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Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

I rushed toward Dad but it was too late. A storm of leaves fell on his head, small branches danced on the ground around and there was a heavy thud before everyone looked in his direction startled at what they saw. ( Bwindi Impenetrable Forest )

After almost 20-years of listening to my stories of Africa he had finally come to visit but I had never warned him of the possibility of a gorilla falling on him; it was unheard of! Fortunately both gorillas had landed nearby and their friendly scuffle had been entirely harmless. Even as playful youths, these gentle giants weigh far more than most of us and some of them have become remarkably familiar with our presence. I lay on the forest floor intent on capturing more of the mountain gorillas on my new video camera.

A younger member of the family lay playfully down a few metres away tilting his head from side to side as I manoeuvred around the shoots of bamboo looking to get a clear shot. After a few minutes, he decided it was his turn to move and he got up on all fours looking straight at me. I held my ground. This was part of the training but I knew it was much harder to do if it was the giant Silverback daring to stare you down. As he got closer I flipped the LCD screen of the camera toward him so he could look at himself in the screen. Like a child reaching for the first sweet from a stranger, his arm came forward and his index finger extended until he touched the screen. I moved back delighted but a little startled. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be this close.

I shuffled on my belly backing away from the inquisitive face. Like a child who sees something for the first time his forehead furrowed, his eyebrows closed to touch and he couldn’t take his eyes off the camera. I started recording again holding myself and the camera steady. This time his head came first, his tongue rolled over his lower lip and before I knew what had happened, he had licked his image on the screen of the camera. I backed off, proud of the saliva collection I know had and already dreaming of re-living the encounter on my TV screen.

A dark presence loomed high above the youngster and this time it seemed the older sibling wanted a turn. Our guide sharply slapped his cap to his leg, hissed at him and warned me that if he grabbed the camera, this might be the last I see of it. I retreated quickly still reeling from the encounter.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Total Land Area: 331 square kms
Coldest months: June and July
Mean Temperatures: 7-20 C or 45-68 F
Altitude: 1160-2607m
Wildlife: 326 mountain gorillas, over 200 butterfly species and 346 bird species.

Of the total population of Mountain Gorillas found in Bwindi 18% are habituated. This means that the Mubare (10 gorillas + 1 silverback), Habinyanja (18 gorillas + 1 silverback), Rushegura (10 gorillas + 1 silverback) and Nkuringo (19 gorillas + 2 silverbacks) groups are accustomed to seeing people. The silverbacks (dominant males) in each of these groups have effectively given approval for visitors to get close to their clans on a regular basis (for an hour each day).