A flash of silver surrounded by black is the first glimpse I catch as his gigantic body rises from leaning against the bamboo trunks. His monstrous head swivels atop a pair of broad shoulders.
Frozen on the spot our guide imitated the universal Mountain Gorilla sound to let them know we were friends and everything was alright.
As the leading Silverbacks head finished it’s swivel, it locked it’s dark eyes on our group and didn’t even blink before turning back to it’s lunch of bamboo shoots and leaves.
Grinning at us our guide waved us closer.
“Don’t worry, they are happy with our presence.”
I wasn’t completely convinced, but when you are paying $550/hour trekking with Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, you don’t want to waste a minute. Inching closer we all began jostling for position. Elbow to elbow our cameras whirred away as we frantically tried to snap a few pictures under the very poor light conditions.
And today the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was living up to it’s reputation as the heavy rainforest above our heads blocked out nearly all the available light.
Grasping the thick trunk with a fist that could crush your skull, the solo Silverback swung down the bank. Lumbering downhill towards his family on his knuckles, we followed at a safe distance.
Within minutes we spotted further movement ahead. A young male juvenile clambered up a tree just 10m from our position as his brother chased him. Launching from above he tackled his brother with a fistful of black hair sending them both into the undergrowth.
The mother didn’t even react and I couldn’t understand why until movement over her shoulder caught my eye. A baby Mountain Gorilla, only a month old to the day, peered at us with intensely deep brown eyes before disappearing again.
As the dominant Silverback we had spotted earlier continued away from us, the rest of his 10 strong family followed in his wake.
For the next hour it felt like we were continuously harassing them as we snuck closer for a few minutes before they decided to move on. End even though we were not allowed to approach them closer than 7m, they would saunter closer to us on several occasions.
While they barely paid us any attention, it felt like we were constantly intruding on their territory and within their personal spaces.
The Trekking Experience – Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Only half of the experience is actually watching the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. One of the best parts of the day is trekking through the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest searching for them in the first place.
We were considered lucky as our maximum group of 8, accompanied by our guide and an armed guard to scare off potential poachers and wildlife, had slashed, stumbled and hiked only 45 minutes from our start point to our first sighting of our designated Mountain Gorilla family in Uganda, Bitukura.
In comparison, the other group from Oasis Overland, who I am travelling across Africa with, hiked over 3 hours each way before they spotted their first glimpse of the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.
Just 10 minutes into our Gorilla trekking in Uganda we were halted in our path as we caught glimpses of brown flanks downwind of us through the dense forest. A herd of Elephants were in a clearing ahead and were known to charge at “muzungus” in their path.
Smaller than their desert dwelling cousins, they use their size to ease their way through the undergrowth in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. Their lighter weight also allows them to scale the, at times, near vertical Bwindi Impenetrable Forest valley walls.
Unslinging his AK47, our guard told us to run if they decided to charge us before sending them trumpeting into the bush with a single “CRACK” of the bullet whizzing above their heads. It’s slightly unnerving to see how quickly they can move in a forest that I can barely see through.
Slipping deeper and downhill in to the Ugandan Rainforest we were only given a 2 minute warning before we spotted that first male Silverback.
And bang on 60 minutes our excellent Mountain Gorilla guide slowly started to pull us away from the group. It was a magical experience that I will never forget.
Have you seen been trekking with the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda before? Is it on your Bucket List?