This big boy, Maraya, is the largest of all the Gorillas currently in Bwindi National Park. He is the "silverback" of the "Mubare" family. Silverbacks are the older male gorillas in charge of each family and are called this based on them developing grayish white hair on their backs and shoulders as they age.
Prior to our hike, we were treated to a "Welcome Dance" by the "Ride 4 Women" Charitable Organization that I will talk about later. They live near Bwindi National Park and have a fabulous business locally that desperately needed our patronage in order to survive.
We also had to go through a rigorous cleaning process including even our hiking boots along with our hands, ends of our hiking poles, and temperature checks as well before our hike.
They had so many rules to follow in order to keep the gorillas safe from us considering the DNA similarities between us and them and the risk factor for their lives with COVID and any other potential disease.
Even before COVID, all these rules had to be in place considering that gorillas are an endangered species primarily from poaching.
They've had a tough year with the lack of trekking since their tourism has suffered so much with the borders being closed.
They've had to count on the local people to help protect the gorillas.
This chart depicts where the gorilla families are located within Bwindi's Impenetrable National Park Forest area.
Of course, their locations can change so quickly as one of our groups found out as soon as they commenced their hike. You can see by the chart that there are 18 different gorilla families living in 4 different regions of the park.
The park itself is over 127 square miles and elevation ranges from approximately 3800 to 8500 feet high.
It was designated as a national park in 1991 and was listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in 1994 because of its ecological importance. It's the habitat for more than half of the world's mountain gorilla population.
We hiked close to the 6000 foot level to get to our designated gorilla family and Rene and I ended up with the most "fit" group although neither of us had ever done any hiking prior to this adventure of ours.
It was definitely a tough go for us particularly since our group ranger ended up having to do a lot of "bushwhacking" to get through the thick forest to actually find our family. We also trekked on a very narrow path, very close to the edge up the mountainside with a sheer drop beside us.
The scenery was beautiful though as we breathed heavily in our masks but we were able to catch glimpses of the stunning view along the way.
Fortunately, we had rest stops along the way in order to catch our breath, drink water, and even had our lunch on a break after we'd spent our hour with the gorillas.
We were very fortunate to also have porters to help carry our belongings and also help pull or push us up some of the steep inclines or save us from slipping down the mountainside.
It was all worthwhile in the end when we were able to spend that precious hour with the family. This photo here is of the silverback, Maraya again, with one of his lovely wives and there was also a baby with her that we were able to catch a glimpse of as well.
Here's the full crew including our rangers, porters, and protectors.
Rene and I both earned our official certificates and felt quite sore the following day.
Ok, so I thought I could finish here, but I'm going to have to finish next week because I still have more to say to finish off this epic journey... to be continued.