GORILLA PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAYS
For passionate wildlife photographers, Uganda is about as close to paradise as you can get. Not only is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park home to one of the only populations of mountain gorillas in the world, but elsewhere in the country, you can seek out a host of other magnificent wildlife, from tree climbing lions to elephants and hippos, and perhaps even leopards. Add to this colourful cast of characters the services of an accomplished wildlife photographer to help you improve your skills, through theory and individual tuition in the field, exploring the creative process in a fun and supportive way, and you’ve got yourself the trip of a lifetime.
There are around 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world – thankfully their numbers are slowly growing through heroic conservation efforts – and half of them live in Bwindi. Park rangers escort you to find a group of gorillas – they change their nesting sites every day – and also ensure that you’re a respectful, safe distance of at least seven metres from the gorillas at all times. Being habituated, the gorillas are generally comfortable in human company, providing the perfect subjects while you sit and snap away. Some trips may also be accompanied by a vet, able to offer an even deeper insight into caring for these rare and immensely powerful animals.
How long will I be with the gorillas for?
Each gorilla permit entitles you to one hour maximum with the gorillas, to minimise disturbance. The cost of a daily permit is roughly double for Rwanda as it is for Uganda, which is why many trips now focus on the latter. A trip may include either one or two trips to see the gorillas and this will usually come towards the end so everyone is ready to get the most from it. An hour may not seem like long, but in the gorillas’ company, you quickly lose all track of time.
Do I need to be fit?
Put it this way – they don’t call it Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for nothing. You will be trekking over steep, rough terrain through dense and misty forest at high altitude, often for several hours depending on the gorillas’ location. The pace is kept nice and slow though as you have a whole day set aside. Porters carry your equipment for you, but it can still be difficult going. Yet the sense of anticipation is palpable throughout; spending even an hour in the company of these huge, perhaps surprisingly gentle and curious apes, is truly a breathtaking, never to be forgotten experience.
Note that if you have mobility issues, porters can also be hired to carry you out to the gorillas in a throne chair or stretcher, bringing your wheelchair along too.
What will I see?
What won’t you see is more like it. The mountain gorillas of Bwindi are sure to be the crowning highlight of your trip, but packed itineraries thoroughly immerse you in far more of Uganda’s staggering biodiversity. In Kibale Forest National Park you might see chimpanzees and baboons at play and in the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary you can capture images of some of Uganda’s 1,000+ species of birds and butterflies. Crocodiles and elephants are a few of the big-ticket residents in Queen Elizabeth National Park, while cruising the Kazinga Channel you will see huge numbers of hippos (also huge). Then there is Lake Mburo National Park, where zebras and impalas keep a watchful eye out for sly leopards. Ishasha is home to Uganda’s famous tree-climbing lions. Wow, right?
Some photography holidays in Uganda also see you visiting local communities and NGOs, and may have opportunities to practice your portrait photography. You don’t have to be an expert photographer, or to have specialist equipment, to find much to savour a trip of this kind. Advice on everything from technical issues to composition techniques and post-production is in good supply.