Mountain Gorilla Adventure – Uganda, Africa

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
In October of last year, I traveled to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to get up close and personal with a family of mountain gorillas. It was an expedition I had always wanted to take. As we drove from Kampala (the capital city of Uganda) toward Bwindi, I was jittery with excitement.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to one of the few populations of mountain gorillas. The word "impenetrable" in this sense means "difficult or impossible to get into". That describes Bwindi perfectly. On our way to the foggy forest, we popped not one but two of the heavy tires on our Nissan Patrol because of the rocky roads. Luckily, two men with machetes helped us change the tires. I remember driving them home, seeing their two machetes swaying in the back seat through the rearview mirror as we listened to the Beach Boys.

The First Gorilla
The First Gorilla

We camped our first night in the forest. We listened closesly to the squeaks and calls coming from the dark jungle. The next day, using machetes of our own, we hacked through the vines and creepers in hopes of catching a sight of the giant primates. It took more than two hours of hiking, cutting and clawing up the side of a misty mountain before we spied this young gorilla munching happily in a tree.

When you see a young gorilla, you can be sure the Silverback is nearby. The Silverback Gorilla is the leader of the pack, the head dog, the bossman. Here is our first sighting of the Silverback of this group.

The Silverback
The Silverback

He's a giant, wider across than two of me. Above is a picture of the Silverback eating plants. Mountain gorillas are usually herbivores.

People want to know how close I was to the gorillas – six inches! I didn't get that near Sandwich; he came close to me!

I was watching the Silverback eating ants when a young, curious gorilla walked out of the bushes nearby and came right up to me. Gorillas walk on two feet and also put weight on their knuckles, this makes them quick. This particular gorilla was only inches away when I noticed him. He put his face up to the camera. Surprised and nervous, I still managed to click the buttom to get the shot (this was no zoo, even the smaller gorillas are strong).

Soon after my close encounter, it was time to head back down the mountain so that the gorillas could have peace.

My girlfriend, Katrin, and I couldn't stop talking about what a wonderful day we had. It's more than a year later and I still smile every time I think about my mountain gorilla adventure.

Up Close
Up Close

Gorilla Facts
1. There are about 650 wild mountain gorillas left in the world. They are found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. World Wildlife Federation considers mountain gorills endangered.

2. A baby gorilla can cling to the long hairs on its mother for a ride, leaving the mother’s hands free for walking.

3. The adult males, or silverbacks, are almost twice the size of the adult females.

4. No two gorilla noses are alike. Researchers in the wild take closeup photos of each gorilla’s face to identify individuals.

5. Gorillas have opposable thumbs, just like humans!

For more stories see Mr. Steve's Adventures.

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