“It was their individuality combined with the shyness of their behavior that remained the most captivating impression of this first encounter with the greatest of the great apes.” Dian Fossey
On the evening prior to my gorilla trek in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, I checked my camera and realised that the battery was dying. I reached into my camera bag for the spare that I’d purchased before my trip and tried to put it in my camera. But it wouldn’t fit; the battery was too big.
I have no recollection of buying this battery; I just remember grabbing it when I packed and thinking great, I don’t need to get a spare battery. Perhaps it was for an old camera. But, in that moment of sinking realisation, I was devastated. For years, I’d dreamt of returning to Africa specifically to see the mountain gorillas. I wanted to take amazing photographs of these incredible animals and now I was faced with using a tiny digital camera without a zoom lens.
A few years ago I travelled to Uganda with Intrepid Travel to see the incredible mountain gorillas living their peaceful lives in Bwindi National Park. My trip coincided with trouble in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebels had forced rangers to abandon Virunga National Park. The experience left me reflecting on man’s inhumanity to man, but also admiring the wonderful conservation efforts that go into saving the species. This was one of my most memorable travel experiences; and one I would highly recommend.
The twisted jungle
‘You are about to enter the impenetrable forest!’ says our guide, and the excitement and nervousness of our group is palpable.
Even the name evokes imagination, of the deepest darkest jungle concealing another world and another time. When George Schaller, author of The Year of the Gorilla, first came to Africa in 1959 local Bantus avoided the forest, fearing wild animals and evil spirits.
Schaller taught himself how to track gorillas, but these days’ local villagers work as guides, trackers and porters. En route they point to flattened foliage, remains of plants gorillas eat and fresh dung.