Trekking With Gorillas - Bwindi, Uganda


With a heavy smack of her shoulder the gorilla sent me stumbling backwards.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest


Since watching Gorilla’s in the Mist as a child, I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of Dian Fossey. I didn’t quite make it out to Rwanda but instead headed to the next door neighbour Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda, one of the best locations in Africa for viewing the endangered wild Mountain Gorillas.


I found the easiest route out of London to be via Dubai to Entebbe, Uganda, followed by a short internal flight to Bwindi Kihihi.

There are only a few domestic flights out to Bwindi each day, therefore I spent one night at the very safe and friendly Boutique Hotel, The Boma located 15mins from the airport.

The next morning, I jumped on an AeroLink flight out to Bwindi Khihi before getting settled at the gorgeous tree top hotel, Mahogany Springs. Although one step closer to the Gorilla’s, trekking has a strict start time of 8am so we would need to wait to join the following days trek.


Get me to the Gorillas! Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

In order to protect the welfare of the endangered Gorillas there is a limited number of daily permits to gain access into the forest, therefore it is extremely advisable to secure your permit prior to your trip.

We arrive excited at 8am and are promptly divided into small groups and introduced to our guide. You are encouraged to hire a porter to assist throughout the day, which I felt uncomfortable with at first, however most of the porters are unemployed ex-gorilla poachers which turn up each morning in hope of obtaining work, so by hiring them you are actually giving a salary and keeping them away from illegal poaching.

As we start out on our trek, I have already tripped over several times but thanks to Peter my porter he was there in a flash and scooped me up swiftly every time.

The Gorillas are wild and travel large distances, so It could take anything from one hour to several hours to find one of the habituated families.

“SSSSHHHHHH” as my guide signals for us to stop! After 2hours, there through the clearing was a female Gorilla with her baby, staring straight back at us with the deepest Amber eyes. Their fluffy jet black fur sat contrasted against the lush green forest. The baby was only a few months old and a very cheeky little guy, jumping all over his mother.

The female Gorilla grew tired of the babies relentless jumping so she decided to make a move in our direction.

The rules I’d learnt that morning suddenly flashed up in my head.... keep a 200m distance, don’t move if they approach you and most importantly don’t RUN! This girl was ignoring me whilst making her way off to the left or so I thought..... I remained very still to give her room to pass however the feisty Gorilla had a last-minute change of plan and decided she wanted me out the way!


The Gorilla made a b-line towards me and with a heavy smack of her shoulder she sent me stumbling backwards. One of the other guests managed to catch the moment on camera below! A thousand different thoughts flashed through my mind in that split second, however, I laughed it off in in fear and amazement! Now I knew how Dian Fossey must have felt the first time she experienced a knock by a Gorilla!

Time with the Gorilla families is restricted to a maximum of one hour, so we started to make our descend back down the mountain with a quick picnic stop along the way whilst sitting on the forest floor surrounded by the incredible sights and sounds of the forest.

The following morning, we head out just like the day before, however this time it takes four hours to reach a Gorilla family, which was well worth the trek as we are greeted by one of the biggest families and silverbacks in the forest.

This guy was huge and just one of his arms was easily bigger than my entire body!

After a very long day we were greeted back at Mahogany Springs with a refreshing towel and cold drink. Whilst taking a well deserved hot shower I left my muddy boots outside my room, when I popped back out to grab them they were spotless! A very kind member of staff must have seen them looking a bit worse for wear and kindly scrubbed them spotless and warmed them next to the open fire! It’s the little extra touches like this that really take a hotel up a gear.

After spending time with the Gorillas, I can see where Dian Fossey got her passion from and why she fought so hard to protect the Gorillas. There are now only 880 Mountain Gorillas in existence and are critically endangered. These powerful creatures are unfortunately no match for human hunters and with continued sales of trophies, bushmeat and habitat loss, we will soon lose this species forever.


If you are not ready to go home after several amazing days in Bwindi then click here to see where I headed to next . . . . . .


Travel Tips


Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • International flight: Emirates - London via Dubai to Entebbe, Uganda

  • Domestic Flight: Aero Link - Entebbe to Bwindi Kihihi


Gorilla Trek Recommendations & What to wear

  • No flash photography

  • Try to keep baggage as small as possible and weight to a minimum as the internal flights are very small and have strict weight restrictions

  • Long hard-wearing trousers & Long Sleeve shirts are a must as you are trekking your way through a wild forest

  • Stick to light neutral clothing, avoid bright colours and stay away from camouflage prints as this identifies with soldiers in Africa.

  • Sturdy walking/mountain boots teamed with long socks to tuck your trousers into.

  • Packable rain Mac - I can't stress how essential this is! Be prepared to get wet!

  • Backpack, hat, sunglasses, hand sanitiser, bug spray, sun cream

  • Cheap thick gardening gloves, these will protect your hands whilst clambering through the forest

  • Walking Stick – this will often be leant to you by your lodge


Stay

Mahogany Springs


This luxurious lodge overlooks the Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Munyanga River and Gorillas have been to know to the visit the lodge! Each suite has a treehouse feel within a spectacular setting giving you the ultimate Tarzan and Jane experience. Highlights:

  • Relax on your own private terrace with a glass of wine at sunset and take in the spectacular views and sounds of the forest.

  • Some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever met whom

  • Stone's throw from the national park gates

  • Secure grounds, clean and all the facilitates of a 5star hotel

Find out more here


Transit hotel: The Boma Hotel

 

This small boutique guesthouse was a short 15mins ride from Entebbe airport making it an ideal location for a short lay over, equipped with a pool, stunning gardens, dining area and clean rooms.

On the day of our return flight home we had a 6hour wait in Entebbe Airport, so knowing the guesthouse was only 15mins away I gave them a quick call and to my surprise they invited us over and allowed us to use all the facilities to freshen up and even have a spot of lunch. The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating and cannot thank them enough for helping us avoid a dreaded uncomfortable 6hour wait in the airport.


Find out more here

As always this post was based entirely on my own thoughts, experience and opinions.

Have you ever had a close encounter with wildlife?

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