home / diary / Uganda / 29 September 2005
Gorilla Trekking
Debbie writes... The day we had been waiting for finally arrived. We had arranged to go trekking with the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains, Congo (Zaire) - which borders on Uganda & Rwanda. An early start, we headed into the dense jungle, still wet from all the overnight moisture. Luckily, there were only 2 of us on this trek - which meant we could have the gorillas all to ourselves.  Our 5 rangers led the way, constantly in radio contact with rangers ahead to confirm the location of the gorillas.

We trekked for 2,5 hours, at which stage we began to see evidence of freshly chewed bamboo shoots. "They are close," the ranger said. Shortly afterwards he told us to get our cameras ready as we were about to see them. I was filled with nervous excitement - not too sure what to expect. The ranger then pulled aside some thick bush and there he was ... the massive Silverback. 

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Wet jungle trekking

Mother and children

Silverback on left

I was shocked at just how close we were - the Silverback was lying on his back playing with his feet, less than one meter away. He didn't seem fussed that there were visitors and ignored our presence. His family were resting in the shade nearby - 5 females, 2 juveniles and 3 babies - one of which was one month old. We were stunned and speechless!

The babies were absolutely gorgeous and had us mesmerized by their playful antics and inquisitiveness. Two of them frolicked in front of me and came right up to me, touching my shoelace. I really wanted to put my hand out and play with them, but sadly I was instructed to step back. The juveniles were very protective of their siblings and would put on a display of bravado (thumping their chests) to let us know that we needed to back off. The females busied themselves by fussing over the silverback, looking after the babies and chilling in the shade.

One hour is simply not enough - you could literally spend a day observing these wonderful creatures. Martin and I felt privileged to be able to experience the mountain gorillas and enjoying a very brief insight into their lives.

'No one who looks into a gorilla's eyes - intelligent, gentle, vulnerable - can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes, we know that the gorilla still lives within us.' George Schaller, father of gorilla conservation

Mother and new-born (1 month old)

Close up of baby

Youngster  munching bamboo (1yr old)


Cautious mother

Inquisitive juvenile

Two youngsters frollicking

This one wants to play with Deb's shoelace

The Cost Factor (ouch!)

We opted to venture into the DRC for our Gorilla trek.  We had heard that it is considerably less expensive than the US$360 that Uganda and Rwanda want for the hours experience.  After paying all the bills the DRC was not cheaper!  Here's a summary:

Booking Fee: US$20
Transport to park: US$100 (rip off as the trip takes 45min)
Gorilla permit: US$500 (US$250 pp)
DRC Visa: US$60
Ugandan Visa: US$60

Total: US$720

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