Bwindi National Park is one of the best places in the world, alongside the Virunga forest, where to spot Mountain Gorillas in the wild.Bwindi National Park is also an excellent place for birdwatching, with more than 320 species of birds.Some of the main birding atractions are African Green Broadbill, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Western Green Thinkerbird, African Wood Owl, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Fine-banded Woodpecker, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Purple-breasted,Blue-headed and Regal Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Montane Oriole, Short-tailed Warbler,Black-faced Rufous Warblers,Kivu Ground-Thrush and Chapin’s Flycatcher.
Mountain Gorilla is a subspecies of Eastern Gorilla.They are the most endangered type of gorilla in the wild, with not more than 880 individuals spread in the Virunga Mountains, on the borders of DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, population that was studied by the famous primatologist Dian Fossey, and Bwindi, in Uganda.The fur of this type of gorilla is thicker and longer than that of its other gorilla counterparts.Adults have a characteristic bony crest on the top and the back of their heads, more pronounced in males.They are mainly diurnal hervivores, feeding on leaves, stems and shots early morning and late afternoon.They are terrestrial, spending most of the time on the ground although they sometimes climb on trees to feed on fruits and leaves, and quadrupedal, walking on its knuckles.They are sociable animals, living usually in groups of a dominant male and several females with their infants.The dominant male is known as silverback male due to its grey back hair that appears progressively in their adulthood.This male defends his group rather than his territory.
There are twelve groups of habituated gorillas in Bwindi, being those who live in the Buhoma area the most visited. The other groups are located in Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo area.The habituation program takes about 2 to 3 years.
To get there I went from Bigodi to Mbarara and then I got another bus from there to Kabale.In Kabale I booked a taxi to Bwindi National Park, Ruhija region.I paid about 120 euros for the car and driver and the night the driver have to spend inside the park.
We started our journey early afternoon and it took us several hours to reach the park.In Ruhija, inside the park, there are several accommodation options for all budgets.I paid about 20 euros to sleep in one of its most affordable options.
See Bwindi National Park below.The park starts from the forest area that you can appreciate in the picture.
Next morning we went to Ruhija main headquarters.I paid about 500 euros for the gorilla permit.It included guide, assistants, entrance fee and transportation.They put me in a group of five people.They assigned us the Kyaguriro gorilla group and we received some basic instructions about how to behave in front of the gorillas.They told us that we would spend one hour with the gorilla group.
We got into a four wheels that went through a rough road for one hour and a half.At one point of the park, we started our trekking through the mountain forest.Our guide was in contact with the trackers of the group by walkie-talkie.The trackers had already located the place where our gorilla group slept last night and they were following their movements since early morning.
We trekked down a valley across the jungle.We didn’t follow any trail.The guide made the way by cutting the branches and leaves with a machete.It was the wildest adventure i’ve ever had !!!
The day was quite humid and i was constantly sweating.After a strenuous 2 hours trek we found the first signs of gorilla activity, the nests where they slept last night.The nests were made up of branches and leaves and were quite big.We found them on the ground in a dense forested and bushy area.
I became very excited and i rapidly recovered my strength expecting to see soon these amazing creatures.After a while, we began to hear the voices of the trackers from the distance.They were still far but our guide was able to speak to them.The trekking was getting harder as we had to cross through many bushes and sticks.Half and hour later we finally met them.They took us a few meters farther where we could see the first specimen of Mountain Gorilla.We were quite lucky indeed cause other groups sometimes must walk 4 to 5 hours to spot the gorillas.
I remembered the first thing i saw was a dark back shape.I couldn’t believe it was a gorilla !! It looked almost like a doll !! We walked around the gorillas avoiding to disturb them as much as we could.We saw some females with their infants sitting among the bushes and eating some leaves.They seemed so relaxed that i feel very comfortable to stay with them.I took my camera and started shooting.
The infants were roaming near their mothers.
Other females were lying on the tree while feeding also on the leaves.
Some of them felt curious looking at us attentively.
Our guide began to scrutinise the canopy trying to find the silverback male.We spotted him while he was eating on the top of a tree.After half an hour the male decided to descend.
I cannot forget when i saw the male walking on the ground for the first time.He had a massive and powerful muscular body and moved his buttocks with grace.I also remembered the strong smell he emanated and the large amount of flies and other bugs that surrounded him.You can see the bugs that are the many brownish dots of the third picture.
Later on,other females with their infants also descended on the ground.
After spending time feeding on leaves, some individuals of the group lay on the ground to take a rest.
Their faces looked so human that it never stopped to amaze me !!! I still remember it now with awe !!
Our time with them came to an end and we had to come back to our jeep.We went uphill along a very steepy slope.It was quite challenging but i was still so stunned that it didn’t matter at all.
After 2 hours we found our car.Once in the headquarters, our guide gave us a certificate of our visit to the park.
I had the best wildlife adventure in all my life !! I recommend hands down this breathtaking experience !!!
By the way, don’t forget to visit also Lake Buyonyi, with many Batwa villages near its shores !!!
Next stop Kybuye, in Rwanda, exploring the nearbies of Kivu Lake to find some amazing birdlife !!
See you soon my friends !!!!