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My heart was pounding and my hands steadily shaking as we gave our bags to Grace, our porter. We were only ten minutes' walk from headquarters when we heard the sounds of the Rushegura group. I would have walked for days for my opportunity to spend an hour with the amazing mountain gorillas of Uganda but the gorillas had made it easy for us! David, our guide, left the path wading into the dense vegetation and beckoned us all to follow. Suddenly it was really happening and I would be face to face with gorillas. Years of dreaming finally happening!
I held my breath as we slowly scrambled uphill only feet away from a large female. She was sitting in a patch of flattened leaves and flowers delicatly picking the tastiest from each branch. She was happily eating and just ignoring our presence. All at once we were stopped in the middle of the group. There were youngsters hanging from the trees above us, adults sat around relaxing and eating and the huge silverback keeping an eye on proceedings as he too enjoyed breakfast. The smell of the freshly crushed foliage and musky strong gorilla scent was heavy in the air and we all stood round in hushed awe. It was one of those moments that was hard to believe - such a privilege to be a part of. Our hour with the gorillas was truly unforgettable and we reluctantly headed back into town afterwards.
We had such an exhillerating morning, quite astonished that we were able to visit our family of gorillas and get back in time for an early lunch we were a bit at a loss as to what to do with ourselves for the rest of the day. We sat on the terrace as lunch was being prepared, having the lodge to ourselves. Nearby we heard a silverback’s chest beat. We smiled at each other thinking we had just been across that river with them hours earlier.
From the corner of my eye a tree swayed in the garden. I think we both joked 'oh, must be a gorilla' but on closer inspection the gorillas were actually right there in front of us! The silverback must have been signaling for the rest of Rushegura group to cross the river to join them. I knew that Volcanoes' Lodge in Bwindi have had a few visits from the gorillas but our luck and timing was just perfect! I was bursting with excitement again! We were all alone in the lodge and the gorillas had come to visit us! All 19 family members of Rushegura group relaxed in the garden in front of us.
We reluctantly sat down for lunch, and the largest black back of the group stared at us through the window as we had probably the best pasta I have ever eaten – who else can say they had spaghetti with an audience of mountain gorialls?! by Laura McMurtr For more information about booking your own Bwindi gorilla experience, contact the Volcanoes Safaris team in Kampala!
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.