As I landed in Uganda, I began to get a feel of the gorillas and their habitat. Uganda is lush, green, fertile and gets lots of rain. My primary objective was to track down mountain gorillas who stay in game parks on the border of Uganda and Congo. These reserves consisted of a dense rain forest covered by charming mountains with mists flowing out of them all the time.
Geoffrey decided to drive me to the Congo border to see the gorillas. We took a Land Cruiser which belonged to my friend, Alok Bansal, who had invited me to his house. We started our journey from Kampala and passed Mpigi town meandering through Masaka, Lyantande town and Kabale town. We drove through the Bwindi forest and then to our lodge called ‘Gorillas In The Mist’. For 100 dollars a night, it was a steal. I witnessed the most spectacular sunset from the window of my room.
Next morning was the briefing session in which we were told how to behave in front of a gorilla. We were advised to keep a distance of 7 meters specifically from the male silverback gorilla. This was because the male silverback gorillas are some of the most powerful and aggressive gorillas in the region.
After the session, I was followed by forest guards with guns. One had a cutlass to cut the bushes and banana trees as we had to make our own tracks to reach the gorilla family. We climbed up the rainforest slowly but steadily. We reached the top by cutting the trees and branches that came in our way as we gradually created a path for ourselves. It started to rain all of a sudden and ants began to climb up into my socks. It was then I realized what gorilla tracking really was. It was getting more and more difficult as I started to slip and fall on the leaves and plants under my feet. Thankfully, our forest rangers came to my rescue and kept pulling me up by the hand. I was panting and exhausted by then with the rain pouring down on my head, ants up my socks and the slippery ground. I understood that this was going to be even more fun than I anticipated.
An hour into the trek and I was ready to give up. “I can’t go anymore. I just want to sit down here.” With a thud, I sat on the muddy mountain to catch my breath. The forest guards kept motivating me and I trigged forward with all my might. Soon, we reached a high ground and the forest guard lifted the banana leaf to show me the most astounding sight. It was a male silverback gorilla.
The 140 kg beast was nibbling away and munching on a leaf. It was like I was in Jurassic Park and I just got the first glimpse of a dinosaur. Suddenly, the gorilla saw me and moved away. This was a cue for the forest ranger to pull me by the hand and take me to the other side. There I saw the whole gorilla family. There was a mother gorilla with a baby on her back.
I took out my camera and clicked away. Instantly, I was told not to use the flash as it would scare the gorilla and they may attack as they will feel threatened. We circled around the family of gorillas and then I sat down to observe them. They enjoyed eating banana leaves and climbing trees. One of them farted away to glory and even defecated from the tree top. Fortunately, I was at a distance and was saved from getting shat on.
I loved the daring experience. The grinding trek was worth it. After some time, we decided to defend and come back to the ground as it was pouring cats and dogs. With a song in my heart and a smile on my face, I moved back to the lodge courtesy of Geoffrey who was there to drive me back to the lodge.