The dense and green Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, in southwestern Uganda is the home of over 400 mountain gorillas. Tours are often organised to allow intrepid tourists to approach the largest living primate.
"It is very easy to see the gorillas and they are very accessible and most of these groups are habituated we have been with them for so long and they are very much used to human beings, explains Wilber Tumwesigye, an experienced Ranger Guide from the national park, You can get close to them but because of the pandemic some times we encourage people to keep a distance because we need to protect and keep these gorillas very safe".
An endangered species
Mountain gorillas are considered endangered with just over 1,000 left in the world and more than half of them live in Bwindi. Admiring them has a price, it costs more than 1,000 dollars and requires long hours of walking, all of which are worth it for this tourist: "It would be very easy to assume that seeing gorillas is just like seeing any other animal you know going to visit chimpanzees or seeing lions or any of the famous animals but it's not. There is something very special about the gorillas that you just cannot put into words".
A positive impact on local communities
This activity is not only helping to protect the apes. It brings financial support to the local communities. The organisation Ride 4 A Woman, for instance, was able to open a guesthouse near the park and give jobs to local women. _"We have a hospital which is Bwindi Community Hospital just because of the gorillas. If they were not there, I don't know where these women would be right now, so the health of the community members has also improved because of the gorillas,_says Evelyne Rubalema, Founder of Ride 4 A Woman, Look at the women, they are earning, these are women who have never gone to school they are not educated, but right now they know that they are going to work every morning when they wake up, even when they call them they are like I am at work".
And there is more to hope for, after being wiped out by war, poaching and human development, the International Union for Conservation of Nature to nature says the mountain gorilla population has started to grow. It makes it the only great ape that has been increasing in number.