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gorilla trekking with GSA

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Hello fellow travelers,

Thanks a lot for the advice and comments you gave us when my husband posted a topic on this forum whilst in preparation for our trip in East Africa, so we would therefore like to share with you, what we experienced!

On our arrival in Uganda, we were welcomed by Mike who was our safari Guide and thereafter we went to our Hotel just after minutes from the Airport. As we arrived during day we also got a chance to explore the Entebe town in the evening hours, we saw a lot birds on shores of the Lake, in town like the elusive Marabou stork! It was such a wonderful evening walk! We went back to our hotel for our dinner.

Early in the morning at around 6:00am, we woke up and had to prepare ourselves for along days drive to the "Gorilla land" and after breakfast, we embarked on our journey. We had a brief stop over at the Equator and we were so happy to have our first cup of coffee in the southern hemisphere. On our Journey to Bwindi, we enjoyed the lush green countryside and also the topography of Western Uganda. We saw herds of long horned cattle, waaa.......wo “CRAZY HORNS”. We arrived in Bwindi late in the evening and we were so excited to sleep next to the Impenetrable forest with panoramic views from Buhoma Homestead.
Indeed the sights, sounds and smells of Bwindi are just memorable!

The day we were all waiting for- oops came, and after break fast we met our guide and trackers at the Park headquarters at Bwindi, had the orientations, choose our walking sticks, and were closely monitored for any signs of colds or other illness. By 8:30am our group of six tourist and eight assorted guides, trackers, and soldiers got in the vehicle, drove just a distance of ~2km from the park headquarters to where we started our trekking for the ‘M-group’ (gorilla family). The way was slightly downhill for a hundred yards or so, crossed a small stream and then straight up! The picturesque hillsides and ridges were not so charming when you had to climb them, and soon we were all scrambling, as in holding onto trees and bush for leverage to hoist ourselves up.
After an hour and so on the path, climb up, over, and down a ridge and then up again, a halt was called. We all thankfully drank some water, ate some snacks and rested as best as possible. After a few minutes we started off again, but this time cross country, as in not on any path. The trackers were now headed to the spot they had left the M-family the day before. They had used the path to get as close as possible to the spot, but the Gorillas don’t use paths but make their own. So now it was up to the professional trackers to follow the trail of the Gorillas. One might ask, “Why didn’t we just follow the path made by the gorillas?” Well, I for one could not even see the “gorilla path”. They are large animals for sure but they are very adept at moving the forest and left no readily visible signs. They didn’t move in a single file but flattening the bushes and breaking a lot of branches but moved along a wide swath, each finding his or herb own way. It was then coming to a half past Eleven (11:30am) when the trackers said that the family would soon stop for the mid day rest but the question was, “how far they had moved since leaving their night-nests?” the trackers picked up the trail and off we went. Our progress was quite slow as the trackers, who spread out in front of us, had to search for signs of the family’s route relying mainly on deposits of dung, we stopped often as the trackers were trying to find the next family sign and this was saving grace as it allowed us to drink and rest for a few moments.

Soon we began to scramble again following our guide who was also following the trackers. Silently we edged upwards and then across a level area and into a thickly forested glade. I was in font of the six trekkers and the guide motioned to me, pointing to my right. I looked over and into the ‘eyes of the gorilla’ waaa…..wo! not 15feet away, sitting with a leafy branch in its hands and only glancing at me. I quicky got my Husband’s attention; it was high noon exactly and thus began the one of our most incredible hours of our life.
We had actually passed into the midst of the family, the members were all scattered around the glade some lying down, some in trees and others slowly moving about, pulling berries and twigs off low branches at the time.

The family was practically at standstill, resting during the mid day heat and our guide stationed us so that the gorillas were around us. We were cautioned to be very quiet, restrict our movements and move slowly and also warned again about using any flash bulbs.
For some minutes, I was paralysed, an able to take my eyes from the nearest Gorilla, several other females and some youngsters. My camera lay unused around my neck but the gorillas paid us no mind. Their eyes could flicker over us only when we were in the range of some food that caught their interest but our eyes couldn’t leave them. The love and tenderness they showed to their young ones was real and uninhibited. The respect they gave to one another was visible and unaffected. Their eyes were intelligent and thoughtful. If as some say, humans originated from East Africa, I was looking at the source then! The alpha silverback was a giant, 350 pounds or more. His enormous head sat on shoulders that rounded into dark fur, his demeanor was placid, though the strength in both his body and spirit was evident. He was obviously the alpha, the leader and ultimate decision-maker in his family.

The family scene was captivating; mother with babies hanging on their chests, youngsters playing. Things were quiet, only once in the hour did the alpha chastise another gorilla, when a young male was romping too close and received a mighty thump that sent him sprawling.
The few up in the trees had been throwing down some type of berries, which were eaten by some on the ground. Another male youngster was also in the trees but so funny when suddenly one of the tourist standing close to me became an object of his attention. He started to throw berries at her, bouncing one or two off her Video Camera. They were not seemingly thrown in agitation but more playful perhaps even an offering of food to these strangers. But within a minute the guide said, ‘the hour is up’ It was as if the Alpha knew that our time was up; that the rest of the family had co-operated long enough for this day; now “Beat it”

It had almost taken us five hours to find the gorillas but then after our lunch, it only took us about an hour to get to the park headquarters but as we were all backtracking, the conversation started fast and furious! “Did you seethe female with the little baby?” “did you see her breast feeding the baby?” “did you see the alpha thump that young gorilla boy?” “I would hate to get that guy mad at me!” and hence back to the headquarter to receive our gorilla tracking certificates.

Lastly, we really thank you for your advice you gave us and more so thanks goes to Mike-our guide and our travel agent –“Go See Africa” for the excellent organization our trip and above all “the best time” Oh, the weather was just so Perfect.
We highly recommend “Go see Africa” for your travels in East Africa!!! Thanks.

Best regards, L

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