Day 158: Gorillas! and then Buhoma to Ruhija

|, Trip Report, Uganda|Day 158: Gorillas! and then Buhoma to Ruhija

19 July 2017

Day 158: Gorillas! and then Buhoma to Ruhija

Distance: 47km (Cumulative: 16 888km)
Moving time: 2:01
Average speed: 23km/h
Road surface: 100% Gravel

Accommodation: Camping
Gorilla Mist Camp - R130 p.p

Nice view, hot showers in safari tent, buffet dinner

We didn’t get much sleep during the night as first people only left the restaurant really late at night and then the generator was running. Just as we got used to the sound of the generator it was already 05:00 in the morning and someone idled a vehicle for 10 minutes, just to switch it off and then start it 20 minutes later again with loud guests who were leaving presumably to Ruhija.

Our alarm then went off at 06:20, but we only pulled ourselves out of bed at 06:40. We quickly got ready and had some porridge. At 07:30 we went to the headquarters where other people were already watching the introductory video in a small room. Someone came to get Hugo to pay for the trekking. We could pay by Visa card, but they added a 1.024657 service charge, which they basically just rounded to $15 extra per $600 permit, so another $30.

After the stupid introduction video which froze half the time the group gathered outside. Only 8 people are allowed per Gorilla family, so only 24 people at Buhoma, but it looked like there were definitely more than 24 people. There was also a woman on crutches so we just hoped not to be in the same group as her.

After the lead guide gave some background on the park and how the morning will progress we were told to go to our tour guides who will then tell us to which Gorilla family we will be going to. We obviously didn’t have a tour guide so we just stood around awkwardly and then asked one of the staff what we should do. Another young Canadian/American couple were also standing around. A guide came to get us and said that we will be going with him to the Rushega family, just the four of us. We started hiking almost immediately while the other’s were still standing around, they were going to drive to some other starting point.

We assumed that another guide would also take people to the same gorilla family as the remaining people would be more than 10 per group if they didn’t go to the same family as us, but later it turned out that we will be only four tourists for the whole trek, which was a big advantage.

We hiked for about an hour through the amazing rainforest. We joked that just seeing the forest is almost worth the $600, but we probably just thought that to justify the immense expense. We started off on a fairly wide trail which is also used by local villagers before branching off on a smaller trail and then finally bundu bashing through thick vegetation. When we started walking the scouts who go into the forest a few hours earlier haven’t yet spotted the family. After about 30 minutes the news came through that the scouts have found the gorillas. The scouts and guide use walkie talkies, but with the hilly terrain it often doesn’t connect so they just call each other on the cellphone which has perfect reception in the forest – what a strange world.

We met up with some of the scouts who the led us to where the Gorillas were. Hugo saw a black primate in the tree and thought we got to see a Chimpanzee for free. Turns out it is a Gorilla. We didn’t expect to see them in the trees and they were also much smaller than we anticipated.

The whole family of close to 20 were in the trees, but the Silverback soon came down and then the rest followed promptly. Some slide down a tree like firemen and another one almost fell down when a tree branch couldn’t support his weight. The idea is to keep a 7m distance, but sometimes the Gorillas will approach you and the guide will tell you to just stand still and be submissive. One Gorilla came right up to Hugo and started opening a pocket in his pants. The yellow tip of the GoPro handle was sticking out. Hugo put his hand over the pocket and then the Gorilla moved on. Later another one squeezed between Hugo and the Canadian even though he could easily have gone around.

The family had about five small infants who were really cute. At one clearing two mothers were grooming and inspecting their babies from head to toe. The Gorillas were continually on the move grazing along the way. In the hour that we are allowed to watch them, we probably walked more than a kilometer to keep following them. The time passed way too fast and the hour felt like 5 minutes. It was quite hard to get good photographs and we were a bit disappointed afterward that we didn’t capture the moment better. The other couple only had their iPhones with them taking lots of selfies.

More forest and gorilla photos:

On the way back we saw some L’Hoest’s monkeys and blue monkeys, but the guide barely stopped for them. We also heard Chimpanzees in the distance. We also saw some new types of Butterflies.

We got back to the headquarters around noon and got certificates to say that we visited the Gorillas.

We decided to pack up and go to Ruhija as we didn’t fancy the noise from Buhoma for another night. We left at 13:45 and arrived at Ruhija exactly two hours later. The road looked like it was recently graded so it was a pleasure to drive, but there are lot’s of sharp corners and steep inclines. For most of the way, the road passes endless patches of agriculture where the forest once stood. It’s so sad to think that the forest once covered a much much bigger area.

The road then later do go through the beautiful forest, but it seemed less dense than at the Buhoma side.

We had a look at the Ruhija Community Campsite and the Gorilla Friends Campsite but settled on the Gorilla Mist Camp, all three cost $10 per person for camping. Gorilla Mist Camp didn’t have an official campsite, but we could use the hot showers in one of safari tents and there was a flat area where we could stand. We also joined their buffet dinner for less than $10 each.

They served rice, matoke mash (mashed green bananas that have been cooked), potatoes, beef strips, vegetables, and chicken. The first course was warm cucumber soup with bread and for dessert, there was cake like things. The restaurant was almost full with other tourists.

We were the last ones to leave the restaurant before going to bed.


2019-07-29T10:51:24+02:00 February 11th, 2017|Categories: Africa, South Africa, Trip Report|

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