11 mars 2014

Gorillas in the Sun

Seeing the mountain gorillas was one of the must do for this trip. We had planned to do it in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda but once we got to Kisoro, we found out that there was a good opportunity to see them in the Mgahinga National Park. The Nyakagezi group was on the Ugandan side (the Virungas range is shared by Rwanda, Congo and Uganda) and, what is actually quite rare, had five silverbacks living together. So we robbed a bank, got our permits and set up to track them early the next morning.

The great thing about viewing the gorillas is that you actually track them in the mountain, in their natural habitat, without knowing exactly where they are. We started climbing with Lucky, our guide, using all our senses to find them. We were looking for their nests of the previous night and their droppings. We smelled them as we got close as they smell strangely like sweaty underpants after an exhaustive workout session. We listened to the sound they make, especially when they beat their chest, which can be heard about a kilometre away. Most importantly, we listened to the radio from the group of 5 rangers who had been with them since early morning!

I must admit that we were a bit disappointed when we saw our first two adult males, or silverbacks, named Ndungutse and Mafia. We were expecting them to charge us or intimidate us with their chest beating; all to protect their family, but they were very much used to human presence and preferred to turn their back and continue their breakfast. Still, they are amazing animals to behold. They are massive, with huge jaws and canines and arms strong enough to break trees like twigs.

We continued our expedition to meet the rest of the group:
- Rukundo, a blackback or young adult of 8 years about to change colour to silverback;
- Macati, a juvenile male;
- Nshuti, the female, trying to teach her eight months old baby to start eating leaves by himself. The baby will not be named until June, when the Naming Ceremony takes place. This is actually quite a big affair in the country.
-  Mark, the dominant silverback, the lucky one who gets to mate with the female.

We missed three members of the group; two females and the oldest male, who were probably higher on the slope of the volcano.

Although they were all very cute, we had the most fun playing with Macati, who didn't shy from us and actually came to touch us and marvel at our 'removable skin'! It's really amazing how close to humans they are by their expressions and mimics. We could tell that he was looking into our eyes to judge if he could trust us and come closer.

Spending an hour with our close cousins is an incredible experience in itself but we were twice lucky in being able to interact closely with one of them and, being in the rainy season, with sunshine to boot!

Nshuti and her baby
Mafia and Ndungutse behind

David and Macati

5 commentaires:

leaf (the indolent cook) a dit...

Oh this is so very cool! It's nice that they're friendly. What an awesome experience, great pictures too.

Anonyme a dit...

Woah!!!! trop cool!!! (bouche bée)

Pas a dit...

Very cool guys :-)

I liked the comment about sweaty underpants. it brought a very visual/nasal experience to me whilst reading!

claire l'ex-routarde a dit...

De la Terre de Lucie jusqu'à celle de son "Xième" rejeton(celui de gche ou de drte sur la dernière photo?...c'est le + mignon!)... voilà, la belle afro-boucle "bookée", "blogée" sera bientôt bouclée. Profitez de vos dernières singeries... même en mangeant des choux.
Bonne brise et belle bise... ;-)

liette traversy a dit...

Ma réaction...
qui s'assemble...se ressemble.
Sur la dernière photo...mon préféré est????Devinez.