Wild Trips: Bwindi Gorillas

The air in Bwindi forest is so clean it’s exhilarating. You breathe the freshness, it makes you inhale to the very bottom of your lungs. The subtle power, the life force of the trees hits you the moment you enter. It makes me want to run down the narrow paths. There are steps made out of the roots of trees. Climbers that try and trip you up, spikey things that mean you have to watch where you place your hands… And everywhere there is moss, it drips from every bough, clings to the newest of trees. And the ferns are enormous, as they uncurl, they compete with the trees for light, they tower above me like huge umbrellas creating dappled shade on the forest floor. All this to a background of insects and birds and the constant babble of the river. The clear water making its way through the stones. There are waterfalls too, moss and ferns hanging improbably from their constantly wet stone sides.

 

Bwindi is magical, you know it even before you meet the gorillas….. Veering from the path, our guide cuts through the thick vegetation with his machete. Under foot the leaves on top of mud and rotting wood make the going slippery. The steep slope means a scramble up and a slide down. And then we are there among them. Our guide turns to brief us. I know I should be making eye contact with him and listening carefully but it’s so hard to concentrate when a full grown female mountain gorilla scales the tree behind me, munching leaves as she goes… Her pot belly silhouetted against the sky. Branches creek and crack under her weight. Totally ignoring us she carries on with her meal. Beneath her another female lies soporifically. Her tiny baby curiously poking out through the foliage, his bright clear eyes occasionally catch the light. I love the fatness of their hands and feet, they are squidgy looking. The skin not as soft as ours and grey, of course. I am always staggered by the blackness and fluffiness of mountain gorillas. There are two youngsters in the Mubare group. One is just 5 months old, the other 9. I am surprised at their smallness. The youngest never leaving his mother’s grasp. The elder only just taking a very few steps from his. This group has one silverback, Kanyonyi, the other adult members are all female. The silverback must be a pretty attractive proposition for he has purloined most of his ladies from other groups. The family are mostly resting when we come across them. The silverback close to his females.. All is calm. Then suddenly something frightens them. It is incredible how quickly they move, the females all rush to the silverback for protection. He is instantly alert and on guard. His massive bulk ready to defend. He stands up and beats his chest and the noise resounds through the forest. He means business. But it is nothing, this time. The mother with the youngest infant, clearly shaken, snuggles in to the huge male for reassurance. He embraces her, the gentlest of cuddles, their baby between them. They stay like that for a while and then he decides to move off through the forest leading his family away.

 

Bwindi has 350 bird species, 310 butterfly species and 324 tree species… At least 120 species of mammals, including 10 primate… The park ranges from lowland to afro-montane forest, a moist tropical forest that is unique in Uganda. It has remained like this for millions of years, thus Bwindi is a refuge for many species…. And I LOVE it….

 

Category: Bwindi Gorillas, More Wild Trips, Wild Trips