Gorilla Safaris: Trekking a Pinnacle of Uganda Tourism
By Jakke Gibson Roberts
Uganda "The Pearl of Africa is small country in the Eastern and Central Africa bordering Kenya in the East Tanzania and Rwanda in the south, Congo (DRC) in the west and Sudan in the north.
Uganda has a unique description which cannot be close to the truth".situated in the fertile heart of Africa, astride the Equator boasts of wide diverse of landscape, from rugged snow capped mountains, the vast flatlands stretching to the horizon, Uganda offers visitors a wealth of breathtaking scenery, with range of broad savannah, rain forests to arid - semi desert, plenty of wetlands and abundant fresh rain forests. It is within such charming climate that has natured and protected the mountain gorillas that still survive on earth.
It is estimated that not more than 600 still survive on earth and that those still surviving live in the environs of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in south western part of Uganda.
Every visitor coming to Uganda would wish to get into contact with these gentle giants moreover our distant cousins. Uganda should treat gorilla tracking as the pinnacle of the tourism industry in the country if they are to continue attracting more numbers of tourist visiting the country and increase passes to visit these gentle giants. Below is my gorilla experience.
Having slept in dream world of tomorrow experience, I woke up so early by 5.00 am and took shower to enhance my energy. Shortly we were briefed by the park guides what we were likely to go through before meeting the forest beasts and most important as to how to conduct ourselves once we are in vicinity of gorillas.
We set off under dense under growth and faster we moved, in the jungle under dense layers of canopies. The terrain is hilly but all covered with thick forest. We would stop to wait for those who needed to catch their breath. It took us about 5 hours to get near them. Closer the gorillas got. Our guide signaled that he has seen waste (poopoo) and this was sign indicating to us that we are almost seeing them. Shortly started seeing fresh under growth beaten. Continued hiking in the jungle following some beaten tracks. We came across some monkeys and many bird species in the jungle. The Forest truck was narrow, overgrown. As a result we could not see far ahead of us.
So no sooner had we moved in a bit open place but with thick ferns and orchids, could already view a few of them sitting majestically and motionless in tree branches watching and waiting for us.
Our efforts and determinations were about to pay off. We came across a small river and crossed it in one leap. Now we really came close. We were tired but very excited; we moved down and crawled closer to the gorillas in total silence. They had finally come into full view-over 14 of them-an unbelievable sight!
Two silver backs sat next to each other at the head of the group, while the others huddled together closely behind and continued their silent stares. Once in a while the juveniles could move in play some manner almost coming closer to where we were while the adults broke into a low grunt and moved closer. Meanwhile each of us was fidgeting to take a snap of life time as to many of would be their last chance to see these forest beasts.
The bigger silverback suddenly stood on all fours and stiffened, indicating we had probably moved too close.
One of the gorillas appearing to be stubborn refused to sit with the group or even join them when they began moving further away. He continued to sit by himself in the bush and watched us. We also watched him, and waited for him to join his family. Eventually he left the bush and sat in the path just behind us. We left the path so he could move ahead of us and join the others, but still refused to move. When our patience finally run out and we decided to follow the other gorillas before they disappeared out of sight, Finally he moved and followed closely behind us. Whenever we stopped, he too would stop and move whenever we moved.
"He is trying to show the silverbacks that he too can lead. He wants to make sure all is well ranger guide explained. He soon and went to join his family who were already moving ahead and disappearing under the thick leaves. For one hour, we had watched infant gorillas playing on their mother's bellies, juvenile gorillas somersaulting on tree branches, and male gorillas shaking the ground with their chest thumps. For one hour, we had sat entranced by the sight of the gorillas, so massive that one us thought a gorillas paw to be a head. It was an hour well spent. We continued pondering over our time with the gorillas long after they disappeared out of sight.
Finally it was time to retrace our steps back to the vehicles. Three hours of climbing awaited us. But we didn't mind. Our mission had been successfully accomplished. We were happy and done.
Not even the torrential rain which poured half way into our journey back, could erase our spirits- no wonder this forest is at times referred to as rainy forest. It is a memory I still savor and linger in my dreams.
It is to this emphasis that the caretaker of the habitat of these distant cousins Uganda Wildlife Authority should continue playing a pivot role to conserve for the future as their motto spells. Company offering trips to East Africa - Kenya Tanzania and Uganda plus Rwanda called Travel Hemispheres, http://www.travelhemispheres.com, arranged our tour package. And can be reached on this email:
Our email address is jakke2@ yahoo.com
Jakke Gibson Roberts
About The Author
Jakke Roberts has travelled to many parts of the African Continent. He is a photo journalist and a safari snub.