The last day. Our last gorilla trek. February 29, 2020 and the reality of the Covid-19 situation is starting to set in as the virus spreads throughout Europe. At this point there were no known cases in Africa, so, off we went for our last visit with the great apes.
The Mubare group was the first family of mountain gorillas in Uganda to be habituated; they began seeing tourists in 1993. Into this habituated family was born a young gorilla named Muyambi. Years passed and that young gorilla grew into a strong silverback, eventually splitting from the Mubare group to start his own family. That family was easily habituated because of Muyambi’s background and in 2019 the Muyambi group was opened for trekking. This small group of 6 (Muyambi, 3 adult females & 2 infants) was to be our family for the day . We were so excited to see some babies and even more excited when they told us the group was already located and pretty easily accessed!
We parked near a tea field and walked through it (on a path) to the edge of the park. It was our easiest trek and before long we were in the presence of Muyambi and his small family.
Muyambi was so very comfortable with us. He just sat there picking the perfect leaves and eating. One cool customer.
They don’t eat the vines and branches, they actually strip the leaves off and eat them.
Even though they eat a ridiculous amount each day, they are choosey about what they eat. Here Muyambi is selecting the perfect leaves.
Did you catch the little one at Muyambi’s feet in the last picture? Keeping close to dad…
Look at the chest on this guy – pretty impressive!
He took a short break from eating to make eye contact with us and let us know who’s boss (just in case we didn’t already know!)
And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, Muyambi reached over to the small tree beside him, pulled himself up and hung from it, trying to reach the best leaves. He really was putting on a show for us!
We were lucky – the area they were in had a lot of their favourite leaves, so they stayed put. Travelling in just a small circle up and down the side of the hill. We did have to move with them, but it was much more leisurely.
And then – jackpot! We could finally see one of the babies well enough to get some photos.
As comfortable with us Muyambi was, the ladies seemed a little more apprehensive. Possibly because of the little ones.
Mom and baby…
A tender moment…
In the blink of an eye, our time was up. On our way back to the vehicle, our ranger stopped and took the time to describe the different leaves that the gorillas prefer to eat. She truly loves what she does and it was so nice to be able to sit and relax and enjoy the last few moments in this wonderful place.
Freshly picked tea ready to be bundled up and taken to the tea depot for pickup.
Picking the tea…
Mountain gorillas are endangered, but tourism is helping. The permit fees help to pay for the anti poaching controls and increase awareness among the local communities about the importance of conservation. Progress is being made. I’m happy to report that in April/May of this year 2 of the Bwindi gorilla families welcomed new babies. One of those families was Muyambi’s, his little group is growing – he now has 3 females and 3 babies.
It truly was a magical experience. It’s difficult to explain that feeling you get in the presence of these magnificent creatures. It was an honour to spend time with them in their natural habitat. Sadly though, another trip has come to an end and the long journey home begins…