I start trekking through the natural forest and the evidence of nutrient-rich forest soil is the abundance of crops that are worked by the natural forest lines, and from here it is pure jungle. No paths. No handrails. No people very interesting indeed.
My guide creates a path with his machete as he communicates with the three trackers who joined the gorillas at five in the morning. After 45 minutes of hard work, falling through vines and avoiding stinging nettle, from behind a tree a huge black figure emerges, takes a glance in my direction and wanders off to find more food (the Mountain Gorilla). From this sighting began one of the most amazing hours of my life that I can never forget!
A few meters higher I come to a group of young females feeding in an open clearing. Babies are climbing in the trees as the mist hangs over the air like a postcard. The jungle is so thick that the smaller gorillas almost disappear as they sit down to feed on a particular bush. The thought that most often comes into mind is, “They are so human-like.” Their eyes betray intelligence and they are so beautiful. They select leaves as though browsing in a market and they are big and strong the Mountain Gorillas.
Suddenly, out of nowhere I hear a huge roaring. I look up to find the silver back, a gorilla of amazing proportions standing up and challenging my guide. He bangs his fists against his chest in a “King Kong style” and makes a deep bellow that echoes against all the vegetation. I am assured he is just asserting his position as the alpha male, what a wonderful gorilla safari experience.
The challenged guide makes a few throat-clearing, cough-like noises, which does very little to soothe my racing heart. When confronted by a huge, hairy gorilla twice your size, grabbing a defensive weapon or running would seem more logical to me than coughing. The reassurance that gorillas are docile animals is countered by the knowledge that a gorilla can pluck a human head off its shoulders with ease. But “they would never hurt a fly,” and that’s what makes them exceptionally cute creatures.
The Mountain gorillas now stop climbing away from me and settle in a clearing. Off to the right is a fallen tree, with an adult female feeding on the top. Behind her the jungle stretches up the side of the volcano in an endless sea of green. The colours of the jungle are incredibly vivid and contrast strikingly with the black colour of the Mountain gorillas.
My hour comes to an end with two babies rolling over each other in front of me. Their actions are so childlike reminding me of my child hood; I can read the mischief in their eyes when they look straight at me. The silverback watches his youngsters play with fatherly approval, and glances at us humans occasionally with curiosity. It makes you think who is watching who?