That’s right bitches, while the WTF’s travels have taken him around the world & the list of awesome experiences I’ve partaken in is loooooooong, if I had to choose the single best thing I’ve done while travelling, tracking the rare mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda would probably be it. The opportunity to encounter these beautiful creatures up close & personal, in their natural habitat, is simply one of the coolest things ever.
Mountain gorillas are incredibly rare, estimates put the total number currently living in the wild at 880, which is a scarily low number. And, given that this population is concentrated in a fairly unstable part of the world, right on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda & the Democratic Republic of Congo (with the DRC being the place where most of the bad shit goes down nowadays), their future is not exactly looking rosy. However, by visiting the gorillas you can not only have one hell of an awesome experience that you will remember for the rest of your life, but your visit will actually help the plight of these amazing creatures as a big chunk of the US$500 entrance fee goes toward preserving & protecting the gorillas.
Now you might have read that last paragraph & said “whoa, back the fuck up buddy, did you say $500???” Yes that’s right, visiting the mountain gorillas does not come cheap. Those budget travel veterans out there (the ones who didn’t immediately slam their laptops shut at the mere mention of dropping $500 on a single tourist attraction) will be doing the maths right now & concluding that for $500 they could either travel for a number of weeks in some countries, or spend the same money for one hour with the mountain gorillas. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing I meant to mention – you get a single hour maximum with the gorillas. But what an hour it is.
Before you write visiting the mountain gorillas off as being an overpriced tourist attraction for travellers with more money than sense, let me give you a brief run-down on what the experience is actually like. Picture this: you’re trekking through pristine rainforest, densely wooded & overgrown with thick vegetation – the use of the word “impenetrable” in the name of this national park now seems very apt. Suddenly your guide calls you over, and as you look in the direction he’s pointing you see them – a family of rare mountain gorillas, the massive form of the silverback standing out prominently from the leafy green surrounds, with the smaller black forms of his family all around him.
While the gorillas will recognise the guides & pay them little notice, the presence of unknown humans (i.e. you) may peak their interest & they may draw closer to get a better look. At this point the surreal nature of what you’re doing may hit you, and standing here in the jungles of central Africa surrounded by massive mountain gorillas you will feel a million miles away from your office & your computer screen & your excel spreadsheets or whatever boring shit you left behind at home to be here experiencing this moment right now.
Gorillas are possibly our closest genetic relatives, and when you see them in the wild the similarities become starkly obvious, not just in the make-up of their physical forms, the way they move & the way they care for their young, but also their very obvious intelligence. Of course you’re there to watch the gorillas, but at some points you’ll also notice them watching you, staring into your eyes almost like they recognize how similar you are to them, but you’re not one of them, so what are you? This is seriously spine-tingling stuff, and if this doesn’t sound appealing to you then check your pulse – you might be dead.