Holidays for Couples Holidays for Couples Apr-Sep 2017 - Page 97

“ The silence was broken by the rustling of trees ... but it didn ’ t faze the silverback ”

uganda // africa

“ The silence was broken by the rustling of trees ... but it didn ’ t faze the silverback ”

was at great risk from local poachers . The threat remains , but these days the Uganda Wildlife Association works with locals and law enforcement to ensure the conservation of the area . Educating the poachers to recognise the tourism value in the park and its gorillas is a project that has been working successfully .
Decked out in hiking boots , long lightweight pants , a full-sleeved breathable shirt , hat and gloves , I was well-prepared for the six hours of trekking that lay ahead – or so I thought . We started off along a well-worn path , the hiking level moderate . The temperature was cool , the pace comfortable and I was able to take in my surroundings , trying to recognise some plants along the way . The trackers were all well-informed about the gorillas ’ locations and I felt the mission would be an easy one .
I could not have been more wrong . Within moments , we had left the safety of the worn track and began forging our own path through the dense undergrowth . A tracker led the way , hacking at the vines and trying to clear a path . Other than that , it was a matter of pushing and pulling the foliage out of the way , battling with the vines that entrapped our feet in an attempt to keep us from moving forward . The terrain slowly inclined , and before I knew it , we were no longer scrambling horizontally through the forest , but vertically up the mountain .
As we picked up the pace , the cool temperatures of the forest were left behind and a stifling heat and suffocating humidity crept in . It had now been close to four hours of trekking and my feet started to feel as if they were no longer a part of me . As fatigue started to kick in I was more than delighted to have a moment ’ s rest – and even more so when the trackers signalled that the gorillas were close .
My heart pounding in my chest , one tracker used his machete to part the foliage in front of me , revealing a large silverback mountain gorilla . He was right there , just metres from where I sat . I was overcome with emotion . It was like I had meshed with the environment and it was just as normal for me to be there as it was for the gorilla . It took me a few moments to fully comprehend where I was and what I was experiencing . When I did , I was mesmerised by the silverback ’ s continuous munching of the surrounding foliage . He was massive – way bigger than I anticipated – his head so very large . And although he was facing away from me , I felt he sensed I was there .
The silence was broken by the snapping of branches and rustling of trees . It didn ’ t faze the grazing silverback , who blissfully continued his all-you-can-eat buffet . I , however , was curious
FACT BOX
• Fly from Australia to Entebbe in Uganda via Johannesburg with South African Airways flysaa . com
• A single-entry tourist visa costs A $ 66
• Stay at Chameleon Hill Lodge in Bwindi National Park chameleonhill . com
• Three-day gorilla trekking adventures with Lets Go Travel ugandaletsgotravel . com
• A gorilla trekking permit costs from A $ 795 . There are limited numbers for trekking each day , so permits must be pre-booked
• Anti-malaria and yellow fever medication are a must when travelling to Uganda . A yellow fever certificate is sited on entry into the country and on return to Australia
• Local currency is the Uganda shilling . If you take AUD make sure the notes are undamaged and newer than 2009
– and , for a brief moment , alarmed – to see what was causing such a commotion .
Exploding through the forest came a young gorilla , boisterous and cheeky like a child . He swung through the trees , showing off like he was the star of his own private show . During the hour we spent with the gorillas two more silverbacks came and left , and female gorillas joined the group as if checking up on the young . One female groomed a male companion , searching his hair for ticks in a bonding cleaning ritual .
The hours spent trekking through the unforgiving jungle to see these magnificent animals seemed to last forever , while the time we actually spent with them went by in the blink of an eye . Whether it was the emotion or simply exhaustion , I don ’ t know , but as I descended the mountain on the muchquicker return journey ( we ’ d circled back a bit while following the gorillas ) I seemed to spend more time on my bottom than on my feet . I moved on auto pilot , the whole time thinking about the baby gorilla – so young , innocent and carefree , and totally unaware of the hard work required to protect his home . I can only hope that this conservation continues to secure the safety of the world ’ s last mountain gorillas , so generations to come can enjoy the life-changing experience I had the privilege to share . H
holidaysforcouples . travel 95
uganda // africa “The silence was broken by the rustling of trees... but it didn’t faze the silverback” was at great risk from local poachers. The threat remains, but these days the Uganda Wildlife Association works with locals and law enforcement to ensure the conservation of the area. Educating the poachers to recognise the tourism value in the park and its gorillas is a project that has been working successfully. Decked out in hiking boots, long lightweight pants, a full-sleeved breathable shirt, hat and gloves, I was well-prepared for the six hours of trekking that lay ahead – or so I thought. We started off along a well-worn path, the hiking level moderate. The temperature was cool, the pace comfortable and I was able to take in my surroundings, trying to recognise some plants along the way. The trackers were all well-informed about the gorillas’ locations and I felt the mission would be an easy one. I could not have been more wrong. Within moments, we had left the safety of the worn track and began forging our own path through the dense undergrowth. A tracker led the way, hacking at the vines and trying to clear a path. Other than that, it was a matter of pushing and pulling the foliage out of the way, battling with the vines that entrapped our feet in an attempt to keep us from moving forward. The terrain slowly inclined, and before I knew it, we were no longer scrambling horizontally through the forest, – and, for a brief moment, alarmed – to see but vertically up the mountain. what was causing such a commotion. As we picked up the pace, the cool Exploding through the forest came a young temperatures of the forest were left behind gorilla, boisterous and cheeky like a child. and a stifling heat and suffocating humidity He swung through the trees, showing off like crept in. It had now been close to four hours he was the star of his own private show. During of trekking and my feet the hour we spent with started to feel as if they the gorillas two more were no longer a part of silverbacks came and left, FACT BOX me. As fatigue started and female gorillas joined to kick in I was more the group as if checking • Fly from Australia to Entebbe in than delighted to have up on the young. One Uganda via Johannesburg with South African Airways flysaa.com a moment’s rest – and even female groomed a male • A single-entry tourist more so when the trackers companion, searching his visa costs A$66 signalled that the gorillas hair for ticks in a bonding • Stay at Chameleon Hill Lodge were close. cleaning ritual. in Bwindi National Park My heart pounding in The hours spent chameleonhill.com my chest, one tracker used trekking through the • Three-day gorilla trekking his machete to part the unforgiving jungle to see adventures with Lets Go Travel foliage in front of me, these magnificent animals ugandaletsgotravel.com revealing a large silverback seemed to last forever, • A gorilla trekking permit costs mountain gorilla. He was while the time we actually from A$795. There are limited right there, just metres spent with them went by numbers for trekking each day, so permits must be pre-booked from where I sat. I was in the blink of an eye. • Anti-malaria and yellow fever overcome with emotion. Whether it was medication are a must when It was like I had meshed the emotion or simply travelling to Uganda. A yellow with the environment and exhaustion, I don’t know, fever certificate is sited on entry it was just as normal for but as I descended the into the country and on return me to be there as it was mountain on the much- to Australia for the gorilla. It took me quicker return journey • Local currency is the Uganda a few moments to fully (we’d circled back a bit shilling. If you take AUD make sure comprehend where while following the the notes are undamaged and I was and what I was gorillas) I seemed to newer than 2009 experiencing. When I did, spend more time on my I was mesmerised by the bottom than on my feet. silverback’s continuous I moved on auto pilot, munching of the surrounding foliage. He was the whole time thinking about the baby gorilla massive – way bigger ѡ$ѥѕL+LͼչЁɕɕѽх)ͼٕ䁱ɝѡ՝݅́)չ݅ɔѡɐݽɬɕեɕѼɽѕ)݅䁙ɽ$Ё͕͕$݅́ѡɔ)́$䁡ѡЁѡ͕́مѥ)Qͥ݅́ɽѡ͹)ѥՕ́Ѽ͕ɔѡͅ䁽ѡݽɱé)Ʌ́ѱɕ̸%ЁeЁ锁ѡ)չхɥ̰ͼɅѥ́Ѽ)Ʌ饹ٕͥɉݡ͙ձ䁍ѥՕ)ѡɥ$ѡ)ԵЁՙи$ݕٕȰ݅́ɥ)ɥ٥Ѽ͡ɔ )͙ɍ̹Ʌٕ