We love nothing more than inspiring your sense of wonder and discovery through the creation of life-changing travel experiences. It is hard to begin to describe a close up encounter with gorillas – it truly is a once in a lifetime experience that will take your breath away. I recently visited Bwindi, Uganda on a privately guided trip where even getting to the gorillas was an adventure.
There is an anticipation which starts to build when embarking on a trip like this. You ask yourself will I be privileged enough to see these amazing creatures, especially given the time and effort it takes to get to them.
Before we started we rested up at our lodge, located under heavy cloud cover and fittingly called Clouds. From the lodge we set out to Bwindi National Forest. Although the forest is relatively small, about 400 square kilometers, this is still a trip for an adventurer, Bwindi is nicknamed the Impenetrable Forest for good reason. Don’t be surprised if you need a helping hand from the guides as you spend 4 hours slipping and sliding up the 1500 foot steep hillside on the way to your destination. However, even the heavy rains and wet conditions ever present in the area do not dampen the spirit.
The gorillas are not easy to find. Your guides and trackers become your invaluable friends. The trackers spend the evening before following the habituated gorillas so they know where they rested for the night and therefore where to start looking the next day. If you were to look for entirely wild gorillas you would be lucky if you caught sight of their bottoms!
After a long trek we arrived at our destination. We were lucky! Nothing can quite prepare you for coming face to face with a group of gorillas. It is hard not to be struck by their human-like characteristics and presence or to ignore their sheer size and potential strength. Within the family we visited there was one silverback who was fast asleep and could not care less that we were there.
Around him were 3 younger males, one of whom walked within 3 yards of us and also a 4 year old, who aware of our being there wanted to show off by beating his chest. All of the other gorillas in the group were piling on top of each other and play fighting, it was a very wet day but they didn’t mind and were all extremely playful. A few of the highlights of the visit were when one of the gorillas attempted to grab my GoPro camera and one of the youngsters was tugging at my shorts. Excitingly I was able to capture both of these encounters on video.
While these trips are amazing for humans, conservation is key to their and the gorillas success. All visits to the area are closely managed and monitored to ensure as little disturbance as possible. Each group of 8 visitors is only allowed to spend an hour with the gorilla family ensuring they only see one group of humans in a day. However if you are fortunate enough to find a group of gorillas an hour is more than worth the effort to meet them.
The organisation of Bwindi and the gorilla visits is a win win for tourists and the gorillas alike and is one of our most fantastic and adventurous experiences that I can guarantee you will remember forever.