Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in south-western Uganda. It’s home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. Lady Lynne and I were lucky enough to visit here in December. As part of a trip of a lifetime.
Welcome to part 2 of our African adventures – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This is where we came to go trekking to seek out one of the worlds most beautiful creatures. This rain forest is home to a population (currently about 340) of the critically endangered mountain gorilla.
Below, you’ll find photographs of the mountain gorillas we actually saw, PLUS video footage I recorded on my mobile of the gorillas in their natural habitat of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Enjoy!
BTW. You might want to check out African Adventures Pt.1 Glasgow to Uganda to bring you up to date with where we are before you continue to read below. 🙂
After a full day’s travel on Monday 7th December, we had an excellent nights sleep in our comfortable Gorilla Valley Lodge accomodation.
Early Tuesday morning we made our way up to the main lodge house (only a short 2 minutes walk) at 06:45 for a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs and freshly squeezed pineapple juice (the one’s we picked up yesterday) with Ugandan coffee for Neil. 😀
Our driver Paul, joined us for every meal we had whilst we were there. This was excellent as it gave me the chance to
pin him down ask him even more questions about everything Ugandan. What was that creature, that was calling to me in the early hours of the morning? Are the eggs local? Is millet flour used in the pancakes? 😆
Having had my first set of questions of the day answered, we left the lodge after our breakfast, with our packed lunches in our rucksacks. Paul drove us a short distance, further into the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and through the security gates of one of the main assembly places of where the trekking begins.
After our safety briefing, we were assembled into groups. Ours consisted of 8 actual tourists, 2 armed guards (those in green in the photo above) and 3 trackers (those in light blue).
We were informed in the safety briefing that the armed guards have those guns you can see, for the purpose of keeping us safe from charging elephants!!!
We headed off along a defined path into the forest. Then, after walking for about 45 minutes, the tracker leading our group got radio contact, from a colleague, who advised him the approximate location of some mountain gorillas.
Suddenly we left the defined path, working our way deep into the forest, slipping and sliding up and down the mountain sides. Our leader clearing the dense vegetation with his machete making it possible for us to move forward.
It quickly became clear why we had been advised to bring sturdy hiking boots! We now also knew why we had to wear long sleeved tops, hats and gloves, despite the heat. Thorns from every type of plant imaginable could catch you out as you grasped for things to hold onto and you never knew what kind of insects were going to fall on your head. 😉
Not for the faint hearted, nor for the unfit was this trip into the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park!
After what seemed like forever, battling our way through the undergrowth, we were hushed to silence by our guides, as we cautiously approached what looked like a clearing………
…..and came across this little fella.
And just like that, you are suddenly face to face with a three year old mountain gorilla.
And this inhabitant of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, had absolutely no fear whatsoever of our group! We took hundreds of pictures. In fact, I think this fella saw himself as having a future modelling career!
Some of the groups of gorilla’s around the park are used to humans – like this chap. They just see you as another animal; a harmless one. They’ve no interest in you, provided you don’t go into their space. 😉
They just get on with their daily feeding and grooming. Which is what was going on in front of us, and we were able to watch. It was nature’s real LIVE big TV!
There are other groups of mountain gorillas within the park who are still mostly wild and haven’t had much human contact. But fortunately the trackers and group guides know all the gorillas in the park and know which ones you can go relatively near to.
You can see how close we got to the three year old with this picture of me and the previous one of Lynne above. It’s difficult to put into words your emotions at that point. As you stand in front of one of these rare creatures, you suddenly realise just how privileged you are, especially when there are less than one thousand mountain gorillas in total left in the wild. Let’s just say you can get pretty emotional.
To the right of the three year old the mother of the group was feeding her baby. It proved a challenge to me to photograph the mother with her child and not have either one, or both obscured by the foliage! So, it’s best captured in the little mobile video I made above. Sorry for the moving about so much, but I suppose it does give you a good idea of what was going on though. Plus you can see the rest of our group and the silverback adult male in the background!
This was the best “still” shot I could get of the male adult silverback. He kept himself to himself. Except when he let out a low growl. And those of us in the group momentarily felt for our lives. 😮
The three year old gorilla, as I mentioned earlier, was a bit of a “character” He moved about freely between the other gorillas in this group feeding on the leaves, bamboo shoots and really anything in sight of his eyes!
The majority of the pictures I took of the three year old gorilla all seem to have captured him with a comical look on his face! Perhaps within his future acting career he saw himself as a bit of a comedy actor!
This video could be his audition! It’s hilarious. The three year old moved over to be beside his mother and gets a bit of stick or some kind of food he’s eating stuck in his teeth!! Just like a human you can see him trying to prize it out with his tongue.
We spent over one hour watching, photographing, filming and being completely in awe of the sight before us. Apparently it was an hour anyway, because we didn’t realise, or feel it was, as it went by so quickly. A moment in ones life to be held forever.
Thankfully, modern technology has brought me the ability to share this amazing experience of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with you by way of some photographs and videos. And I’m also glad Lynne and I have these recordings to remember this unique, emotional experience together. Forever.
I only hope that the Ugandan Wildlife Authority continues in it’s good work of looking after and protecting what we have left of these mountain gorillas. And, that people will continue to go and see them, despite (as I mentioned in Pt.1) the threats we have to deal with in the modern world today.
Uganda needs those of us who are lucky enough to have the ability to visit to continue doing so. The money they get helps to look after these mountain gorilla’s, keeping them in their natural habitat, protecting conservation and providing the people with a source of income.
Later in the afternoon after our day’s trekking, we met up with Paul who drove us back to our lodgings. Tired, a little dazed and still awe struck, it was nice to just outside outside our accommodation, recount our adventure together and stare into the rainforest.
After a couple of beers, at the main lodge house, where I actually had fried grasshoppers as pre-dinner snacks for the first time, (Lynne having had them previously in Thailand) we had an excellent dinner (steak for me and chicken for Lynne) and then a restful night.
The next morning we saw ourselves back en route to Kampala leaving behind Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the memories and an unforgettable experience.
But with perhaps for a re-visit in the future?
As with our journey to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, on our way back, we also stopped at Mbarara for lunch. This time we stopped at the Igongo Cultural Centre Mbarara.
As you know I love to try out the local cuisine and so this time, instead of ugali for lunch, with my chicken, I had mashed plaintain, it was delicious.! I’d expected it to be really sweet, like banana, but it wasn’t. It was pretty much like mashed potatoes and exceptionally filling!
We were pretty much exhausted when we arrived back in Kampala for another nights stay at the hotel sojovalo. After a quick dinner, (chicken biryani for me and chicken skewers for Lynne), it was time for an early night. Ready for our 2.30am start for the next exciting part of our African Adventures. Zanzibar.
Well folks, hope you enjoyed Pt.2 as much as I enjoyed writing it and re-living the whole experience again. Check back soon for our African Adventures Pt3. Zanzibar – Wildlife and Sightseeing. Where we head off to see the Red Colobus monkeys in Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and visit Prison Island.
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And thanks Amanda for our usual Thursday thinking out loud blog post sharing opportunity! 🙂