Friday, February 15, 2013

Uganda at the Gorillas



4 to 14 February, 2013 – Kampala, Bwindi, Lake Bunyonyi - (Uganda)

We certainly did gander at the gorillas, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Two days in a row, for one hour each day.

Day one was the Nshongi family, accessed via the Rushaga gate. The tracking here was through thick forest with a fairly dense canopy overhead. After two and a half or three hours, we got to the gorillas. We had an hour of viewing. We had to move around a bit, as the gorillas kept moving. So we would work our way around in an attempt to get good angles to view them. In total, we viewed four or five gorillas, including one silverback and one baby.

Loving my Greens
Loving my Greens
A young gorilla just doing what gorillas do. Eat.


Young Gorilla
Young Gorilla
There is always time to take a break from eating, if it's for a photo.


Mama Lounges in the Garden
Mama Lounges in the Garden
An adult female.


Glance
Glance
A silverback gorilla (adult male) takes a look at us.


On day two, we entered the park via the Nkuringo gate, and tracked to view the family of the same name. This time, the tracking was through the open, skirting around the park to where the family range is. However, it involved a few hours of significant descent, (and obviously ascent on the way back) in the sun, through some villages and farmland. This family was much bigger. We saw around 10 or 11 of the family members, including two silverbacks, two or three babies, as well as some adult females and adolescents of various ages. We tried to not let the mid viewing disaster affect our enjoyment of the moment. The experience here was even more enjoyable than the day before. The family were more relaxed, and were lounging around a clearing. They allowed us to get much closer, within a metre or two, and a couple of times the young members ran towards us, perhaps hoping we would interact with them. Certainly, I am sure we could have engaged them in play, but touching them is strictly prohibited due to the chances of disease transmission (both ways!) Also, they were in an area of forest which was more open and they were not really moving about. All these factors made it an incredible time. While the younger members were quite active, the older ones seemed most focused on eating. Wrenching large branches down, they would snap them in to manageable lengths. Using their teeth, they would strip off lengths of bark which they then stuffed in their mouths and chewed for quite some time before swallowing. They would then chew and suck on the newly exposed flesh of the plant. They also seemed to like the leaves of a particular vine, pulling them through their mouths like dental floss, stripping the leaves off as they passed through. The rate of destruction of vegetation in the process of eating made us realise that this was probably not a clearing before the gorillas had come.

A-climbin' we Will Go
A-climbin' we Will Go
A juvenile gorilla makes his way up to the juicier leaves at the top.


Silverback
Silverback
One of the silverbacks from the Nkuringo group.


And the Winner is ...
And the Winner is ...
Just too beautiful for words.


Wrestling Kids
Wrestling Kids
Two baby gorillas wrestle enthusiastically. This was very hard to capture!


Sob!
Sob!
I guess there is never a good time for this to happen. However, in the middle of photographing gorillas, we felt like there couldn't be a worse time.


I wonder if lollypop men and women in Uganda get any danger money. I was astounded when a man at a school crossing carrying some flags and waving at traffic to stop for the kids about to cross the road had to jump back to avoid being run over by a motorcyclist who clearly indicated he had absolutely no intention of slowing down, let alone stopping.

Stork Nests, Kampala
Stork Nests, Kampala
Downtown Kampala. This tree seems to be a favourite for the storks. Although, certainly not the only.


Mama's Coming
Mama's Coming
Baby storks open their beaks in anticipation of being fed.


Now, That's Long Horned
Now, That's Long Horned
Ankole cows, typical in western Uganda, grazing by the road.


Dawn at Lake Mutanda
Dawn at Lake Mutanda
View from our cabin as the sun comes up over the islands in Lake Mutanda. Volcanoes loom in the background.


Panorama: Lake Bunyonyi
Panorama: Lake Bunyonyi
The walk up from the lakeside campground was not too strenuous, and well worth the effort. Light lunch was consumed while enjoying the view.


Waving Children Greet Us
Waving Children Greet Us
These kids interrupted their games of soccer to come over and greet us. When their teacher came, he got them all to sing some songs for us. It was a beautiful welcome.


Graffiti in a Torture Chamber
Graffiti in a Torture Chamber
"I NEVEr forget My husband WAS killed people of Obote". This graffiti has been scrawled on the walls of what used to be cells where people were tortured and murdered under two former regimes, those of Obote and Idi Amin.


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