To come face to face with a silver back gorilla in the wild, a trek in Uganda was in order!! To meet King Kong in person was always very high on our bucket list…. So we were stoked when we got to tick this off just before the world went into lock down.
For the previous two weeks we were on the road with the ATC truck.
But we finally made it to Uganda where we spent three nights at Lake Bunyonyi.
This was our base for the Bwindi impenetrable forest which is home to the Ugandan Mountain Gorillas.
While here an option for an upgrade into a cabin was available. Renee was allowed one upgrade on this camping trip and she chose wisely…
As this turned out to be one of the best decisions on this trip!
Not only did we not have to put up and down our tent.. But our upgrade into a cabin turned out to be an upgrade to a mother fucking CAVE!!
How awesome is this set up? We instantly knew we were in for a super rad few days.
OK enough of the campsite though, lets jump to the following morning!..
We woke up around 4 am and it was still dark. After breakfast we jumped into a van and started our journey to the Bwindi impenetrable forest.
It was about an hour and a half drive from the campsite. It’s a beautiful drive up the mountain above the valley below.
Mzunguz in the mist
We stopped to watch the sun rise and the mission we were about to embark on set in.
African mountain gorillas are only found in this mountain range, that shares a border between Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo.
These gorillas can not survive outside of this mountain range. So, the only way to see a mountain gorilla in real life is to hike that ass through the jungle. Where you can then hang out with a gorilla family in their natural habitat!
And trust me you will not be disappointed!!
We made our way to the entrance of…
The famous Bwindi impenetrable forest
We were greeted by a machine gun welding guard.
By now we have become desensitized to machine guns and large automatic weapons. As we’ve been traveling through East Africa for the past two weeks and there was always a guard with a large gun close by.
We arrived at the meeting point and were greeted by a local tribe. It was 6.30 am and these guys were lit!!
They were singing and dancing which really set the mood for this once in a life time experience!
We got briefed on all the different gorilla families that live on the Ugandan Mountain range.
Then we met our guide Agustin who would take us to meet the Mukiza gorilla family. Which consisted of a family of 13 gorillas with a few infants and a baby!
Now all the money from the permit into the Bwindi impenetrable forest goes directly to the conservation of the mountain gorillas. The guides and security get paid in the form of tips.
Also at the briefing they try and sell you a walking stick. Politely decline as your guide can just cut down a walking stick with his machete during the trek.
We jumped back into the van and headed deep into the forest.
Until we came across two heavily armed security guards on the side of the road.
We all introduce ourselves. These guys are coming on the trek to protect us from buffalo, bush elephants and poachers.
As we are super close to the Congo border, there have been instances in the past where tourists trekking have been kidnapped and held for ransom by Congo militia. So feeling thankful we have some guys looking out for us 🙂
We tuck our socks into our pants to protect our legs from fire ants, then proceed to penetrate the Bwindi impenetrable forest!!…
The gorilla trek in Uganda begins!
Our guide leads the way with machete in hand carving a path through the forest. We follow behind in a single file line, with one security at the front and one at the back.
I stayed at the back of the line with the security guy behind me. I tried to make some jokes and talk to him but he had his game face on the entire time.
Don’t know if my jokes were that bad or if he didn’t speak English…
None the less, the further we got into the forest the harder the trek became.
Back home in Australia we were like hell yeah let’s do some bush walks to train up for the gorilla trek. Ha ha this trek was like nothing we could have pictured or prepared for.
The terrain was very slippery as we climbed up and down mountains through thick bush. Slipping and sliding all the way.
We had to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and gloves to protect us from the shrubs. It wasn’t long until we were all covered in mud!
The deeper we penetrated the forest the more humidity we encountered.
I was dripping with sweat as we finally came to some flat ground when we crossed some little creeks.
The mud along the creek bed was like quick sand. If you missed a rock to stand on, your foot just sunk straight into the mud. You would need help to get pulled out which Renee discovered very quickly ha ha.
My legs were burning and I was starting to become very exhausted. But looking around my surroundings I just kept thinking push on… Because it won’t be long until we’ll be face to face with these amazing creatures in their natural habitat!!
We were about an hour and 20 minutes into the hike and the guide said we are getting close now. He let out a huge grunt to let the gorillas know that we are on our way.
As we eventually get to the top of a hill we meet up with the gorilla family’s guards.
Now every mountain gorilla family have 24 hour protection from security to protect them from poachers.
We put down our bags then the excitement set in as we could hear some rustling in the trees. We look up and there were two gorillas up in the trees jumping from tree to tree!
Meeting the family
We got out our cameras then slowly started to head towards them. Through some trees we were meet by this huge silver back gorilla just chilling with his family all around him.
It was so crazy. He was just meters in front of us and he didn’t mind us being there at all.
It didn’t seem real at all. This guy was massive!
The babies were wrestling and their mum was keeping them in check, it was so cool to watch. We just sat down and took it all in.
Now they told us not to make direct eye contact with any of them. As they see that as a threat, but these guys seemed to be very chilled.
As we all sat there and observed these gorillas doing their everyday gorilla business. The giant silver back stood up and started to charge directly towards Nick.
Holy fuck, this all played out in slow motion as the guide said what ever you do don’t move.. As this one tonne beast picked up the pace, straight towards Nick.. Eventually bowling him over and then disappearing into the bushes!
Man that was crazy! All I could think of when this happened is “Is he going to kill him???”
Like an absolute legend, Nick got up and brushed himself off after his super close encounter and near death by silver back experience!
He sure got the full mountain gorilla encounter that is not advertised in the brochure ha ha.
The rest of the family got up and followed the silver back into the bush.
Along the way a smaller gorilla walked right through Jus, pushing her over.
This was just insane and all happened within 10 minutes of getting there.
The guide assured us it was safe and they just wanted to move on. So he said “well let’s follow them, just don’t get too close.”
We quickly realized we were hanging out in their home and they could tear us apart at any moment.
But it didn’t take long for the gorillas to accept us. And they just went about their morning in the forest.
It was so amazing just walking around and hanging out with these beasts.
One baby gorilla slid down a tree right next to me then pushed past my legs to get by.
This family seemed to be pretty active today.
They would chill for a bit, then make their way further down the mountain.
We followed them for about an hour.
Which is the maximum amount of time you are allowed to spend with the wild gorillas.
This is to limit human interaction and to not disturb their family too much.
This gorilla trek in Uganda was way better than I could of ever imagined! It was so crazy how close we got to these wild gorillas.
King Kong photo gallery
Before we knew it our hour is up. Then we realized how far down the hill we had followed these guys….
We said goodbye to the gorillas as they slowly disappeared into the forest. Then we trekked our way back up to collect our bags.
It was such an amazing buzz we couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces.
What an amazing experience we just got to share with each other.
Quickly snapped this group shoot with our guides and the gorillas security.
Then we disappeared into the bush, to make our trek back to some sort of civilisation. Or at least a road.
The trek back
Just like our hike into the forest it hadn’t changed… It was hot, slippery and muddy.
We stopped for a quick lunch that we had packed earlier that morning.
Then continued to trek through the hills, until we finally made it back to the road, where our van was waiting for us.
All covered in mud with a memory that will last a lifetime, we headed back to the starting point and received our certificates.
As we left the Bwindi impenetrable forest
We stopped at a shop for some tourist treasures as a keep sake from this adventure.
While I waited at the van a little kid, I’m talking about 5 or 6 years old, appeared from the bush on the other side of the road.
He came up to me and asked if I had any water?
I grabbed a spare water bottle and filled it up for him, he was super stoked. We jumped back into the van and headed back to our campsite.
What an incredible adventure. This gorilla trek in Uganda sure was a once in a lifetime experience!
Check out this video I put together from our gorilla trek Uganda 🙂
I hope one day you too will be able to go on a gorilla trek in Uganda. As always happy travels
For Renee’s Gorilla blog check out Gorilla Trekking Uganda 🙂