Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkJune 17, 2017 in Uganda
Today we went trekking for gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it was an early start having to get up at 4:45am to have breakfast and get on the transfer bus. It was about a two hour drive before we got to the starting point where we met our guide for the day.
They provided us with a briefing and explained that there were five families in the national park, they only take a maximum of eight people to each family, each day and those people are limited to one hour with the family. They then allocated us a guide and two armed guards with AK-49 assault rifles that carried 39 rounds in the magazine. The armed guards were there to protect us from potentially aggressive animals as there are other animals living there as well, they stated that they would fire warning shots first and that shooting an animal was the last resort. In the briefing they told us that we were tracking the M family, which is one of the largest families with approximately twenty gorillas.
What happens is professional trackers start two hours earlier, return to where the family was last seen and begin tracking the family of gorillas from there as the generally will only move approximately 1km overnight. The trackers then communicate the location of the gorillas to the guide who lead us to them. We had received the same family as the other half of our group saw yesterday so I knew we would be trekking for at least two hours.
After the briefing we all got back into the bus and drove for another forty minutes on a dirt road and then we all piled into the back of a ute with our guide and armed guards where they drove us for another five minutes to where we would enter the national park. The first forty-five minutes of the trek was all up hill on a relatively cleared path, we continued to trek for another hour were we walked up and down hills before we reached a really dense part where we had to pretty much make our own path down to where we could see the trackers. Once down with the trackers we were briefed again on how to behave and what to do if a gorilla approaches you (crouch down and turn away) and given an opportunity to drink some water before trekking further to see them.
We all assumed that we would have to walk about ten minutes before seeing a gorilla but they were literally five to ten meters away from where we were sitting. The first one I saw was the silver back and he was barely five meters away from me. I sat down and just watched him, I couldn't take my eyes off of him he was incredible. I then looked up to see several babies playing just above us and then the mother twenty meters away the the tree top plus a couple other family members in nearby bushes, everywhere I looked I could see gorillas surrounding me. It was just breath taking that we were able to see such an amazing creature in its natural habitat, I just sat there and appreciated how beautiful they were and how lucky I was right in that moment.
The trek was about two and a half hours each way, it wasn't as difficult as I was expecting from talking to the other group so that was good. Don't get me wrong it was still challenging but I think once you see the gorillas it makes it all worth while. I would rank this as one of the best experiences of my life and would recommend it to everyone.Read more