David Ageno, cautioned us to avoid the playful babies when they came out or risk the silverback mistaking our friendliness for a kidnap.
Our prized tourism gem, the gorillas have since March been reproducing as if they have a timeline to adhere to.
Five bouncing little ones were produced during the COVID-19 lockdown. Fortunately, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers say the mothers and babies are healthy.
"Besides sanitizing and keeping a distance," says UWA spokesman Bashir Hangi, "There are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and trackers are requested to stay away if they are infected with contagious diseases like COVID-19, cough, a cold or skin disease."
Asked if tracking is now open to all, Hangi said before Entebbe International Airport opens up to international tourists on October 1, this is the right time for domestic tourists to get maximum attention from rangers.
Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable forest are internationally a must-visit destination for tourists scouting for mountain gorillas that are only found in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR of Congo, which share their habitat - the Virunga Mountain Ranges.
Why choose Uganda
"Uganda remains the most preferred destination since it beats Rwanda that charges $1500 for a permit compared to Uganda's $700," said Hangi.
He adds: "Citizens and East Africans have a subsidized fee, which comes with several bonuses."
The nature walk in the forest treats one to fresh air in the woods, mountain birds, reptiles slithering underground, and an eye-catching scenery.
History has it that the first European to track gorillas in Africa was a French man called Paul Belloni du Chailu.
This was before the scramble for Africa, who in his writings paints a picture of the primate in a hilly, landscape, and thick vegetation similar to a Ugandan experience today.
"…then the underbrush swayed rapidly. Out of the dripping forest lumbered a group of gorillas. The immense silverback watches every movement we made. It was a sight I shall never forget," Chailu describes.
This could have easily been Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwestern Uganda, 331km away from Kampala City.
It is endowed with half of the world's surviving mountain gorillas. With civil unrest in neighboring DR Congo, the population keeps surging in Uganda as they seek refuge.
I still recall my maiden gorilla tracking when a ranger/guide, David Ageno, cautioned us to avoid the playful babies when they came out or risk the silverback mistaking our friendliness for a kidnap.
"Keep hands off the little bundles. Do not eat in their presence because your hotdog, burger or rolex might be grabbed. Some cannot resist the urge to taste your bottle of Uganda Waragi or mineral water," said Ageno then.
After the one hour spent in the company of gorillas that are usually seen in movies or documentaries, a tracker takes home a certificate. There is a way this hour incredibly speeds by!
The bad news
During the pandemic, sadly a silverback called Raffik was killed in Bwindi by a poacher, who found them looking for antelope to feed his family. The poacher was tried and is serving a 10- year sentence.
Besides gorillas, one is treated to chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, baboons, duikers, bushbucks, giant forest hogs. There are also a variety of bird and insect species in the lush and green vegetation.
After spending sixty minutes with the gorillas, one wonders what more Bwindi has got.
It has three nature trails that are worth it. Two of which are within the park, but there is one far off. All walkers are accompanied by a guide lest they risk getting lost in nature's bounty.
The first is the Waterfall Trail, which climaxes at a 33-meter waterfall of River Munyada. It leaves much perspiring with labored breathing. The other one is Muzabijiro Loop Trail, which offers an excellent view of the Virunga, volcanoes and the Western Rift Valley. It is estimated to be a three-hour walk, if there is no rain. And Munyaga Trail is a thirty-minute walk within the park.
To get there
Take warm clothing, mountain climbing boots, drinking water and snacks, or packed lunch. There are public buses between Kampala and Butogota that travel via Kisizi. The fare shot up to between sh80, 000-sh100, 000. There are also taxis commuting between Butogota and Kabale. If driving a private car, the Kabale route is preferable aboard a 4WD.
Just turn off to Bwindi/Buhoma, which is visible with a signpost on the road to Kisoro. Keep your camera ready to capture scenic landscapes. A walking-stick comes in handy given the slippery underground while navigating the paths. Gloves are another necessity because you never know when you will clutch onto a thorny branch for support.
When shooting images, keep the flash off.