IT’S EASY TO JUMP OUT OF BED AT 6AM when you have a hot date with a family of gorillas. We set off from the National Park in the morning and, depending on where the apes have nested for the night, it’s a threeto eight-hour hike. It’s a sweaty clamber through the vegetation, made more thrilling by knowing there could be a silverback around the corner.
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But our guides know the gorillas well, and track them expertly, before pressing one finger to their lips to silence us. Within seconds, we’re surrounded by a family of 12 gorillas, all of whom seem reassuringly uninterested in us. The trackers and wardens actually speak ‘gorilla’, having mastered the 17 vocalisations identified by Dian Fossey.
This means they can tell them to relax, to move back and generally how to handle tourists. We have one glorious hour watching them eat and play – getting as close as a couple of metres away – before it’s time to leave them to it. Coming face to face with our closest animal relation is a truly unforgettable experience, so expect to end your day debating the difference between humans and apes over sundowners at the lodge. Gorillas might not have invented cocktails, but having been entertained by such peaceful hosts, it’s hard to shake the sense that they’re the superior species.
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