So it appears gorillas really are just hairy humans.
Trekking into Bwindi jungles ivy entwined heart, it feels for the first time I am exploring not only the motherland of planet earth, but the epicenter of all ancestry, that grows today as modestly as it ever did when we first swung our way out of the trees. Medires, our guide, machetes a route for us between the recalcitrant branches that block the way. Walking beneath the enclosing canopy, unaware and uninterested in a world beyond it, I sweat my way deeper into the jungle, walking on an air of tension that feels like it is hovering above the mulched earth. My mind projects silhouettes shaped liked Gorillas between every tree.
Medires informs me we are in only one of two locations that the global population of 400 mountain gorillas can still be found. Illegal poaching and urban sprawl has massively displaced a species we share 98% of genetic information with. This has resulted in national park status for the forest that is patrolled by Ugandan army units alongside the national wildlife authority.
The trek onward reaches the two hour mark, and a shift in Medires’ character signals our close proximity to a family. Pointing out nesting sites and fresh gorilla poop which luckily show no sign of bones, Medires, accompanied by a couple of armed guards, beckons me down the steep sun blessed slope.
I had already been informed by park authorities to maintain a seven meter distance from any one gorilla, however within five minutes of catching a flash of black fur in the bushes, I found myself with three extraordinary mountain gorillas grazing calmly, three meters to each side of me.
By this point I realized that being amongst this species for even a short time, in a place we all share a mutual heritage with, was going to become one of the most profound moments I had ever experienced.