Gorilla Habitation Trek
A Real Life Experience of Gorillas in The Mist
I don't think I will ever forget the first moments of seeing this family in the wild. A little shy with full round bellies, looking in the deep amber eyes of these gorillas is an experience like no other.
Getting to Bwindi was a journey. We Jeep’ed it from Kigali, Rwanda to Uganda. The rough roads, side road food, and stunning drive into the mountains mapped a journey that we will never forget. When we arrived at the Rwanda & Uganda border to go thru customs, it was the typical stand inline, which line is shorter, windows close for no apparent reason, stand and wait game. After clearance, we started on the road into Uganda.
The landscape was breathtaking. Looking out the windows, all I could remember was Gorillas in the Mist - AND we were here. Lush green mountains, damp air, bumping around in the Jeep feeling that African massage. We finally arrived at our hotel, Gorilla Safari Lodge in Rushaga Uganda. The lodge was perfect, with all of the rooms having views of the forest. It all built the anticipation for the Gorilla Trek the following day.
The next morning arrived, the sun peaked through the clouds and the air was misty. We arrived at the gate to be greeted by 22 men, our personal army to guide us into Bwindi to visit the Gorillas. Shortly after meeting our porters, we were off.
The hike started on a gentle pathway in the mountains. The excitement took us a good pace, however, with an elevation of 3,806 to 8,553 ft the pace quickly slowed. Hiking this impenetrable giant primeval forest, crossing rivers, slipping on the damp ground, and stopping to absorb the views. The light chats and laugh made this journey even more memorable.
The pace slowed to almost a stop as we got close to the family. Our ranger reminded us of the safety and precautions while we spent the next 4 hours here.
Our first sighting was the Silverback high in a tree, eating a little and resting. I still cannot figure out how he rested on this narrow branch, well really, how he didn’t break it?! About 45 minutes into the visit, he slid down the tree and vines, right in front of us. This was not a zoo, no glass, no rails.. just trees with the sun creeping through the green, us and the gorillas.
When he came down the tree and landed on the forest floor, you almost felt it. Magic. He was here, 10 feet away. Then he was gone. Covered himself in the thick foliage, and he disappeared. Our team kept on him and we stayed on the move with him… 4 hours with this family of 9, incredible. To have these gorillas so close, you can feel them breath, look them in the eyes with intensity, it could almost be a conversation. Prohibited to reach and touch any of the gorillas, however, it was ok if they touched us. I was within inches, to feel the coarse hair against my skin, all while staring her in the eyes. There were times, that the silverback must have been fed up with my lens in his face, he would grab the vines and cover his head.
After our visit, it was time for the return hike out. It was a joyful journey, conversation was recounting our hours with the family, the highlights, the moving moments that we will never forget. This was the encounter of a lifetime.
When we arrived back to the hotel, we were filthy and exhausted. We all showered and got massages, followed with a delicious warm meal.
The best thing about Bwindi and the Gorillas, was making that memory. Uganda is full of beauty, life and adventure. Thank you all who made this journey possible, and my fellow travelers who made this trek amazing!
International Fine Art Photographer Melinda Meijer’s work spans the globe capturing an array of subjects. The realism depicted throughout her collections is undeniably breathtaking from African wildlife, action packed Pro-sports to underwater adventures.