African Adventures Pt.2 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

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.

three year old gorilla bwindi impenetrable national park

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. 🙂

assembling at start of gorilla trek bwindi impenetrable national park

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………

three year old gorilla2 bwindi impenetrable national park

…..and came across this little fella.

three year old gorilla3 bwindi impenetrable national park

And just like that, you are suddenly face to face with a three year old mountain gorilla.

three year old gorilla4 bwindi impenetrable national park

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!

three year old gorilla5 bwindi impenetrable national park

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!

three year old gorilla6 bwindi impenetrable national park

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.

three year old gorilla7 bwindi impenetrable national park

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!

silverback gorilla bwindi impenetrable national park

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. 😮

three year old gorilla 8 bwindi impenetrable national park

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!

three year old gorilla 9 bwindi impenetrable national park

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.

Leaving bwindi impenetrable national park on route back to Uganda

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?

Leaving bwindi impenetrable national park lunch at Igongo Cultural Centre Mbarara

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! 🙂

Comments

  1. OMG, those photos/videos are too awesome. They are beautiful and funny. There’s a few that could make some epic memes lol. I had seen a bunch of gorilla photos from my Joe who was over there for six months (his father is the US Ambassador to Uganda)! Yours are so up close! They really are such fascinating creatures. You and Lynne are lucky you were able to have this adventure and see a part of the world so many of us haven’t! Thanks for sharing it with us! 🙂
    Erin@BeetsPerMinute recently posted…How a Popular Weight Loss Program Relapsed My Eating DisorderMy Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      I never thought of making memes with some of these photos/videos. Ha ha, brilliant idea Erin!

      I re-wrote this post several times. I found it quite difficult to convey the emotion and just how awe inspiring the whole experience was. In the end I just tried to keep to the pictures and what they show, rather than gush all over the place. I’m glad you thought the photos/videos are awesome, that means alot. I wanted to be able to share just how awesome the experience was. Thanks 🙂

  2. 340. I can’t stop thinking about that number. More people than that go through a smaller restaurant on a given day. You have more than 340 people who follow NHM on facebook. It is less than the size of 2 grades of my high school. Shocking, tragic, and haunting.
    I am not a fan of monkeys, but I find gorillas fascinating and beautiful. Like you, I love their faces (that guy was certainly hamming it up!), and they have such personalities. What an incredible, incredible adventure, and one that will stay with me, via you, for a long time.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…How We Vacation Shows Who We AreMy Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      Shocking isn’t it Suz? 340 left in Uganda. I’m just thankful that Uganda takes the conservation of the habitat and the protection of these magnificent creates so seriously. For a country where nearly everyone is a farmer and / or owns a plot of land, they are rapidly running out of space for new farmland, so protecting this environment as soon as possible and stopping any further deforestation is crucial.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this. And yes, it truly was an amazing time in our lives. 🙂

  3. Now that… is absolutely incredible! What an amazing opportunity to be able to see gorillas in their natural habitat! I’ll admit, though — I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to things like bugs and snakes, so I’d be all sorts of squeamish while walking through a jungle. But ugh… what a rewarding experience. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Neil! Some of those facial expressions you captured are absolutely priceless!
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…beating the SADs, my happy pills, and a WTF (ToL #165)My Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      I have to confess Amanda that I’m no hero myself when it comes to bugs and insects and stuff like that. So, although pretty uncomfortable to wear, that hat was absolutely necessary. Besides I would have got my hair messed up otherwise! LOL

      Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for the kind comments! 🙂

  4. Wow I’m sure that’s an experience you’re never going to forget. It’s neat to remember that God made different kinds of creatures for different kinds of habitats. 🙂
    Emily recently posted…Recovery Series: The Bar Queen StoryMy Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      Emily it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. 😀

      I just hope and pray that we continue protecting the gorillas natural habitat, allowing them to live in peace and to hopefully thrive once again.

  5. Hehe, I love Gorillas! So cute and beautiful creatures!!!
    (And of course mashed plantain is amazing!!! Plantain love!!!)
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…Immune-Boosting Friendship Smoothie BowlsMy Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      OMG, the mountain gorillas were amazing! But so was the plantain. A dish I’d never had before and wouldn’t hesitate to grab again if it was available. (Which is extremely unlikely here in Scotland! 😉

  6. The photos pf those mountain gorillas are amazing. It’s incredible that you got to get that close to them, without being in a zoo as well.
    I am so jealous – it looks like you had the best time.
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    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      I was amazed how close we were allowed to get, and just how close those gorillas let us get to them Dannii!

      I would recommend this trip to anyone who can do it. It took quite a lot of saving up and a whole year of not going out much for us to be able to do it, but it was so worth it, and I would do it all over again, no problems! 🙂

  7. What a special trip. Your photos and videos are fantastic. A trip of a lifetime! My husband and son went to Africa and climbed to see the mountain gorillas and also took videos. It was so fascinating to watch. Ever since I’ve been trying to convince my husband to go back and take me.

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      Hi Vicki, thank you so much for your kind comments. 🙂

      It truly was an amazing trip of a lifetime and I hope I managed to convey just how privileged and humbled Lynne and I felt to be there and to be standing in front of those amazing, beautiful creatures.

      I hope you manage to convince your husband to take you there next time. You will more than love it! 😀

  8. What an amazing adventure! I love these photos – it awakens a lot of travel bug in me. Seriously. Can’t wait till I can travel again.
    Africa is on my list!
    Charissa (@ColourfulPalate) recently posted…Books You Need to Read in 2016My Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      So glad you liked the post and the photos Charissa! 🙂

      I honestly took so many photographs it was hard to decide on which ones to put in this blog post.

      More photos and part 3/4 coming this week. I definitely recommend Africa. 😀

  9. Hi Neil, I found your blog from ‘Melanie Cooks’- this seems like a trip of the lifetime- I would worry, though, about the humans in the area- are they ‘safe’?

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      Hi Fran, thanks so much for hoping on over to my blog and your comment! 🙂

      Definitely a trip of a lifetime and I would recommend it to anyone. The humans in the area are as safe as can be, I would reckon. There’s about 200 park staff working to keep the gorilla’s within the area, within their natural environment, where they are best protected. Normally they won’t go near humans unless they feel threatened. If they do stray outside the park, the staff are quick to be alerted to hustle them back in. Any damage the gorillas cause to the people’s crops or property outside the park are also compensated for by the government. That way, the people don’t harm the gorillas either.

  10. Wow Neil – this is one awesome recap of y’alls sojourn through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Your photos are amazing and that video of the 3-year old gorilla trying to get something out of his mouth reminds me of my dad. Not comparing my dad to a gorilla of course – but my dad often had a comical look on his face too – especially when he had food stuck in his teeth! 🙂 Sounds like y’all ate some delicious meals too!
    Shashi at RunninSrilankan recently posted…Tofu Burgers with Strawberry Picante SauceMy Profile

    • neil@neilshealthymeals.com says:

      That’s a fascinating video isn’t it Shashi, of that 3-year old gorilla. And, without comparing it to your dad, of course, very human in behaviour!

      A truly amazing time we both had. And the food, wow the food. I know you would absolutely love it. Myself, I just couldn’t get enough of the goat curry. 😀

  11. Great photos and video! coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla is one of the most memorable wildlife encounters in Africa, if not the world.

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