My first Gorilla trekking experience , Gorilla trekking, just like the wildebeest migration. Has always been on my bucket list for many years. Having watched the film “Gorillas in the Mist” film that portrays the journey of Dian Fossey in protecting the gentle beasts and fallen in love with them. I knew I wanted to get up close and personal with the mountain gorillas someday. However, before embarking on my first journey into Africa. I was honestly full of nerves. Because this would be a different kind of adventure (into the jungles) and definitely away from my everyday life, besides traveling solo.
It took me one year to read about gorilla trekking adventures and the countries offering the activity. And that’s how I decided my next adventure would be in Uganda for two main reasons- Gorilla permits are way cheaper than in Rwanda. But also the fact that there are more gorillas (surprising!!). I finally decided that my first gorilla trekking experience would take me to Uganda, and Mum and Dad Uganda Tours became my Travel Agent. Having sent inquiries to different Companies and got the best deal.
From London Heathrow, we flew (with Brussels Airlines) to Entebbe International Airport via Brussels and Kigali. A 14-hour flight. I spent the majority of the journey time imagining what my next safari destination looked like. And of course, wondering what the next few days had in store for me. We touched down at Entebbe International Airport at about half past midnight- we had finally reached our destination.
At immigration, I paid for the tourist Visa which was immediately stamped in my passport. Hence making it my first official African stamp! After about an hour of clearing with customs/immigration, I found my way outside the Airport building. Finding my driver John who later transferred me to a Hotel (Boma) for overnight. Lucky for me, I had an extra night in Entebbe so enough time to rest. Before the next day’s long journey (by road) to Bwindi National Park. I had time to tour the Botanical Gardens, enjoy my first Ugandan meal, and enjoy a sunset boat cruise which was all organized last minute.
Our journey the next day started early in the morning and John was at the Hotel lobby on time. We hopped onto the 4X4 safari vehicle for the 8-9 hour road trip, ready to see what Bwindi. Home to the highest number of mountain gorillas had to offer. This was one of the longest but worthwhile road trips I had ever taken. I had never seen a place so green and raw with so much vegetation. And oh, did I forget how friendly the people were. We had a stop at the Equator crossing, took photos, and had coffee before proceeding with the journey.
My guide John made the journey more fun, and we had lunch in one of the Towns (Mbarara, the land of milk and honey as John described it). We were at Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge (my home for the next two nights) by evening. I was already exhausted and all I needed was a warm shower. Because the place is also cold during the wet season (I traveled in October). After a nice meal, I retired to bed and ready for my next day’s adventure.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi. I was up by 6:00 am for breakfast and ready by 7:00 am. John transferred me to the Park Headquarters which was about 5 minutes drive away and before any gorilla trek, it is mandatory to be briefed on the guidelines to be followed while trekking the mountain gorillas. We were first entertained by women from the nearby village as a way of welcoming us to Bwindi, home to the mountain gorillas.
We (with 7 other visitors) tracked the Bweza Gorilla Family, and I was able to take photos of several infants that kept entertaining us. Tracking surprisingly took only about 3 hours. And we were allowed to take photos for about one hour, which ran too fast, considering how exciting it was to be close to the Giant Apes and I can tell you that it was the “best one hour of my life”. These mountain gorillas are simply adorable, and friendly (not aggressive as portrayed) until provoked. After one hour, we walked back to the Park Headquarters to receive our trekking certificates and return back to the Lodge.
In the evening we visited the Batwa community, where we met the local people. Pygmies who lived in the forest for years before evicted, following the establishment of the National Park. Dressed in their traditional attire. The Batwa lived in tree houses and made (can still make) fire by rubbing sticks. It was a totally immersive experience. From the Batwa, we returned to the Lodge for the night (dinner and good night’s sleep). Unfortunately, this would be my last night on the gorilla safari and I can say it was a life-changing experience that I will treasure forever. The next day, I made the journey back to Entebbe, with John as the same driver. Everything about this trip was good- the driver, the Lodge, the food, and the gorilla trekking experience were worthwhile. I will definitely come back to Uganda, this time with friends and family.