800 Gorillas

800 Gorillas

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That’s it. There are no more. The last living mountain gorillas spend their days in the densely forested mountain range that is shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo. Through human population growth and poaching, the numbers of the mountain gorillas have dwindled to just 800. We got a chance to get up close to one family as part of our african safari with Acacia Africa.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda-11

We visited the gorillas in the beautiful country of Uganda. This part of Africa is the image most people get when they think of the continent. Uganda is lush, bright green plants cover the red soil and the skies are a deep blue with crisp white clouds. As we approached the western edge of Uganda the terrain became very hilly and the roads windy. The hills looked like a patchwork quilt of different shades of green with small plots of tea, vegetables, and coffee. The most striking feature was the morning mist. The dampness of the night would spill over into the morning and cover the hills in a blanket of white mist. After visiting there is no wonder where they came up with the name for the movie gorillas in the mist.

Uganda - Africa - Lake Byoni-2

On the morning, we woke up early to trek to find the gorillas was no different. The mist hovered over the rain forest until the sun was high enough to cut through the dampness. As the sun was warming the hills we met with our guides from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA). The rangers gave us a briefing before heading into the forest. The gorillas we trekked with are wild, not in any enclosure, wild roaming the expansive national park.

Uganda - Africa - Landscape Tops

Naturally the gorillas aren’t too keen on having visitors into their life. However, the UWA have gone through a process with a few of the families of gorillas called habituating. The UWA selected a few families for us humans to trek with. Through regimented visits with the gorillas, they have become used to seeing people. Now when these habituated gorillas are visited they longer react negatively.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda-15

The process of habituating begins with daily visits to the family. A group of rangers visit the family at the exact same time with the exact same group of people for several months. In the first months, the gorillas charge the visitors regularly. After the first stages, they begin to introduce new people and vary the times until the gorillas are relatively used to people. In some cases, it can take many months or even years to habituate the family.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda-2

After our briefing, it was time to hit the trails to search out the gorillas. Since they are wild they move to different parts of the forest every day. The guides start by looking for the nest they made from the night before. The gorillas make a nest by trampling down vegetation in a spot and it’s the best indicator on how close they might be. After an hour and a half of trekking through the rainforest, we came upon the nest so we knew we were close.

Uganda - Africa - Hiking Tops-3

From there is was all off-road. There are a few main trails that took us close to the area where they might be. Once we were close we had to cut our own trails with the guides hacking a path with machetes.

We slowly made our way through the rain forest and about a half an hour off the main trail we found them. A large male silverback mountain gorilla and a few minutes later he was joined by a female and her baby.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda-10

Part of the conservation activities only allowed us just an hour with the family once we found them. The one-hour limit is imposed for the gorilla’s well-being. This prevents them from changing their behavior through too much interaction and also to keep them healthy. We as humans carry sicknesses and diseases that can be spread to the gorillas and make them ill.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda-6

Short but sweet. It was an amazing time spent with a few of the last mountain gorillas left of earth. It was a trip of a lifetime and a highlight of our entire overland safari. Hopefully through the conservation efforts of Uganda and it’s neighbors Rwanda and Congo the gorillas will be around for future generations. Our trekking permits go directly to supporting these efforts in Uganda and educating the community on conservation.

If you are looking at taking a safari on your own, we cannot recommend Acacia Africa enough. You can book with them on Tour Radar, check prices.


 

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10 Comments
  • Tracey - Life Changing Year
    Posted at 06:27h, 27 June Reply

    Wow. That’s awful that there’s only 800 left. What an amazing experience you’ve had. It’s hard for me to find the line between going to these places and hoping your fees help conservations, and the idea that the gorillas should be left alone and not have the opportunity to get used to people. Did your guides say anything about whether this makes the gorillas more susceptible to poachers? Love your photos – just gorgeous!

  • Julie
    Posted at 05:45h, 29 June Reply

    OMG – I need a baby gorilla in my life. Well, not really, because I appreciate how much pressure the species is under, but you know what I mean. Too cute for words. And I’m glad to know how much is being done to protect the remaining beautiful animals in the wild!

  • Katrina the Two Week Traveler
    Posted at 13:00h, 29 June Reply

    I hope to be doing this 1 year from today! You’re so lucky to have been able to visit them. Do you know anything about Virunga Nat’l Park?

  • Sabine
    Posted at 09:39h, 30 June Reply

    It’s incredible there are only 800 mountain gorillas left, but it is good to know that they are well protected. How amazing it was that you found the gorillas after only half an hour. I’ve heard stories about hours on end trekking in the wilderness to find them. Great photos of them as well 🙂

  • Gabby @ theglobewanderers.com
    Posted at 10:24h, 30 June Reply

    This post is sad and incredible all at the same time. I can’t believe that there are only 800 of these beautiful creatures left on our planet. Thank goodness there are people going out of their way to protect them.

    The photographs you took are absolutely stunning… if I ever manage to capture such shots, I will give myself a massive pat on the back (which will be tricky – because my arms are ridiculously short- but i’ll manage.)

    Great post :).

    Gabby

  • Alana
    Posted at 09:35h, 09 July Reply

    I really regret not taking the extra three weeks to do the gorilla loop during our overland trip in Africa. Thanks for walking us through the experience and sharing these amazing photos. Do you guys have any video?

  • Karisa @ Flirting with the Globr
    Posted at 10:08h, 12 July Reply

    Wow- seems like an amazing experience!!! This one is definitely on my bucket list!

    • Adam
      Posted at 11:51h, 15 January Reply

      It should be it’s pretty epic, and unfortunately they will not be here forever I don’t think.

  • Gilles Barbier
    Posted at 10:11h, 12 July Reply

    The Gorilla Trekking is one of my greatest memories of all my travels.
    It was a very strong moment to spend one hours with those amazing creatures.
    I actually did not know it was 800 gorillas, back in 2011 they told us about less than half of this. But of course this might be the total number (Uganda + Rwanda + Congo).
    Cheers, Gilles

  • Isaac
    Posted at 02:05h, 23 July Reply

    Anyone out there should start planning for your trip in Uganda. Gorilla Safaris are always an amazing adventure

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