Waking up at sunrise at the beautiful Gorilla Safari Lodge located in the forests of Bwindi. The Gorilla Safari lodge borders a village home to the forest pygmies of the Bwindi forest. Our unit opened out onto the village inhabited by the Batwa (Etchuya Batwa) pygmies. As the sunlight appeared over the tropical forests of Uganda. The horrendous sound of my alarm went off and the difficulty for us to unwillingly have the task to tear ourselves away from the softness and the warmth of our beds was real!.
Sleepily I opened up the door of our unit to our neighbours (Wow!what a priviledge!!) the endangered resident group of people of the forest, the morning activities of the Bwindi Pygmy village down below gave me a privileged feeling and actually having the realization as to what an honourit was to experience this-Blessed to the MAX…..WOW!. With the smell of locally brewed coffee on my side table, sipping and getting dressed simultaneously for the exciting activity that lay ahead of us for the day. The excitement was unbelievable!! Mixed feelings filled my body, scared, butterflies all the usual feelings that fill ones body when a “most looked forward to” bucket list item that required, lots of preparation, the correct gear and clothing, my fitness level and my frame of mind were key was to be experienced and ticked off today, now… Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Forest situated in the beautiful tropical country of Uganda.
After a wholesome breakfast, energy packs, first aid kits medically prepared for myself and the group trekking with us, we set off in the muddy rimmed 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser, through to the meeting point base at the Bwindi impenetrable National Park. The Bwindi impenetrable National Park is located in Southwest Uganda. A mountainous, biodiverse National Park home to Mountain Gorillas of the world.
Once arriving at base camp after a short 15 minute walk, we were registered, admin, permits, indemnity forms were checked, stamped and approved. We were then placed in groups of fitness and capability, assigned and met our ranger. We were introduced to porters, who interestingly enough were part of community development, past poachers trained and paid by the industry, excellent initiative, we were then each allocated a porter, (as per request) which I would recommend at the cost of US$15. It will end up being some of the best money you have ever spent in your life- guaranteed.
We set out on the muddy, wet trail through the forests home to 11 primate species which are; black-and-white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, De Brazza monkeys, Red-tailed Monkey, Blue Monkey, Potto, Demidoff’s Galago, Spectacled Galago, Baboons, Chimpanzee and the gentle giants of Bwindi – Mountain Gorillas.Winding up and down mountains and valleys, mid water stops, walking, hacking away at the impenetrable Bwindi Forest in which we were warned would be ruthless it was No Joke! Our armed rangers one leading in the front, one at the back, a lady (that gained my respect) and one in the middle of us all of us looking out for many dangerous animals that could be a threat to our safety, we were totally surprised that other than the Mountain Gorillas, animals such as the Elephants in the gorilla highlands can be of two species; the forest elephant and the savannah elephant inhabited the forest. The main differences are the numbers of nails on their feet, the shape of their ears and the tusks.
After trekking, hacking, cutting , climbing, walking through dense stinging nettles, mud, up and over vegetation our Ranger had reduced the pace, the Mountain Gorilla family trekked had been located, we could feel the tension, the silence, the change of atmosphere and this was a time to be quiet totally quiet as we dont want to upset and be challenged by the dominant male the Silverback, they are massive and stand no chance. We were quietly excited and overwhelmed to believe that after 3 and a half hours and climbing over 3000 meters we had located the gorilla family our dream was about to come true. We eventually made it to an open grassland area in the forest, after crawling, leopard crawling, and crouching through thick forest thickets and stinging nettles to get to the required distance away from the family without becoming intrusive, but clear enough for the experience, behavioral study, and the perfect pictures.
Wow!!!!!…is all I can say still cannot believe how blessed I am still on a buzz and excited every time I think about it!. Everyone had their own reaction to these majestic animals, believe me when I say I have seen grown men (all nationalities burst into tears, just at the sight and experience of the encounter with these gentle giants. We got to spend only 1hr (by law) with the family, being very cautious and utmost respect to not disturb the ‘family time” of the Busingye group. While spending some quality time with the gentle giants, absorbing every minute and taking everything in…..everything! The little baby gorilla of about 4 months old was absolutely loving the fact that we were there, showing off on a rock, and swinging from twine to twine, the little guy actually reached closer and then impulsively lunged forward like any little one would do and touched my head, when suddenly the ranger mentioned that the little guy wanted to be friends, being so young not knowing the sense of danger. I slowly walked away as he was reaching closer and closer to me and didn’t want me to go. My heart was pounding in my chest, I could hear my heart beats in my ears, dad was not too far away and I would have been eaten alive if he had noticed that his son was befriending “the humans.”
Spending time with the family was incredible the family being the:
Busingye Gorilla Family
Group size: 9 individuals including 1 silverback
Location: Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park
Busingye Gorilla Group is another splitter gorilla family having broken away from Kahungye Family back in June 2012. It was Silverback Busingye who decided to split and create his own family. Busingye is a local language word for ‘peace’ which is quite surprising since this ambitious Silverback is known for his legendary fights with other gorilla groups. He likes showing his power and whenever encountering a wild family he mercilessly grabs a female to add to his own family.
In January 2014, the group was 9 members including 3 infants, 2 adult female and other were youths or young teens.
After spending our hour with these amazing creations, we felt part of the family, the Silver back, females, teens and other members. So peaceful and just continuing forest life. After an hour we then sadly left and said goodbye to our Busingye family, a tear of sadness but joy fell down my face, mixed with mud, sweat and a heart bursting with glee, the family left into the thicket and we continued our journey back. After a 3 hr walk back to base camp we were tired, dirty yet extremely elated. We had a completion ceremony and received our certificates of successful encounter with the Mountain Gorillas from the Head of National Park.
Returning to the Gorilla Safari Lodge, the feeling I cannot explain. What an accomplishment!! To this day I relive moments of my time spend with my Mountain Gorilla family and often wonder how big my little “sunny-friend” has grown and what he is up to. You stole a piece of my heart little one and I smile every time I think of you and your family.
Busingye family you have my heart! I will always support your protection and thank you for the precious time spent with you! Great meeting you guys!