Staggering along – and then the silverback's stare
As I search for gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, I realise one thing: humans do not belong in this place.
It is the smell that I notice first. I guess if I spent all my days in the jungle wearing the same thick fur coat, with no shower and no toilet, I’d smell pretty bad too.
In fact, after only three hours in the heat and humidity of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest I feel very much in need of a good wash. But the ripe, musky smell of gorilla body odor and droppings catch the back of my throat to send the thought far from my mind.
My excitement mounts even more when I see movement ahead. It is a baby mountain gorilla – the first of the family grouping we have been tracking all morning by, yes, following their poop. The gorilla moves in a tree and then, appearing almost magically from the foliage as my eyes stop looking and start seeing, another two young ones. The acrid stench grows stronger as I carefully move closer, the Ugandan ranger carefully cutting away vegetation with his razor sharp machete. We know we must be very near the main group but they are still hidden in the thick forest.
Then I see a female. And another one. And, between them, a sudden bright flash. It is the leading silverback. This is his natural environment and he has no doubt heard us coming – and seen us – a long time before we saw him. He stands warily in front of his two women, his red eyes staring us down. I feel the hair rise on the back of my neck, the primeval response a natural one in this setting.