Uganda's Mountain GorillasOne Giant Step
With mountains coated in thick green rainforest and wild safari landscapes, Uganda is one of Africa’s most breath-taking destinations. However, it is the country’s wildlife gems that really set it apart from the rest. Allow Mahlatini Luxury to guide you through Uganda’s tree climbing lions, principle locations and the inside scoop on the mountain gorilla. The highlight of any trip to the country is the opportunity to track this critically endangered species and watch their unique social interactions.
These majestic creatures can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Millions of years old, this ancient forest is also home to at least 90 mammal species along with over 350 species of bird. However, mountain gorillas are the main reason people venture to this remote part of the world. Gorilla tracking is no easy task, with the terrain hilly, muddy and difficult to traverse. Tracking down a habituated gorilla group can take anything between 15 minutes to 8 hours; their movements sporadic and varied, with groups often crossing the Ugandan boarder into neighbouring Rwanda.
Trekking begins with an early start but the results are a phenomenal and humbling experience, with an insight into another world. Accompanied by expert guides, as you near the gorillas you will be encouraged to ‘talk’ in low and soothing belches, this allows them to identify you as harmless and your encounter will thus be a safe one. Gorillas are generally docile animals and will only show aggression if blatantly threatened; so long as you practice good gorilla etiquette, which your guides will teach you, then the gorillas will remain relaxed.
So as not to intrude in their day to day lives too much, visitors are only allowed an hours viewing time with the gorillas but you can take as many pictures as you wish. In the past, human and gorilla interaction was not quite as civilised or peaceful. Poaching has long been an issue in the survival of the mountain gorilla, with their existence teetering on the brink for many years. Thanks to conservation efforts and the help of the local communities, poaching has been curbed and the gorilla population is slowly rising. Tourism aids this conservation effort, with the industry providing some of the finances used to fund the fight against poaching.
While the gorillas are Uganda’s star attraction there are numerous other rare and incredible species that inhabit the country. Our closest relative, the chimpanzee, can be viewed in habituated groups twice a day at Kibale Forest National Park. While observing them the stark reflections drawn between chimps and humans are shockingly clear and results in a very unforgettable experience. Kibale is famous for its primates, housing 13 different species, which is more than any other park in East Africa.
Standing in sharp contrast to both Bwindi and Kibale is Queen Elizabeth National Park. A long way from thick jungle, the park is comprised of rich savannah scenery and plays host to many of Africa’s most renowned inhabitants, including elephant, hippo and buffalo. The park is also home to a large number of lions that possess a curious talent not held by their cousins in Southern Africa. In order to escape the heat of the day and the pesky flies that usually loiter around them, these ingenious creatures have adapted to climb trees in an attempt to get away from it all. This eccentric behaviour can be seen in the lions living in the parks southern sector, in the Ishasha plains.
Rare and talented wildlife aside, Uganda is also the source of the world’s longest river: the Nile. Flowing out of the gigantic Lake Victoria, the river flows through Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park. Boat trips can be taken in the park and visitors can see the Murchison Falls. This gushing waterfall is the result of the river squeezing through a gap of only 7m before plummeting 43m below. If lucky enough to glimpse one, shoebill storks live in the area and provide quite a sighting, with their tall stature and almost prehistoric appearance.
Varied as it is beautiful, Uganda’s intriguing landscapes and wide variety of wildlife make it the perfect destination for those seeking a safari experience with a difference, very much a lost world, it lies waiting to be explored.