So following on from the awesome experience of building a playground for EAP, we had a blissful rest day then set off early on a very long bus journey (again) to commence a 5 day trek to visit Gorilla’s in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park!
Now I think this experience is one everyone would enjoy and I for one was extremely excited, not just to see this incredible animal but in its natural environment was a dream come true! Although I realise this can be difficult to achieve (travel, cost ect.), it is something I believe should be encouraged more so that we can start moving away from the unfairness of zoo environments.
The further we travelled, the better the views kept getting. However the side of the road also started to drop away, causing a couple of squeals on the bus. But this soon turned into laughter and spirits lifted the closer we got. Arriving at our beautiful camp site at Lake Bunyonyi made it all so worthwhile! We had a tour, buffet dinner and then a well needed early night before starting our trek.
Although we were lucky enough to be given a late start, we found ourselves up just in time for a sunrise swim. After our breakfast briefing we canoed over the Lake to Island Ngota to visit a school, where they showed us how they taught English. The children were brilliant and had a great way of celebrating a correct answer with a rhythmic clap and shaking the hips! Needless to say, it became our trek celebration dance at the top of every hill. We also visited a herbalist and tried an interesting drink…a local delicacy but one I probably won’t have again. We then walked to Anna’s house who fed us and taught us how to make weaved bracelets. It was a short downhill walk to the canoes before rowing over to Tom’s island, we sang the whole way (thank you Ellie W)! Quick tour of the island from Tom himself (its been in his family for years) followed a lovely crayfish dinner by the fire before bed.
Up at 6am to pancakes for breakfast (yum) then a motor boat ride over the lake. We set off in ability groups as we walked up, down and around the hills till we reached the swamp, where luckily it hadn’t been raining so wellies weren’t needed. After that we hiked up through the forest to join together for a picnic lunch of bread and spreads. Rejoining our groups we climbed the last hill before descending down to the camp (Priest’s house), boy did our legs ache! A quick attempt at a dip in the lake (even though the ladder was broken) followed by dinner, shower of rain (which caused our tent to started leaking…eck) and sleep.
7am wake up call to commence a short walk through the forest and villages before reaching the main road. We seemed to walk on this for hours and hours but eventually we arrived in Kirsos town at the Coffee Pot for lunch, which was very much needed! We then walked through more rural hill villages, finally reached the jetty to get a motor boat over to ‘Punishment Island’. The views here were b-e-a-u-ti-ful! This campsite was tiny and, because of its history (they use to leave unmarried, pregnant women here to die), a bit creepy! However probably my favourite campsite of the trek!
Waking up earlier than my alarm wasn’t a problem as I went out to sit on the dock down by the lake with a blanket and admire the view. Devoured a lovely breakfast of toasts, egg, sausages and fruit, what a dreeeaammm. We left on a boat (that hilariously felt like it was sinking), passing an island where the tribe leaders bodies were thrown because they believed it bad luck to bury them on main land. You can still see skulls! Reaching the dock for a short but steep climb to our hotel for lunch. However the view made it all worthwhile! After a big lunch we set off in a hurry. The day was spent mostly on roads going through villages but we finally made it to our camp where we had a lovely HOT outdoors shower, PURE BLISS! The night was cold & damp to sleep in but we all slept happy as we had organized for our EAP Arts & Play leader Joseph to have a pass and join us on the Gorilla Trek, he was so happy he cried and hugged everyone!
Day 5 – Gorilla Day!
Up early, it was cold and damp but after egg breakfast and a quick pack up we walked the short distance to the Gorilla gates. After a briefing we split into teams of 8 to go off and see specific gorilla groups. We had Mali as our guide and headed to see our gorilla group. It was a 45 minute bus journey away and then a steep hill up to the top of the forest. We then followed the path down and trekked through the jungle (our guide slashed the vines down for us), there was a lot of falling on our butts. It was long but we were finally rewarded with gorillas just a couple of meters away! A group with a confident 2 year old (who would not stop posing), a shy silverback male and finally a tiny baby with its parents. It was so amazing to see them in the natural environment and so close too! After an hour of photos we started to trek out. It was difficult and we all found it a bit too much at points but got out of the forest eventually. Bus back to the gates, headed to camp, packed up and travelled to our hotel for the night. Arrived late but ordered some food, then after some giggles in our 10 bed girl dorm we all feel sound asleep.
TOP TIP: Take your best camera, I seriously regret not packing my Canon bridge camera as my photos would have been alot better than the ones I got on my Iphone or GoPro. Zoom is very much needed to catch these amazing animals hiding in the bushes.
Back on the bus to Nile River Explorers. The journey was full of music, chants and games before returning to a late chipati dinner. Oh and of course we had to stop at the equator!
I will try and edit a video plus start a YouTube channel as soon as possible because these photos are no where NEAR enough to show you how awesome this experience was! The
best only way to find out is to go for yourself….
Thank you to the amazing charity EAP for the adventure of a lifetime and shout out to the best group, 1B! The ones who didn’t let an early morning and the fear of a hangover stop them for having fun! Our UK reunions won’t be any different…and I can’t wait! So much love for you all!
What animals do you want to see in the wild?
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[DISCLAIMER – not all photos are my own, some were taken my team members who have shared them with me]