We knew this wasn’t going to be any normal day. How could it be? We’d had this on our bucket list for years and we were finally able to realise our dream. Nothing we could have done would have ever prepared us for what we were about to encounter…..And so it went:
We found them lounging in the undergrowth a minute or so after seeing the young babies. We were metres away, the youngsters Mum put her hand to her face as if to feign shyness. She wasn’t that shy though, she had taken an interest in the track our porter had just hacked through the jungle and within minutes, she reached out to my partner before touching his shoulder and bounding up over, propping herself behind us.
I was jealous, I had to admit. Touching the gorillas was not permitted since it is easy to pass human disease to them, but the guides generally wont intervene if they make the contact with us. Unless it appears aggressive, of course.
They watched us with mild interest as we tried to subdue hoots, hollers and squeals of delight at what we were seeing. I don’t know what I expected, but to be accepted into a community of gorillas without so much as a sideways glance; to be able to stand within a few feet of them and get the kind of images usually reserved for a David Attenborough special was incredible. To hear them, smell them, watch and laugh with them, was simultaneously awe inspiring, humbling, mind-blowing and tear jerkingly moving.
And so it continued for our allotted hour in the jungle. Then, as if knowing that our time slot had lapsed, the Silverback made a growl, and the rest of his family stopped what they were doing and followed him into the forest.
After the exceptional emotion of this experience, it was hard to say goodbye to the gorillas. However, the memories of the experience will linger long. Not only was it one of the fastest hours of my life, it is my best wildlife encounter ever, and I felt so privileged to have had it.