Gorilla & Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda with Marius Coetzee
Welcome to one of Africa’s most celebrated wildlife areas! Marius has his guests spent 14-days on a photographic adventure to Churchill’s “Pearl of Africa” – Uganda.
The Uganda Photo Tour began with an arrival day in the tropical, lakeshore town of Entebbe. Entebbe is Uganda’s former capital, and is a pleasant place with leafy gardens and a laid-back atmosphere. This atmosphere is partly contributed to by the calming effect of the waters of Lake Victoria, alongside which it is located.
Although Uganda straddles the equator, it has for the most part a fairly pleasant climate by virtue of its altitude, with much of the country lying around 1000 metres above sea level. Termed “The Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, Uganda is a vibrant, biodiverse and friendly nation certainly worthy of such a title, filled with iconic African animals.
While our private Uganda photo tour our guests and Marius to a couple of areas in Uganda for specific photographic experiences and targets, the main focus and highlight was to track, spend time with and photograph Chimpanzee and the gentle giants of the forest; the Mountain Gorilla.
Searching for our closest living relative – the Chimpanzee, our guests spent 2 full-days in the wondrous forest of Kibale National Park. The days were split into morning and afternoon sessions to embark on dedicated Chimpanzee treks in search of these great apes. They are often noisy and when our group managed to come across a troop, their thrilling whoops, shrieks and grunts gave indication to where the Chimpanzees were, as well as insight into the troops family dynamics and interactions. As much of their diurnal time is spent feeding, Marius and his guests’ encounters mostly involved observing & photographing the Chimpanzee’s gorging on fruit (especially figs!), sitting & sleeping on tree trucks, and engaging in the subtleties of Chimp etiquette. Chimps are quite simply fascinating, and our guests got to spend quality and personal time photographically exploring these Great Apes.
Departing the forests of Kibale National Park and ending the Uganda Chimpanzee trekking section of the tour, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was the best and final destination for the Great Apes photography adventure.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest falls in a region of volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to approximately 450 of the world population of 1000 Mountain Gorillas.
Once part of a much larger forest that included the Virunga Volcanoes in neighbouring Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is now an ecological island within a sea of human cultivation and therefore of immense conservation importance. Sanctuary Gorilla Lodge lies in the valley of the Munyaga River at 5,100ft and is flanked by steep, forested hills. Excellent forest birding, not least the prospect of many rare and localised Albertine Rift endemics, makes this a true birding Mecca.
The Mountain Gorilla was first discovered in 1902 by Captain Oscar von Beringe. Unfortunately, 43 Mountain Gorillas were captured and killed in the twenty years that followed, all in the name in scientific research. Then in 1921, an American naturalist, Carl Akeley arrived in Congo’s Virunga Mountains. He himself shot 4 individuals and afterwards felt great remorse for his actions and ended up becoming one of the biggest advocates in the drive to protect this amazing species from any further harm. The Bwindi population of gorillas, although separated by a landbridge from the Virunga population (the Virunga Mountain Gorillas are “shared” by Uganda, Rwanda and DRC), represents a significant portion of the total population, and is thus a key piece in the population puzzle.
On the mornings of the gorilla trek, all guests assigned to different gorilla families are first taken to the debriefing area where they are told about the upcoming trek as well as conduct around the gorillas for their safety, as well as the safety of these giants. The starting point for the hike varies on the location of the gorillas and could be a walk from the park headquarters, or it could be a drive over 1 hour long.
Once you meet up with your assigned family, the trek and time it took you to get there disappears from your mind as you gaze upon the beauty of these creatures. Gestures that are so familiar to our own, interactions between young that cause you to laugh, the stature and strength of a Silverback… all of our guests who have trekked gorilla have said it is one of the most holistic wildlife experiences that they have ever had. As one is only allowed an hour sitting with the gorilla family, we always encourage guests to book 2 treks as the first can be very overwhelming. The pressure to capture the images on your first, and potentially only trek, falls away as you now have 2 chances at securing gorilla images. The majority of people say they enjoyed the following treks even more than the first, as you know now what to expect and are just generally a lot more relaxed. The worries about being fit enough, the altitude, “danger” of the gorillas dangerous etc. are now a thing of the past and the next trek is all about excitement and enjoyment and a chance to rectify the “I should have”, that you thought about after your first gorilla trek!
Uganda is an incredibly special country filled with wondrous habitats and wildlife. A safari here is never disappointing and can be tailored to suit your specific desires and photographic visions.
Our guests left Uganda with a treasure trove of memories and photograph that reflect their unique eye and their experience of each moment that they had.
Now, when will you be traveling to Uganda?
For private, tailor-made tours to Uganda, click here.
To view our scheduled group photo tour departure to Uganda, click here.