The Gorilla Trek in the Bwindi National Park !

Today is the highlight of this part of the trip. We started early at 5:30, drive for about two hours, receive a briefing and went out into the rainforest.

The hike was more difficult than expected. We had luckily brought very good hiking boots. First we discovered big and fresh elephant shit. Our tracker had heard the elephants and they are not friendly in this area. That is why we also had with us an armed police that would shoot in the air if we run into the Forest elephants. Our guide decided to walk around the elephant area. This meant going down a very steep hill and back up again. We crossed path with a snake, poisoned according to the guide. The tracker notified the guide of the location of the gorillas and our tempo increased.

The trek was getting very steep and suddenly we hear one of our team members screaming loudly. Sara had broken her foot. She was crying and screaming from pain. The guides seemed a bit confused about it and maybe thought that she did not break it. She was sure and it was later confirmed at the hospital. We had fortunately our first aid kit with us and Dilek used a bandage to tighten it around her foot. We gave her paracetamol and calmed her down as she was now shaking. She was also very disappointed that she would miss the gorillas and the next part of her trip. She had been traveling already for seven months so in a way she was lucky that the incident happened in the end and not in the beginning of her trip. The guides had called the "African helicopter" (village carriers) and asked if she wanted to see gorillas first. She was in pain but still wanted to see the gorillas after traveling halfway around the world to get there.

The crew arrived and started to carry her uphill, towards the gorillas that were about 30 minutes away. We followed. After several uphills, downhill and thick forest hikes we reached a small water stream on which we walked all the way to gorillas. Despite the accident, it was a magical experience to experience the rainforest in this way and find the great animals at the end of this path.

At first, we saw the great silverback, the head of the family, as he sat down and ate from the thick vegetation. He could break off an entire tree in order to get to its leaves. We were standing about 10 meters away and had not even received proper instructions on how to behave since everyone was focusing on Sara that had broken her foot. If that silverback would get angry for some reason he would be in front of your face within 5 seconds despite the thick bushes. The lighting was not the best and with all leaves, in the way of focus, it was very challenging photography. Most of us had our cameras out, but Vedran knew that most used Autofocus and auto settings would not work here. Vedran got some OK shots.

As Sara had enjoyed the gorillas for a few minutes it was time for her to be carried away. The rest of the team stayed for another 45 minutes with the gorilla family. In addition to the silverback, we observed two females and a 6-year-old child. It was the kid that made this the Wow experience we had hoped for. After sucking on its mother's breast for a few minutes it turned towards us in a playful mood. It came to us with no fear and started grabbing the guides, as it probably recognized them. The guides keep pushing him away and trying various strategies to get him of us. They did not work. The kid gorilla got away for a minute to bite his dad and roll over him a few times. The dad took him by the neck and rubbed his head like a human with his teenage son. The kid came back to us and started to grab all the tourist as well, including Dilek. One of the girls even fell into the bush as she rolled back with the young gorilla around her leg. He was about 45 kg and very strong. He even showed his teeth as he gently bit the guards. He didn't touch Vedran though, probably scared of a male he didn't recognize with big photo equipment. As he started jumping at one of the guides the guard run away, probably as play. The gorilla chased after, then climbing up on a small tree and beat his chest in a display of dominance. We captured most of the moments using a shaky GoPro camera. The big silverback was resting on the ground 10 m away observing us. The mother was eating relaxing 15 m away. These animals are habituated to humans but are still wild.

The young gorilla wanted to play even as we started to leave. He followed us and climbed up the small tree giving us a final show, as he beat his chest and did some acrobatics on the branch. As we didn't see other young gorillas nearby he was perhaps alone and therefore enjoyed to play with the tourists. The guides were not happy about our closed encounter since it was strictly forbidden. Disease can spread from humans to the animals and kill half of the population. That is the reason why they keep one half of the total of 800 last existing mountain gorillas separated with from the second half. As we continued walking the young gorilla came after us and stole one of our walking stick. He knew we wanted it and probably hoped that we would go after him as he went away with it. The entire experience with this gorilla family was amazing for the entire team and we could experience first hand how closely related we are to each other.