9/20/09: Nkuringo, Uganda
When Kevin and I planned this trip, the one thing at the very top of my must-do list was to see the gorillas. I wanted to see gorillas more than I wanted to do anything else. More than Machu Picchu, more than the pyramids, more than the Himalayas, even more than Thailand and mango sticky rice. So now that we were finally going to see the gorillas, you can imagine how nervous I was that I might be disappointed after having such high expectations.
But really, it’s not like anything you can imagine.
It was a really amazing and totally surreal experience. Even looking back on it now it’s hard to believe that it actually happened, except we have the pictures to prove it. I wish I could describe to you how it felt, but I can’t. The one thing I can tell you that comes close to explaining how it was is this: after we saw the gorillas and hiked back up to the top of the hill and I looked over at the forest, I was so overwhelmed by the experience we had and the beauty of the country that I started to cry.
I have never felt that way before.
A little bit on the logistics:
There are six gorilla families in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that can be visited by people. Each family can only be visited once per day and only for one hour. The trackers go into the forest early in the morning to the place the gorillas were the day before. They then follow the path the gorillas took – if there is plenty of food, the gorillas don’t travel far; if there is little food, they may go more than a mile away from their last nesting site. They communicate with the guide via walkie-talkies. When they find the gorillas, the guide can then take the group on a shorter path straight to the gorillas. Besides the guide, there are also two guards with guns – one at the front of the group and one at the end. They are there to scare off any aggressive gorilla families (ones that haven’t been habitualized to humans) or any other aggressive animals (mountain elephants live in the forest as well, but we didn’t see any).
The gorilla family we visited was the Nkuringo family. We were lucky enough to see the biggest silverback (though I think he napped the whole time we were there), several of the younger males and the 9-month old twins. I wanted to take one of the twins home, but Kevin wouldn’t let me. I guess that’s for the best.
Picture of the Day: Mr. Turtle does not get to meet the gorillas. He runs away in protest.