It’s one thing when you go to the national parks or game parks and look at the wild animals from the comfort of your car and it’s a whole different ball game when you’re physically in close proximity with them.
My love for wildlife and mostly for gorillas saw me embark on a journey to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is home to about 600 individuals.
Accessing these majestic creatures is no easy feat, sometimes one can be lucky and find them almost at the park entry and other times it takes hours of trekking through the impenetrable rain forest to just catch a glimpse of them.
Just like humans, gorillas are communal beings and usually live in small groups. For easy identification, the Uganda Wildlife Authority named the habituated gorilla families. With names like Mubare, Katwe, Nkuringo, Bushaho, and Butukurwa among others, it’s easy for them to be tracked.
On a chilly morning with the mist still at its peak, we made our way to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offices where we got permits and guides to lead us on our journey through the forest.
Gorillas are mostly herbivores and fully grown ones can eat up to 30kgs every single day. They weigh around 143 -169kg, that’s more than double than my size.
As we approached a gorilla family, the guide said, “you are so lucky, you have found a family which recently welcomed a newborn.”
Beaming with joy, I brought out my camera and tried to capture photos of the mother breastfeeding its baby, little did I know that the silverback was nearly an arms reach from where I was standing.
When I noticed it, I froze and all the knowledge I knew about its strength rushed through my mind. It’s estimated to be 4 to 10 times stronger than an average person. Surely, I had no chance of escape against it especially if it felt challenged by me and my full-grown beard wasn’t about to help. For all I know, I may have looked like it’s long lost rival who has come disguised and ready to put up a fight.
Like a good and loyal servant, I feared to look at in its eyes because I wasn’t ready to meet my maker just yet. What’s interesting is I had seen a video of how aggressive elephants can be when their young ones are around, so I thought it would be the same with the silverback.
But it peacefully walked away to another tree and my fear turned into laughter. It’s not until last year when I realized how interesting these creatures are after they appeared to be photobombing a rangers selfie in Virunga National park.
When the world heals, I look forward to traveling again and taking awesome photos with some of my favorite animals. But until then stay safe.