Uganda: Tracking Gorillas

Shades of emerald, highlighter green and deep blue are painted on the mountain ranges. It is peaceful with no wind. I am looking out over a smooth, sleepy lake 2,000 metres above sea level. I climb into the back of a rickety, rusted van and start the journey to the starting point. Thick, haunting fog is squeezed into the mountain’s creases. It is like insulation being injected into the walls of an old house, expanding to fit perfectly into the empty space.

We pass a woman of the highlands drenched in an earthy-toned cloak with a leopard printed scarf wrapped around her head. She stares at me with curious, sleepy eyes. The sun slowly begins to greet us, breaking the coldness of night with shinning radiant rays bouncing over the towering peaks. The fog starts thinning out as we drive the rocky, dusty roads into its white mass. Sections of the mist look like ballet dancers swirling on top of the glassy lake surface.

This is Bwindi National Park. The eco-system is shared by three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Arriving at the starting point, I follow a trail into the jungle with my guide and two armed ranges who are listening on the radio transmitter to hear if the trackers have spotted our primate family. Every day, trackers look for known Gorilla families by searching for them from the last place they had been  seen the day before. Only eight people are permitted to track one gorilla family per day.

After two hours of jumping over fallen tree trunks and thorn bushes, we receive the muffled call over the radio from the trackers; they have spotted our gorillas, the Mishaya family. The guide pulls out a machete and starts hacking a path down the steep mountain side. I follow on all fours, crawling under hovering branches and tangled vines. I can hear gorilla grunts rebound off the gully wall. I stop. At the corner of my eye, I see a majestic Silver Back Gorilla sits striping large layers from a sugar cane with his strong hands. He notices me in his space and lets out jungle grunts.

The shy females are near, hiding behind vegetation. The baby of the family looks at us with playful eyes through tangled twigs. He climbs a skinny tree with ambition and a brave face. He reaches the top, hangs upside down proudly and drops to the forest floor as the vine gives way. Like a child testing his limited to reach a jar of lollies on highest shelf, he smirks and climbs another flaky branch which ultimately sends him falling back down to the cushioning of the bushy carpet.

The family let us into their bubble, letting us watch them go about their daily tasks of eating, swinging and sleeping. It is humbling to see their happy, free faces in the wild.

2 thoughts on “Uganda: Tracking Gorillas

  1. Sounds like a bucket list adventure.

    1. alldayswild@gmail.com

      One of the most magical experiences I have ever had! Highly recommend 🙂

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