A tale of Chimps & Silverbacks

Saturday 15 February 2014
CATEGORY: Adventure | Family | Travel
TAGS: Africa

I was twelve when I saw for the first time the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” – I remember very clearly how fascinated I was, not by Sigurney Weaver, but by the amazing mammals, and in particular the Silverbacks – the king of the jungle. 24 years later I realized a dream to see these mountain gorillas (less than a 1000 are still roaming this planet) face to face. There I stood – on a steep forest slope in Bwindi Forest in the corner of Uganda, Ruanda and Congo, staring into the eye of a big sliverback, adult males older than 17years. There can be one or more in a family, but only one is the dominant. And I clearly was staring into the boss – just three metres ahead of me! Half an hour earlier our guide Kadi has lead us of the bumpy mountain road and less then five minutes later we already were surrounded by these amazing creaturs. Tracking gorillas is a highly regulated (and expensive) business, with the benefit that only a small group is allowed to get close (in our case nine people). The drawback is that you are only allowed an hour (to limit intereference with their habitat and decrease risk) with them, before its time to head back… but more than enough to enjoy the young ones playing around (wrestling each other, very very similar to humans), the females slurping in endless amounts of grass and the silverback putting and end to the show by taking down a whole (albeit smallish) tree 🙂

A day earlier Maria and me had the opportunity to follow the traces of the humans most close relative – the chimpanzee….. and different to the mountain gorillas, it was an exercise in patience. As we hiked even deeper into the thick rainforest of Queen Elizabeth NP, cutting a trail with the machete, we found every possible trace – half eaten figs, chimp spat, chimp dung, chimp nests…..but no chimps!!! We aborted our mission after four hours and headed back to camp… but just when we though all hope was lost, a young male jumped onto the trail in front of us… wow! As we slowly caught up with it, I clearly could make out how he constantly monitored us out of the corner of the eye. And then he turned around -looked at me, holding my gaze. I blinked first…and he was gone!
A truly magical experience!!



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