Tracking ‘H’ group in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda.
by Sharon Hedges
I have recently been lucky enough to go on several Ugandan journeys and have literally fallen in love with the place.
The people, ever-altering landscape, red roads, array of roadside markets, activities and gatherings, vibrant town chaos, screaming, waving, smiling children and Ugandan Waragi (gin) have all captured my imagination; I am hooked.
The country’s main draw though is its mountain gorillas (Uganda has half the world’s population), to be found mainly in the Bwindi impenetrable forest in far south west of the country.
My first visit took me on a short but beautiful tracking excursion to ‘H’ or Habinyanja gorilla family. This family of 17 Gorillas is headed up by a smaller than usual silverback who makes up for his size in presence and power. His name is Makara, he was the first gorilla I had seen in the wild and while he sat, ate and observed our group, we stood quite literally fixated by his presence.
Maybe it is because this kind of experience is so raw, natural and unusual that it has such a profound impact on you. I don’t know. Whatever the magic is, it happens right there. Tears spilled down my face and I smiled widely at the sheer privilege of being able to see what was in front of me – it was utterly awesome.
Makara led us to his family. I was lucky to be at the front of the group and followed as closely as I was humanly allowed, stopping each time he did, just to let me know exactly who was in charge here. Every time he looked back at me I lowered my eyes and waited for him to move on. Three mock charges both thrilled me and froze me to the spot – you don’t need to be told to look away, trust me, you just do it!
On reaching the family we were quite suddenly amongst males, females and feeding babies with the group’s black back, Kavuyo strolling up and perching right behind us, face comically quizzical, making me smile and creating quite literally the perfect selfie moment.
As we stood to end our experience and depart, Kavuyo quite literally put his hand on his head in what appeared to be utter woe. If he could have spoken I am pretty sure his words would have been – ‘Please don’t go’. For sure, we certainly didn’t want to.