August 12, 2017
After a few hours of jostling, I was ready to be walking under my own 2 feet….AND my bladder was beckoning…After inquiring, the 3 of us hustled to the “”bathrooms”…or as I expected, the holes in the concrete…At this point I didn’t care….But…Oh my, these were the tiniest holes…Men could aim…We women?…Well, you could definitely see Gender Inequality with this! (-:
We headed to the room where we once again showed our Passport and filled out forms and showed our Gorilla Permit…We settled in with about 10 other tourists…so 13 of us in all. The Guide and Ranger gave us the introductory lecture about respecting the gorillas and the rules…they took our temperatures to be sure we weren’t sick and then we were divided into 3 groups to visit the 3 gorilla families that the trackers had found…I went with a group of 6 of us to see the Huma family. The Huma family had 2 Silverbacks, 3 females, 2 juniors and 3 babies.
We took off with 2 Rangers, a guide and would meet 2 trackers. We worked our way through the dense Jungle and found a little “trail”…then the Rangers stared hacking our way through the thicket…This reminded me of a cross between the Amazon and the Everglades. Much of the vegetation was so familiar and yet some so different. I was wearing my faux GoPro in hopes to capture the hike but I found the camera more of a hindrance than a help on my backpack. The terrain was rocky and had tons of vines that could easily catch our shoes…The guide moved at a reasonable pace and before we knew it, maybe 45 minutes or so in, we were stopped and told to put on our masks.
Suddenly, right in front of us…maybe 15 feet away was a huge Silverback…just sitting there…Almost as if he expected us…like guests to his house…As we came upon him, he moved forward and proudly posed…as if to say…OK OK take your photos because I have somewhere better to be shortly…And soon he was off…Then the guides and rangers beaconed us to move in a different direction and there hanging out was 2 females, a baby and a juvenile….We were all snapping away with our cameras…desperately trying to capture these cuties…then all of the sudden, I hear a large rustling and fast as could be comes another Juvenile…He seemed quite rambunctious…and desperate for attention, as teenagers can be…
Once the juvenile settled in, one of the trackers moved me in for a closer photo…the Juvenile seemed to notice me then and decided I was a possible new playmate…They had warned us about this so I did as instructed and back up…only to find the tracker and I were backed into a tree…The Juvenile scrambled up a tree in front and began to swing for us just as we scrambled to move out of the way…I was videoing as he was on the branch and then he suddenly swung toward us and my camera went one way as I went the other…The little guy came within inches of me…I think he found it quite amusing…After the tracker and I caught our bearings, I looked at the Junior and he was just standing there with a look as if to say…”gottcha!”. I gave me the feeling that the gorillas may view us as toys! I think he was my favorite for the day because he kept on entertaining us…Climbing up and breaking branches…It felt like a show. He seemed to enjoy breaking branches and at one point the main Silverback decided to try to wear out some of his energy and began to wrestle the young one….It was so very human…and extraordinary to watch. After a bit the 2 hustled off with the Silverback in chase of the young one…
Soon we were moved to where the other Silverback, most likely the first one we saw, was trying to nap…One of the females with her baby came over and started to groom him…the baby seemed intent of playing and trying to pester his mother…She started to settle in next to her man while trying to get her baby to relax…She really just wanted to rest…but this little one wanted to play…After some time, the mother just grabbed the little one and held him close to her so that he could not move…His little legs were kicking as if to try to break away…but she would have none of that…It was nap time and she was determined to make him sleep…he fought valiantly but within 5 minutes he was out like a light! Sound familiar?
I heard this light pounding and quickly turned to catch one of the Juveniles pounding his little chest as he lie on the ground next to another young one. I was able to capture it at the end…but seeing it with my own eyes was enough. I just couldn’t believe I was here watching these amazing creatures with my own eyes.
The Rangers and Trackers were constantly finding us better angles and places to get to…It seemed the 10-15’ rule was shot…They also seemed as excited as we were, at times…or maybe they just appreciated how much we loved the gorillas.
After our hour, we headed back…and let me tell you, the Rangers were NOT wasting their time…If it took us 45-minutes to an hour to get there, we made it back in 30! Once back at the camp, we all paid our tips to the Rangers, Guides and Trackers…This is one of the most important things Tourists can do…be generous with tipping…I now normally we try to hold back in developing nations so as not to destabilize the economies of scale BUT here it is vital to tip generously because many of those working FOR the Gorillas used to work against them in some manner to make a living. The more money they can make protecting the Gorilla the better it is for both Gorilla and Habitat.
After we finished, Noel, Claire(My new British friends) and I headed to the Burkima Camp to have lunch and spend the night.
I will add pictures as soon as I can…Wifi is very sketchy here