Gorilla tracking in Uganda

I’ve always wanted to visit Africa for as long as I can remember. I can’t explain why – was it the incredible texitles, the incredible landscape and wide open skies, the trattio ons of culture or the wild animals?  Maybe it was all of it. I recently had the opportunity to realize this dream. The journey began in  Uganda to see the almost extinct silverback gorillas, then off to Massai Mara in Kenya for a safari on the savannah, and finally the east coast of South Africa where I could whale watch and see dolphins frolicking in the Indian ocean.

I have enormous a gratitude for this opportunity and think it’s only fitting to share it with anyone who is interested. As an artist, the effects of this trip will play out in my work over time as it has inspired me in so many ways, some of which I shave yet to discover.

Part one – the journey to the gorillas.

Through a few connecting flights we eventually landed in Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. Our transport picked us up from the airport and drove us to our acomodations at Lake Mutanda. Here is some of what we saw along the way. Some of the market area and then into the more rural areas with lots of lush agriculture and livestock. We stopped along the way for a cup of coffee – among the best I’ve ever had.

This area of Uganda

  • The soil in this area contains a lot of clay. One source of income is making bricks which are fired in wood kilns. The kilns need kept burning for the entire duration of the firing
  • Roads are really rough and slow going. We helped a fellow transport out of this 6ft. ditch with Andre’s idea to create a lever in the back to raise the front. Our vehicle then pulled it out from the back. The ditch was covered with wood which broke when the vehicle drove over. Quite the adventure sotry.
  • The local people working and on the side of the road were very friendly. Most greeted us with a smile and a wave hello.

These are images I took from the car during our stay, We did have a great guide, Shindish who shared some background of the local way of life.

The next day we went onto our gorilla trek in the Ibwindi National forest.

Here are some facts about tracking these gorillas

  • The silverback gorillas are an endangered species with about 1,000 in existence. At one point there were only 400 so conservation efforts are working.
  • The forest that borders Uganda, Rwanda and Congo is the only place these animals live.
  • Visiting the gorillas is strictly regulated. There are 8 gorilla families living in this Uganda forest.  Only 1 group of visitors are allowed to view each family for only 1 hr. The groups are restricted to 8 people max. Visitor permits are difficult to  obtain and can take up to one year to secure.
  • Guides are strict to enforce a set distance to the animals and all persons must where a mask.
  • The trek to find a family can take up to 4 hrs. The climb is steep, muddy with lots of roots and pitfalls. We opted to hire a porter to help us navigate the terrain. My porter held my hand and showed me exactly where to place my feet in the thick jungle like terrain. Our hike took 1.5 hours.
  • Some of the porters used to be poachers but now work with the conservation efforts to preserve the silverback gorillas.
  • The pygmie people lived in the forest with the gorillas until 1991 when they were evicted. They now live on the outskirts of the forest and agriculture is their new life source.
  • We were welcomed to the forest by pygmie dancers to get in the mood to see the gorillas. They performed one traditional dance to welcome us and another for conservation.
  • We were awarded a gorilla tracking certificate at the end our trek.

Watching the silverbacks live

Our hour with the gorillas went by quickly.

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