individual.
To reach the family of gorillas Habinyanja from Buhoma, we have to be transported by 4x4 toward the beginning of the trail, from where we continue on foot. The road is in poor condition and it takes an hour to travel 30 kilometers.Meanwhile, out of the window we see a landscape dominated by hills cultivated with bananas and coffee. The fields were obtained by cutting the forest and then subtracting much room for gorilla and other animals.Currently the forest is protected by strict laws and cutting even a single tree is punished with jail.
After having parked the car, our gorilla trek begins. We climb an hill through a steep slope (not a relaxing trek at all), until we arrive at this small tea field on the edge of the Bwindi forest.Here the ranger warns us that we are very close to the gorillas. The last briefing is made, explaining how to deal with the many annoying ants that will climb on us while in the forest, how to walk in the mud and how to protect ourselves from thorns or other vegetation.The gorilla trek turns to quite difficult from now, because of uneven terrain, steep and slippery slopes, invasive vegetation and aggressive ants.This picture was taken exactly HERE
(photo taken with a GPS camera, click to open Google Maps)
Fortunately, after only a few minutes of trekking in the vegetation, the get the first contact with mountain gorillas, and they are perhaps more curious than frightened.For those who decide to try a similar gorilla trekking tour, you should know that not always (indeed, rarely) the gorillas are encountered so soon, as it often happens that you have to search them for many hours in the impenetrable forest, with the vegetation ripping clothes and injuring the skin, with ants climbing on your body, and having to go up and down the hills in the thin air of 2000 meters of altitude. Sometimes it may even rain.
We see our first mountain gorilla completely out from the vegetation.
We meet Elisa, a female gorilla having a small gorilla baby just three weeks old.
Mountain gorilla pictures. This is instead Maraya gorilla, with two young gorillas (left picture).
A young mountain gorilla, just more than a baby, probably the son of gorilla Binyonko o or Rukundo.
More pictures of gorillas. We meet Kisho, a mountain gorilla that can be easily recognized due to his injured eye (probably it has happened by falling from a tree a few years ago).
We meet the Silverback gorilla Makara, an adult male defined "Silverback" because of the silvery color of its back. The Silverback gorilla spends most of his time on the ground, guarding the area where the family lives, and is considered the leader by the other members of the group. The silverback gorilla makes all the decisions, acts as a mediator in disputes and plans movement of the gorilla family in the forest.
Mountain gorillas pictures. Ruyombo gorilla climbs a tree to eat some fresh vegetation.
More pictures of mountain gorillas. A young baby gorilla plays on a tree.
Picture of gorilla feet.
The maximum time allowed to stay together with the mountain gorillas is one hour. After this time, in order to not disturb the gorillas furthermore, we have to retrace our steps back and return to the headquarters of Bwindi National Park, where the national park authorities gives us a certificate stating the fact that we saw the gorilla in their natural environment. Our fantastic gorilla trek tour end here.
We go back in our tent at Buhoma Community Camp. In the meanwhile, colorful Sunbirds ( Nectarinia regia
) fly between the vegetation in front of our tent. Sunbird pictures.