Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi
Uganda’s foremost tourist attraction and indeed, one of the world’s remarkable wildlife encounters is tracking the rare mountain gorillas in the remote forests of south-western Uganda. These magnificent animals, found only in forests of Bwindi impenetrable and the virunga volcanoes, number less than 800, over half of them in Uganda. Mountain gorilla tracking is one of the world’s most exclusive and remarkable wildlife encounters. To minimize disturbance to these endangered great apes, only eight people may track each of the habituated gorilla group each day, while viewing time is strictly limited to one hour. As wildlife viewing goes, it is difficult to conceive how or where on earth 60 minutes could be more rewardingly spent, gorilla tracking offers the privilege of encountering one of the world’s rarest animals in its natural habitat and by doing so, helping to fund its continued survival. Although gorillas are undeniably intelligent and impressive creatures to watch – a silverback can weigh over 200kg (450 IB) – the greatest rewards are less tangible. The gorilla is one of our closest relatives and few observers emerge from the magic hour without feeling an unfathomable and often profoundly moving connection. No where illustrates this conservation success story quite like Bwindi impenetrable forest, tucked away in the southwest corner of Uganda. Here, in the midst of 327 square kilometers of dense, tangled and spectacular forest, live around half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, animal that share around 98 percent of their DNA with humans and yet were on the brink of extinction just a few years ago. Fortunately, though vast swathes remain untouched and even un explored, the national park is no longer as ‘impenetrable’ as it once was. And yes, some gorilla groups may only be reached after a four- hour trek through the jungle, but then the sight of a family completely at ease in ITS natural habitat, with youngsters playing under the mindful gaze of a majestic silverback makes following experienced trackers for miles on end more than worth it. Per haps above all, then, the appeal of Bwindi is that it offers that most sought after of wildlife experiences: a guaranteed up-close-and-personal encounter with an iconic, endangered animal. “There is a 100 per cent guarantee that visitors will see the gorilla in Bwindi. What’s more, not only are the gorillas now un troubled by human presence, they seem to revel in the attention. “Uganda‘s mountain gorillas do not shy a way from the cameras!” They provide tourists with all sorts of photo opportunities for memories that will last a life time. Add to this the fact that, as a massively bio-diverse UNESCO world heritage site, Bwindi is also home to countless species of birds, as well as forest elephants and chimpanzees, and then the fact that it’s incredibly safe to visit, and it’s easy to see why Uganda is regarded by many as the number one place to see mountain gorillas in the wild.