From Kenya’s savannah grasslands to the land of a million hills in Uganda, our bus rattles along rough roads taking us to our first destination – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We are high in the mountains and though our journey is just beginning, I’ve arrived at what is to be one of the highlights of my trip.
Bwindi’ means a dark, difficult and fearful place in the local Bakiga language and it is clear, as our guide cuts a path through the jungle with his machete, why it has been given this name. As we continue slowly through the thick trees, we receive a radio message from a group of trackers ahead that a family of mountain gorillas might be nearby.
Coming from my home in Australia all the way to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and discover an entirely different world, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see the mountain gorillas. I’ve always wanted to meet the peaceful, majestic primates that have fascinated me ever since I read ‘In the Kingdom of Gorillas’ so many years ago.
The experience was incredible. We moved amongst a family of thirteen gorillas known as the Bitukura group, though surprisingly they didn’t seem bothered by our presence. There were several juveniles playing nearby on the ground and one of the larger female gorillas was just meters away from me at one point. I watched as one of the young climbed high into a tree before slipping and sliding safely all the way back to the ground. Though I wanted to get closer, the sight of the enormous, dominant silverback kept me in line. Lets just say you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with him.
A moment like this is unique and I was glad I had my camera on hand to capture it before the peaceful family decided to move on. Our short time with the Bitukura family was over and so we continued on through the impenetrable forest. Speaking to the others, it was clear that everyone in my group had been touched by the rare experience of meeting a family of the less than nine hundred mountain gorillas that remain – not just in Africa but anywhere in the world.
It was an experience I’ll never forget and an exciting taste of the adventures still to come as I discover Africa.
Learn more about the mountain gorillas at awf.org/