How seeing the mountain gorillas changed my life!
On October 8’ 2007, I experienced my first encounter with the mountain gorillas in Uganda. Your gorilla trek starts off by everyone gathering to a central location at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park headquarters. A park ranger begins by placing people in groups of up to 8. This is the maximum that can go up to see the mountain gorillas at any time, also only one group per day.
Once we’ve gathered into our groups, we learn about the gorilla family that we are going to visit….soon we choose our walking sticks and were off on our adventure!
Up ahead, there are trackers that monitor the gorilla’s movements each day so that they have an idea of where they were last and the family is much easier to find.
As we are walking through the dense vegetation, you can’t help but feel as though you’re standing in the middle of a huge salad bowl. There are numerous species of plants, resulting in the highest biological diversity of any national park in Africa, including bamboo, a favourite food of the mountain gorillas.
For almost an hour and a half we’ve been walking on the slippery slopes of the mountain in search of the endangered mountain gorillas. Our guide is radioed by the trackers, they have located the family. We quickly move towards the trackers then gather together for a final sip of water, unload our back packs, grab our cameras and are reminded about No flash photography and how to conduct ourselves around the gorillas during our one hour visit.
Moving quietly towards the group, I could feel the level of anticipation of everyone around me…..anxious, nervous, wonder then finally, we see them. They’re nestled underneath a canopy of branches and vines. Some are eating the vegetation where they sat. The youngsters are twirling, tumbling and grabbing their siblings, always on the move, always wanting to play. They mimic their parents by making faces and beating their small chests attempting to scare those around them.
Seven meters away from where we are standing, is a 240kg silverback sitting down eating the vegetation around him. He glances over to where we are standing but isn’t showing any signs of being threatened by our presence. A toddler walks over and starts climbing all over him grabbing his hair attempting to climb. You can’t help but smile and notice our similarities.
In utter amazement, as we are looking at each other, the bond is formed.
Once you look into the eyes of a gorilla, your life is forever changed!
Before you know it, our guide mentions that we have only a few minutes left and to take our last remaining pictures. One hour is strictly enforced. It’s time to leave and we begin heading back where we dropped off our backpacks.
Everyone is in awe, breathless of what we just experienced. All the way back to the Park Headquarters, everyone is talking about the gorillas as if they were telling somebody for the very first time. Excited, emotional, spiritually moved, your experience of seeing the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat will be one that you will never forget.
VISITING GORILLAS TO CONSERVATION
Less than one year after returning home from Africa, we became a non-profit organization and have been working towards raising awareness on the plight of the gorilla.
Today, the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society of Canada is a registered charitable organization committed to providing scholarships in veterinary medicine for African students who will directly impact the survival of the mountain and lowland gorillas in Africa.
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