Friday, 5 March 2010

They're big, hairy and really look like us

Staring into the eyes of a mountain gorilla in their natural habitat is a special experience. And it takes on an even greater significance when you think that there are only 700 mountain gorillas remaining in the world today. All of them live in central African nature reserves on the border between Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

Last year I traveled to Uganda to report on refugees in Northern Uganda and the use of mobile phones to fight poverty.

I'd also researched the possibility of tracking mountain gorillas, one of the rarest animals on the planet. But looking at the map I was daunted by the long trip it would take to reach the border with Rwanda and Congo. I only had a couple of days free and permits to enter the park and join a track are very hard to get at short notice.

Still, I was determined to meet these majestic mountain gorillas, described in my guide as one of Africa's most memorable experiences. After persevering with at least a dozen phone calls to various authorities and several trips to the HQ of the Ugandan Wildlife Association in Kampala I managed to get one of the coveted permits, because someone had canceled their trip. With the permit in hand I was able to make a booking for the Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge and organized a driver for the 10-hour journey down to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

So, do you fancy meeting some relatives?

Check out this multimedia mash-up of some of the reports I produced about my trek into the Impenetrable Forest for the Lonely Planet in English and the Deutschlandfunk auf Deutsch. I've also included an audio feature about the luxury 5 star Clouds Mountain Gorilla eco-lodge and how they are working with the local community for sustainable tourism.

Even if you have only a few days in Uganda, I would make sure not to miss it. Tracking the mountain gorillas is one of the most incredible wildlife adventures I've ever experienced.


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