Gorilla Trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
The really exciting thing about a gorilla trek is the travel into deepest Africa step by step.
Each leg of the trip taking you one bit closer to these rare giants of the mist cover jungles.
Flying over Lake Victoria in our 8-seat plane, looking down at grass islands and a lush green patchwork of subsistence farms as they gradually gave way to mountainous rainforest our wonderment grew.
Accompanying our party of photographers on our plane ride was the cheerful Ugandan minister for Economics and a British aristocrat who we learned owned several of luxury lodges in Uganda.
Children yelled out in excitement and ran after our 4x4 as we dodged goats and bystanders on the earthen roadway ascending to our final destination - Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The sounds of jungle creatures echoed around the towering rainforest mountains as night fell, as did my head on the pillow.
There’s something so authentic about being in a big comfy bed (complete with a toasty water bottle) under a canvas safari tent as you drift off, musing as to the origin and identity of the distant hoots and shrieks of the night.
After our induction into gorilla behaviour at jungle headquarters, it was time to head single file through the villages, up the mountain into the forest for a privileged hour with our close cousins, the mountain gorillas.
Someone held a hand up in front of the conga line and the message was silently repeated down the line and excited whispers confirm that we’ve found the Gorilla Family.
It’s not easy to explain the feeling of looking into the eyes of a Silverback 5 meters in front of you who is looking straight back at you.
Perhaps one way to describe it is like looking into the eyes of a total stranger on a city street.
It’s not like staring at a cow or a horse. Looking into the eyes of a mountain gorilla is like looking at ourselves.
After all that mankind has done to destroy these creatures we should feel lucky they allow us this hour to sit amongst them in their daily lives.
205kgs of Silverback looked at me as if to say “come on man, can’t you see I’m trying to eat the bark of this tree?!”
I felt like I’d walked up to a coffee shop on a busy street and pointed my lens through the window at a businessman sipping a latte only to receive a filthy look.
Eventually, the patriarch relented and permitted us to take his photo between moments eating bark and playing with an infant.
It was a treasured hour, filled with peacefulness and respect sitting amongst these gentle creatures, taking photos and admiring their passive interactions.
Youngsters grappled, wrestled and pulled each other down in mock fights, no different to young kids scuffling rummaging in a playground. One would pretend to be asleep with one eye open and the other would leap towards him only to have him roll out of the way at the last minute.
Then both would tuck up into a furry black ball and roll down the hill through the soft lushness.
On a couple of occasions, a gorilla would amble towards us, brushing past the camera lens.
At this stage you stay still and bow your head in respect. These gorilla families have been habituated to humans over years and all the ask for is a little politeness from our stay among them.
Our wonderful guide Guretti announced ‘two minutes!’ and it was time to lower the cameras and get excited about what we’d witnessed and captured.
I remember looking up to see the gorillas had ambled away into the undergrowth upon Guretti’s announcement.
No doubt they knew the hour was up, and they were happy to spend it with us, the fees and awareness from which are the reason for their ongoing survival.
We stopped to photograph a Chameleon (could the day get any better!), had packed lunch on the side of a clearing looking across the coffee and banana plantations below and wondering if we couldn’t learn a thing or two from our peaceful cousins!
More images from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on the gallery.