A while back I had the opportunity to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National park which is located in Southern Uganda.
We accessed the park from the southern gate in Rushaga and as a requirement by Uganda Wildlife Authority, we had to go through a briefing of what to expect and what not to do while we are on the trek.
I never knew why they called it Gorilla trekking until I found out that on some occasions it’s hard to find them. One literally has to trek through the thick forest for hours and other times, well, the Gorillas just ‘don’t want to know’ – they go deep in the forest and seeing them won’t be possible.
What’s funny is, I used to think gorillas were all over the forest like the monkeys which can easily be spotted jumping from one tree to the other. Uganda may be home to more than half of the world’s gorilla population which is currently about 1000 individuals but that doesn’t mean these majestic creatures are all over the forest.
Prior to this visit, I had trekked through Bwindi twice. The first was to go see the hidden waterfalls and the other we were crossing from Rushaga to Nkuringo community to see the Batwa experience but never did we see a gorilla or even fecal matter to give us hope, nothing. My heart was broken but I didn’t give up on my dream of seeing these close relatives of man.
The guide asked us how soon we wanted to see the gorillas and we all said as soon as possible. 15 minutes later, there they were in all their glory! I was overwhelmed with joy as I reached for the camera.
There was this baby gorilla lying on a tree branch, it looked like it was thinking about the weekend or whatever it is gorillas think about.
However, its little brother or sister (I couldn’t tell the difference) was intrigued by our presence and kept coming towards us. As much as we would have loved to let it touch us, we had to maintain our distance because it can easily get infected in case someone had the flu.
The Silverback (male gorilla) was busy eating at a distance and the interesting fact is they eat about 45 pounds of food every single day. That explains their size and strength.
Adult gorillas are believed to be four to nine times stronger than an average man and according to Guinness Book of Records, a silverback gorilla can lift up to 815 kilograms of dead weight. (insert mind blown emoji).
At one point, the silverback was so close to me and I literally froze. All I could think about was, “if this guy gets angry or feels challenged, I’m totally going to be sent to the afterlife.” I was that intimidated.
Luckily for me, l looked friendly (I thank my overgrown beard) and he just walked away and he continued to feast on the plantation.
After an hour of marvel, I was grateful for the conservation efforts which have seen the gorilla population increase in Uganda. And it can only get better with increased community collaboration and sensitization among others.
If you haven’t been to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park before, you should definitely add it to your wishlist.