Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest

Note: Anyone on the email list who got 17 notifications that we updated the blog, it's because the computer was acting funny and would only let me post one photo at a time.  This is the final version.

There are roughly 700 mountain gorillas in the world, and they only live in two areas.  One is an ecosystem spanning parts of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The other is Bwindi Impentrable National Park where about half of the gorilla population is found.  Permits are ridiculously expensive but that’s a good thing because it’s such a valuable source of revenue for the country that it helps ensure protection for the gorillas.  However, we lucked out with discounted permits for the slow season, so that was nice.
After our ordeal with the incompetent taxi driver we were happy to arrive at the park with plenty of time to spare.  About 20 tourists showed up for the briefing which included a list of do’s and don’ts when with the gorillas.  The ranger also said another survey was done this year and while all of the numbers are not in, preliminary thoughts are that the population has increased some.  In this part of the park there are three different groups of gorillas habituated to humans, so we all split up into our respective tracking groups and headed off.  Park rules limit eight permit holders per day to spend one hour with the gorillas if/when they are located.  Scouts head out early in the morning to track the gorillas from where they were encountered the previous day, and they communicate via radio with the guides.
Our group of seven piled into a safari vehicle for a 20-minute drive to another village then we started to “track”.  We were warned that there is no guarantee of even seeing the gorillas or that you could hike all day in the mud and rain.  We hiked steeply uphill for about an hour with views of the forest on our right and all other directions consisted of limited forest views with copious amounts of human encroachment.  There were huts and farms and pastures creeping right up to the forest.  Amidst this setting, Anne overhears on the radio in Swahili that the gorillas are just ahead.  Seriously?  It was so easy.  We then hiked over and down for another half hour before getting our first glimpse of the gorillas.
 I am not sure how many in total we saw because the forest was so thick with vegetation we could usually only see one, maybe two, gorillas at a time.  We did get to see one silverback that was pretty phenomenal to encounter.  He was huge and at one point he gave one heck of an aggressive warning noise to us, at which point all of the tourists gasped and stepped back in surprise and the guide and scouts said “picture, picture, picture”. 
The Silverback.

We saw a few females and blackbacks, a few of whom also gave us a warning sound accompanied by a really intimidating stance.  We saw two baby gorillas, one of whom the guide worried was sick because he was acting more lethargic than usual.  He called this in to their veterinarian immediately.  The other baby was fairly active at one point and crawled up a tree to check us out briefly.


Just hanging out people watching.

"Do you really want to come any closer than that?"
Baby gorilla

He was so cute I included two photos.

Our hour went by quickly and I could have easily spent the entire day following the gorillas around and watching them with awe.  It’s no wonder Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall took to the primates.   They are fun to watch and given our surprisingly similar DNA it makes them that much more interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment