A mountain gorilla in Uganda

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Uganda Experiences

Gorilla Tracking Uganda Sales Consultant, Jamie Pallin speaks about his gorilla safari in Bwindi National Park, part of his 10 month adventure through Africa

To speak to Jamie click here and we will call you

Jamie before his mountain gorilla trekking experience

My name is Jamie Pallin, on November 5th 2006 I embarked on a 10 month trip around Africa, starting in Morocco and finishing in Cape Town. The reason why this is so significant is simply because out of the 24 African countries that I travelled through during those 10 months, Uganda was my favourite; the pleasant climate, the people, the landscapes and the wildlife all helped to create an experience that I will never forget.

Unfortunately due to time and financial constraints it was not possible for me to see a fraction of what I would have liked to. However I was fortunate enough to experience what very few people in the world have, trekking gorillas in Bwindi National Park.

There are estimated to be only 700 mountain gorillas remaining in the Wild, approximately 50% of which reside in Bwindi National Park. Fortunately the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), have responded with an impressive conservation programme that they are justly proud of. As soon as you reach Bwindi National Park it is obvious that they take the conservation of mountain gorillas seriously, a reassuring thought with so few left in the wild.

The alpha male of gorillas, the Silverback

That evening as I sat on the balcony of my lodge watching the whisps of cloud and mist washing over the mountains of Bwindi like a scene out of 'Gorillas in the Mist', I couldn’t quite believe where I was or what was ahead of me tomorrow morning. Sleep was the last thing on my mind that night!

No matter how many times you have watched mountain gorillas on television and no matter how hard you try to imagine what meeting them might actually be like, nothing can quite prepare you for that 1 on 1 encounter with a silverback mountain gorilla in the depths of the impenetrable Bwindi forest! And that is exactly what happened to me the following morning.

There were 3 groups of mountain gorillas accessible that day; though these numbers can change as groups move in between the Demographic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Before we were split up into groups of three we were given a talk about how we should behave around the mountain gorillas; it can be easy to forget that these are wild animals so it is imperative that we act accordingly in their presence.

Young gorilla taking it easy in the trees

The gorillas are tracked on a daily basis, so it is simply a matter of trekking to the groups last known location and then following their trail of faeces and broken branches, luckily we had some expert trackers with us who could spot these signs as easily as following foot prints along sand.

Bwindi National Park is nicknamed the 'impenetrable forest', and I’ve got to say that its easy to see why, at times it was literally impossible to make your way through the vegetation even with the trackers carving a path for us with their machetes.

Photographers taking pictures of Ugandan Gorillas.

After about 20 minutes of trekking, with my entire concentration focused on making my way through the forest I quickly forgot why I was here. 5 minutes later we came into a slight opening, suddenly I heard branches to my immediate right snap as if a tree was falling, followed by complete silence. Over the silence I heard the trackers whisper to us to 'get low', with the adrenalin rushing through my body I couldn’t move. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a black mass rushing in my direction leaving a trail of carnage in its wake, I couldn’t believe my eyes it was the silverback heading straight for me. As soon as I recognized the shape all of the advice that was given to me before came flooding back to me and I dived to the ground with the rest of the group, just in time! Upon recognising my submissive behaviour the silverback quickly retreated back into the thick scrub.

As soon as I had time to gather my thoughts, I realised that we were surrounded by the family group. Adults were wandering in and out of the forest around us whilst the younger members of the family played in the trees above and around us. For the next hour not a word was spoken everyone was completely captivated by the experience, I even saw one or two of the girls in tears. It’s a very hard experience to describe or quantify, put simply gorilla tracking is one of the highlights of my life.

To speak to Jamie click here and we will call you, or alternatively complete our online form