For many, a key reason to visit Uganda is the opportunity to see the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are only about 800 of these amazing creatures left in the wild (they don’t survive in captivity) and about half of them are in Bwindi. After riding along the Nile for a week, we have flown from Jinja to Bwindi.
We stay at the comfortable Mahogany Springs Lodge which is just a short drive from the Park Headquarters. The briefing for the gorilla tracking is at 8am. We’re excited and kitted out. Because of fire ants and thorns etc, we’re recommended to wear long trousers, long sleeves, sturdy boots and of course having come from a riding holiday, our half chaps provide perfect support for lower leg.
Each habituated group is visited every day of the year, for exactly one hour and we find out at the briefing that we’re going to see the Rushegura Group.
We drive for 25 minutes to where we meet the armed guards who will accompany us. It’s a 1.5 hour hike uphill in strong sun and so we are glad of our water.
As the tracks get narrower and steeper we’re also glad of the porters we’ve hired. You are strongly recommended to hire at least one (you pay him or her USD 20 directly) to carry your water, lunch and rain coat and many hire two porters. This is an important source of income to the community. Our porter tells us that they can work as porters for one day a month and the money he makes can pay for his eldest daughter to go to school.
We climb and climb – past tiny fields where a family ekes out a crop to survive.
Eventually we arrive at the forest and appreciate it’s shade. Soon we meet the rangers who have been tracking the gorillas for us. They start from where they saw them yesterday and 95% of the time are able to find them again. As we get close our porters have to stay back (with our walking sticks) and we are just 8 people, approaching the gorillas with our guide and rangers. It is incredibly exciting and at first we cannot believe what we are seeing amongst the leaves and trees.
But the gorillas are incredibly relaxed and we soon realise that they are quite happy for the rangers to move branches for us to see them more clearly. A zoom lens is barely needed because we are very close.
Our hour quickly goes by – and in fact we seem to sense the gorillas telling us “time’s up – you have enough photos now – off you go!”.
On our way back we stop for our packed lunch (which the hotel has provided) and then quickly descend from the mountains. It’s almost as tough going down, the track is narrow with loose stones and our rangers don’t hang around – I think they want to get home. But the porters take their jobs very seriously and help us up and over tricky bits.
What a day – we relive it over dinner that night and all agree that it has been a spectacular end to this amazing journey in Uganda. Tomorrow we fly back to Entebbe and home.
To read about earlier days on the trip, click below.
If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.