In this, the apex chapter of my safari to Kenya
, I will tell you about what can honestly be called a once in a lifetime experience. I trekked up a mountain to see the gorillas in the mist, and I do not mean the movie.
This is a walking stick the park provides you for the trek. Don’t try the hike without it. The gloves are not related to the temperature, I needed them because of the stinging thistles. I followed all the suggestions, and had a wonderful experience.
Curse Dian Fossey! couldn’t she have found some cute endangered species
somewhere near a metro stop?
In order to see the gorillas
, the entire purpose of 16 days riding on a cargo truck, you had to follow a guide, an armed man (there in case some other animal did not want you there), and two trackers. The trackers have an incredible job. They must follow the gorillas all day, then go back the next day and see where they have moved to, so that the guide can take the tourists to them. They move about a half kilometer a day before building new nests for the night.
The hike up the mountain was through impenetrable jungle, steep, slippery and boot sucking mud, stinging thistles and heat. I mean steaming, energy soaking heat. Just about the time my body was starting to rebel, the guide whispered “the silverback is very close, shhhh.” I said out loud “yeah, where?”
He pointed behind me and there he was, a foot behind me, this incredible hunk of an animal. He actually brushed up against me as he went on his way, not at all worried that I was there.
Suddenly my fatigue was replaced with splendor. I reached for my camera and got a shot of him as he moved on.
This is the primary Silverback of the group named Charles Charles. He brushed past me and headed back into the thickets.
Then his family followed him. Two mature mamas a few teenagers and two babies. One of the babies was only a month old, the other seven months.
Mama with the month old baby which does not have a name yet. I wanted to name him Marley,
None of them paid any attention to us. Charles was leading them to a new feeding ground.
This group, our group, my group now, is called the Umubano group Interestingly all 800 gorillas left in the world have a name. The park has a naming ceremony every year to welcome the new babies. Because of the conservation efforts made possible by each of us paying US$500 apiece to take this hike, (soon to go up to US$750) the gorilla population has been on the rise ever since Fossey did her work. The total population then was about 130. If I ever win the lottery I intend to donate to the foundation and have a baby gorilla named Forrest. Meanwhile anyone can help by joining the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
Following the gorillas is hard work, but they leave a trail of destruction as they eat their way through the jungle. They eat just about anything.
A teenager enjoying a bamboo shoot.
There are two very strict rules to adhere to when you trek into the gorillas.First, if you have as much as a cold,you are not welcome to go. Second, you are supposed to stay 7 meters awy from them. This second rule is impossible to follow, because these guys come right up to you. They are not afraid of humans anymore. The tourists arrive about the same time everyday and I honestly think that they regard us as some sort of a protecting force.
The babies like to look at themselves in the mud puddles as if to say “what do these humans see in us?”
My favorite picture out of 1200 I took on this safari. This is the senior female in the family. I have nicknamed her “Miss Rwanda”
Many more of my gorilla photos can be seen here.
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Tags: Africa, Dian Fossey, Fossey, Gorilla, gorillas in the mist, Intrepid Travel, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Umubano group