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I found a silverback

Gorilla trek day 2 dawned and I thankfully had slept well. Today I would be joined by another couple who were staying at my camp. The night before we had shared travel stories and I had shown them some of my footage/photos. They were super excited and we were a really positive and fun group.

We met up with the other trekkers and were divided off into our groups. Today I would be visiting a different family which was a breakaway from the larger group and didn’t have any gorilla babies. I was hoping this would be my opportunity to see a silverback up close so missing out on some babies today was not a problem. We were told that the walk would be between 2-3 hours and in the general direction of where we were the day before but thankfully we were not taking the same route.

The lodge driver bundled us into the 4WD and we drove out of the National Park and through the village and then down and across the little creek towards the same banana plantation area were ended up I the previous day. We then were guided to a track that made a gradual zig zag up the mountain. The climb pace was not as fast as the previous day so I felt really comfortable regardless of the time it took. We went in and out of pockets of shade, which also helped because the humidity and temperatures were very high.

We finally reached the top and here we encountered the typical impenetrable forest coverage and I put on my “gardener’s gloves”, tucked my pants into my socks and put on a long sleeve shirt. The guides were directing us into the forest by the trekkers who were already with the gorilla family. It took approximately 40 minutes of walking off the track to reach the gorilla family and this time we had a little bit more warning and were able to organize ourselves as a group before heading in.

We walked about 10 minutes from our base camp to our first encounter with the mighty silverback. The ol’boy was happily sitting alone and feeding on some leaves. He was very content with our presence and continued feeding without a care in the world. After a little while we followed him to where a female was. The silverback was towards the top of a narrow track and she came up to him and they started mating. Everyone was completely speechless as we watched this go on for quite some time. Of course everyone regressed at this stage to giggles and comments far more common from teenagers than adults as we all felt a little bit voyeuristic.

After about 10 minutes a searing screech came from somewhere in the jungle. All of us looked around to see what had made the sound. The trekkers said that it was from another gorilla but probably not from the same family. It sounded like a distress call and within seconds the silveback was looking around and then heading in the direction of the noise. The silverback walked within a metre of myself and to see him coming towards me was a little intimidating.

Soon after the female companion moved away into the jungle and we walked back towards our start point to see another female eating at the base of a tree in a lovely open area. I didn’t realize that the gorillas also ate the bark and it was interesting watching her artfully eat the bark and make her way around the base as she finished each section. Our group of 8 had a nice opportunity to sit down and enjoy this spectacle without the inconvenience of being right on the side of the mountain or with the jungle inhibiting the view. We finished our hour all feeling very privileged with the experience and especially the mating.

Everyone made their way back to pick up our bags and porters and then we made it out of the jungle and actually passed another gorilla group. The tourists had moved on but the trackers were still with them. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop and were moved on and back to the walking track. Once again we made great progress down and no one was interested in stopping for lunch. Back in camp we were lucky to have a nice lunch waiting for us and we were able to enjoy reliving the memories and looking at the photos.

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