I returned home on January 30, 2019 from my most recent trip to East Africa and it was magnificent. My lifelong dream of seeing and being with gorillas and chimpanzees in their native habitats came true on this trip.
My small tour group of 6, led by photographer, Kathy Hertel Ricker, traveled to Uganda, one of only three countries in the world that gorillas call home.
Having long admired the work of three women primatologists - Dian Fossey who studied gorillas, Jane Goodal, chimpanzees, and Birute Galdikas, who continues working with orangutans, I was determined to see the great apes up close at some point in my life. When Kathy offered her tour including trekking to see gorillas and chimpanzees in addition to safaris in Tanzania and Uganda, I couldn't resist. When Dian Fossey began studying gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda in the mid-sixties, there were only about 200 gorillas alive. Today, due to conservation efforts in Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) there are close to 1000!
The momentous day came on January 24, when my tour group got the opportunity to trek to see the gorillas in the Rushaga area of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We were accompanied by a guide, 2 park rangers, and hired porters. Trackers radioed our guide the location of the Bweza family of gorillas. Suddenly, I saw to my left in dense vegetation and black object - a gorilla. I think I was so stunned I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was so close to me. Of course, that's what this trek was all about, but even after hiking for almost 2 hours it seemed so sudden. For the next hour (you are limited to just one hour with the gorillas once they are sighted) we moved in the dense vegetation standing on a slight slope observing some three-year-old gorillas playing and swinging in the trees, while the silverback, Kakano, sat quietly observing the youngsters' antics while eating leaves. One young chimp was especially feisty that day smacking and knocking into people, even knocking me down. What an experience I had that day!
Here are some photographs of the young gorillas I saw that day, including the real feisty one. Will post photographs of the silverback in my next post, and chimpanzees after that.