We pulled up to Mutanda Lake Resort and were immediately taken with the beauty of its location on the water, and the kindness of its managers Neil and Katie.
Unfortunately, it was rather hazy when we were there, but on a clear day you can see the high peaks of nearby volcanoes in Volcano National Park! I bet the views are even more stunning when the skies are blue!
Our earliest wake up call was 4am, and if it weren't for the fact that we were going to gorilla trekking in the jungle, it might have been much harder to climb out of bed! By 4:30am, we were on our way, bumping up and down on the dirt roads for 3+ hours.
When we arrived in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, we applied insect repellent, were introduced to our guide and armed guard, and hired some porters. It is highly recommended to hire porters because not only are you helping them earn a living and provide for their families, but it's also a tremendous help to have someone help carry heavy bags and give a hand crossing rivers and slippery steep terrain. If you don't have hiking poles or walking sticks, they will provide a wooden one for you.
We drove to the starting point for our assigned family of gorillas in Ruhija. We hiked up, then down through a tea field, crossed a river (our feet stayed dry thanks to the porters with their rubber boots), then began the arduous climb up into the jungle. After an hour and a half of trekking, we finally came upon our gorillas!
We saw a mom and youngster relaxing on the ground under some trees! After a few minutes photographing those two, out of nowhere, another emerged from the bushes right next to my family! It even squeezed my mom's leg while going by!
All of a sudden, a huge silverback came barreling out of the jungle, again, arms length away, and lunged at the gorilla that walked by first! It would've been kind of scary had it not been so exciting and happened so quickly! It appeared to us that the silverback was scolding the other gorilla.
Eventually, they all ambled off in the jungle and we went in search of other gorillas. We found a group of about eight not long after.
This group had a few little ones, and an adorable baby that was playing in a small, low lying tree.
We even got to see the little guys pounding its chest…then lose balance and fall over! The guides, trackers, and porters helped us to get the best views by using their machetes to cut away the brush in our line of vision.
Understandably, one of the mamas became alarmed when we first appeared, but to our amazement, the trackers seemed to be able to communicate with them by mimicking their sounds. In this case, a soft, airy, high pitched “ooohhhh.” She instantly relaxed and began to ignore us.
After an hour of observing gorillas and trekking through the pathless jungle, we reluctantly began our steep descent down through the jungle, and back up through the tea fields.
We were all completely exhausted and soaked with sweat! While walking up the steep slopes, we witnessed people harvesting the tea leaves and carrying huge bushels of tea on their heads.
They weren't even winded, while half of my family was huffing and puffing, and stopping for water every few minutes.
When we returned to the truck, we thanked our guides and porters for helping us to have this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime gorilla trekking experience with these large primates! I think it's safe to say that we all slept very well that night due to the early morning, long drives, excitement of being with the gorillas, and from the exertion and heat during the day. Excited to see the chimps next!