Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My mountain Uganda gorilla tracking experience in Bwindi's Oruzogo gorilla family

Tracking Gorillas in Bwindi's Oruzogo Gorilla Family

Gorilla Trekking remains one of the most magical and rewarding wildlife experiences in the natural world, one that I know is high on the wish list of Uganda's tourists. An estimated 800 mountain gorillas are remaining on earth, approximately 480 of which reside in Bwindi National Park.

Some background information abour Oruzogo Gorilla Family
Gorilla trek safari at only $730 at
Oruzogo mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Oruzogo gorilla group is located in Ruhija together with Bitukura,and Kyaguriro (which is the gorilla family dedicated purely for research). This gorilla family can be trekked from Buhoma or Ruhija. The group consists of 16 individuals including 1 dominant silverback (named Tibirikwata)  and two babies that were recently born.  Although the sex of the two babies is yet to be established, the proud mothers are the cute adult females Birungi and Mutesi.  The new babies join the posse of other infants Buchura and Kanywani who is Kakobe’s baby.
Naming all the 16 individuals save for the three infants who are currently known by their mothers’ identities like Mutesi baby or Birungi baby was completed before it was availed for tracking in 2012.
Other individuals in the group include Busungu(Meaning short tampered),Kashundwe, Nyakiina,Kaganga (the giant one),Otaka,Bwoba(the coward) Karimi (tongue) Kiromba, KLatooto (the small one) Kanywani(meaning friendly,Kakobe who looks like a monkey and Buchura referring to the youngest or last born before the two newest babies came forth.

My unforgettable experience tracking these gentle giants
I had a unique opportunity to join a UWA team visiting the newly habituated Oruzogo gorilla family.
On my big day, I was up at 6:30AM to join the UWA team into the forest. Bwindi is nicknamed the 'impenetrable forest', and I've got to say that it's 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.
Black-and-white colobus monkeys,
one of the 10 primate species in Bwindi -

Heavy rains, and dying plants nourish this dense forest, but the benign gentleness of the morning and gently stirring grass and vines along the trails cunningly hide the never-ending dramas of the impenetrable forest. In this very small forest (330sqkm) over 350 bird species occur, as well as 120 mammal species (including 10 primates) and a staggering 1000 different plant species.
Occasionally we'd tromp through an ant colony; they'd march right up my shoes and socks, under my trousers, and make their way up to my boxer shorts before biting.

After about three hours of pushing through this thick vegetation on steep terrain, we still seemed to be nowhere near any gorillas. But finally we came to a flat, open area in the jungle, about 5m in diameter. "This is where the gorillas slept last night," the tracker told us. We all studied the area with a new interest and excitement. I noticed eight distinct impressions in the leaves - nests made by massive creatures.
A mountain gorilla resting in trees of Bwindi 
 Then we came into a slight opening, suddenly I heard branches to my immediate right snap as if a tree was falling, and a very big rumbling noise beyond anything I had ever experienced! And then there was this smell, like a pungent body odor worse than that of a human who hasn't bathed in a month. It was then whispered that we were among the gorillas. I strained my eyes towards the shaking shrub as I held firmly onto my walking stick. There was nothing to see but the "raspberry bushes" in the gloom. Another glimpse, and then appeared a couple of square inches of black fur. It looked like being a big deal! This was it! Gradually things improved. We got a glimpse of a female with a baby balanced on her back. Finally we got ourselves near the silverback seated immersed in bushes pluck-eating branches of berries. Suddenly our luck dramatically changed, the silverback started moving further away, ignorantly exposing himself the more.
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The mountain gorilla - such a deserving name for this huge giant! In my whole life, I'd never seen this legendary species! Oh. This was a lifetime experience. No matter how much you watch mountain gorillas on television or even try hard to imagine what meeting them might actually be like, nothing can quite prepare you for this 1-on-1 encounter.
Then, all too soon, we were told it was time up (an hour being the limit for gorilla visits). We withdrew to make our way back. I was pretty content with what I'd seen.
Taken as a day it ranked strenuous, but one of those that make being born and living seem fully worthwhile.

Have you been to tracking the gorillas? What's your experience?
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