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Eye to Eye with Our Relatives

The Way There

19th June 2022. An early morning awaited us on the day of our trip. The morning coffee at 6AM helped a lot to shake off the last feelings of sleepiness and only 30 minutes after we were on our way to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The one hour drive followed a rough road until we arrived at our destination.

The Hike

We started our hike at a height of 2.381m above sea level. The trail lead us first through a beautiful Ancient forest, which later transitioned into a bamboo area. The entire hike lasted for a few hours in total. We visited the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family, which consists of nine members, three silverbacks, two females, three teenagers, and one baby. The forest they live in stretches over DC Kongo, Uganda and Rwanda. The experience of observing them for the first time like this is hard to put into words. Watching these majestic creatures really brought tears to our eyes. Some came very close to us, only a few meters away.

Due to a certain government policy we got to spend one hour with them. This rule was implemented for their own protection, so that these animals are able to live their lives and are not stressed out by constant stream of visitors. We used every moment of it, watching them, taking pictures and many videos.

Our entire trip two armed rangers stayed with us, who were there to scare off potential buffaloes and elephants in case they would show aggressive behaviour. Also we were accompanied by one guide and four porters. I was walking with a female porter. It is nice to see women being empowered and earning their own money.

What your visit can do

Before the entire area was placed under protection as a National Park, farmers were working up to heights of 2.700 meters from where the bamboo forest starts. Since they cannot pursue their work there any longer, the people there have started working in tourism, helping as porters or guides. This is why it is very important we hire them as porters, even if we might not have much to carry. We paid 50.000 USH per person, which roughly translates to 22 euro, plus a tip. Tips help these people immensely in order to provide an income for their family and also helps them to get back on their feet after COVID. Apart from strengthening the local economy, your visit to the gorillas can support the animal conservation and protect them from poaching.

Additional Information

A few things to note for your own trip:

To trek the gorillas visitors have to be at least 15 years old, since trekking can be quite exhausting because the tacks can be quite steep and the high altitude.

Additionally, it takes five years to habituate a Gorilla family. The family we visited is habituated since 1992, although none of the original family members are still alive. If Gorillas grow up in a habituated family, they are habituated since birth as they grow up with having humans visiting them. The Ugandans wildlife authority, as well as the rangers and guide make a lot of effort for us to have this special animal encounters.

Special thanks goes to Nelson from Lake Chahafi Resort who made our trip possible, Bar Aviation and to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, which has been working for years to preserve this unique habitat for the mountain gorillas.

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