Travel Summary: Hiking 5h 10m for 3.8 miles
In spite of the long day prior, we were up, breakfasted, and leaving the Bwindi Backpackers Lodge just after 7 AM. The destination was the Bwindi National Forest where we hoped to encounter mountain gorillas. We arrived late so we missed the dance performance but joined in for the hike introduction.
Suffice it to say, wear good clothes. You are strongly encouraged to take lots of water and a hiking stick.
They had African helicopters (porters) to carry people if needed. In addition, trackers had left two hours prior and headed to the location the gorillas were last seen. They planned to radio us where to go once they found them.
We set out around 8:40 AM and headed straight into the forest with our guide as well as two guards carrying rifles. We didn’t see any, but supposedly there are mountain elephants in the forest. The trails were wide at first but soon dissipated into tracks that I suspect are made by trackers taking shortcuts rather than frequent hikers. The forest was extremely dense – apropos considering the use of the word “Impenetrable” in the name.
It took about 1.5 hours of hiking for us to reach the gorillas. And, when we did, they were lounging around in the bushes and we were allowed to sneak up quite close without bothering the animals. In fact, they mostly ignored us except for a youth who tried to touch me a few times – to which I stepped away). In total we were with the gorillas for about an hour.
In the end, I would describe it as an incredible experience and we felt especially lucky that the troop was on the ground relaxing and unperturbed by us rather than up in the trees where we could barely see them.
I confess, it was too expensive – perhaps the most expensive per hour experience I have ever had – ignoring medical procedures of course. Therefore, I suspect I will never repeat it again, but the one time encounter was awesome and I feel blessed to have been able to see them.