Gorillas in Uganda In Search Of Primates

Edward Moores joined us on a trip to Uganda recently. Here he tells the tale of his adventures in this natural wildlife-wonderland.

In January this year we travelled to Uganda primarily to see the Kibale chimpanzees and Bwindi mountain gorillas.

The main photographic challenges in Uganda are moisture and light and shadows under the dense jungle canopy.  Having previously travelled in Asia during monsoon season I knew bin liners protected against rain and minimum lens changes would reduce risks from moisture and fogging.  A full-frame camera with high ISO settings and quality light sensors together with wide aperture lenses addressed the variable light conditions.  I used a 70–200mm f2.8 lens with a 2x teleconverter on a full-frame Nikon D800E.  A member of our group rented a similar kit set-up; a great way to road test a possible future purchase!  Tackling the camera weight on long treks was solved using a cross body strap; an inexpensive but very effective piece of kit that will help you avoid neck ache!

During your travels a good habit is to always make sure you “reset” each morning; select aperture priority mode, use a wide aperture setting and double check you have an SD card with plenty of space.  You never know when you will come across something exciting, like monkeys in the trees or gorillas on the track, so be prepared!. During our gorilla trek we stumbled across a wonderful busy troupe of monkeys just 30m from our start point. Having done my standard morning checks I was ready to go and able to immediately capture these charming moments.

Monkey in Uganda

Our trip was built around three key events, chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Forest, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and bird spotting on the Entebbe “swamp”.  Three different environments, but the choice of camera set-up worked really well.  Shooting in raw and using Lightroom to develop and edit helped me to create some great images.  Be sure to look out for the gigantic prehistoric looking shoebill stork in the Entebbe swamp, silverbacks in Bwindi and chimps and monkeys in Kibale.  If you’re really lucky then you’ll get to see the tree-climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park.Shoebill Stork In Uganda

Keep the amount of kit in your daypack to a minimum.  During a very energetic and fast moving chimpanzee trek in Kibale, I had a large camera-kit duffle bag with me which was too big for scrabbling through the undergrowth: I got my photos but also a strenuous workout!

Gorilla In Uganda

It’s a very thrilling experience being so close to the gorillas.  Your guides will do a great job of getting you up close with these majestic creatures in their natural surroundings.  A silverback passed me with just centimetres to spare; a heart stopping but thrilling experience.  Your photos will create fabulous memories so its important to plan ahead and make sure you are confident with your set-up a few weeks before you head out.

Check out more of Edward’s photos from the trip in this gallery

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”42″ gal_title=”In Search Of Primates”]

Check out our trips to Uganda here

Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka Wildfoot Travel Launches Gorilla trekking adventures in Uganda

September 2018 marks 25 years of Gorilla tourism in Uganda so what better way to celebrate than to add Uganda holidays to our portfolio! Mountain Gorillas have survived in Uganda, largely due to conservation efforts and these are directly assisted by tourism. Back in 1993, just one family – named ‘Mubare’ after the hills in which they lived – was habituated to humans, allowing just 8 tourists a day to have a magical gorilla encounter.

Twenty-five years on, the number of habituated gorilla groups now stands at 14, with park visitors increasing from 1,313 to over 20,000 in 2017.

Uganda Wildlife Authority work with several other NGO’s and charities to maintain the forest in which they live and with no mountain gorillas ever surviving in captivity, it highlights just how vital protecting their natural habitat is to their survival.

Our MD Simon Rowland caught up with Uganda’s answer to Dian Fossey, Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka to find out more about these critically endangered species and how we can help protect them.

Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
Gorilla Doctor Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (photo credit: Conservation Through Public Health)
  • Can you tell us how tourism is directly helping the survival of mountain gorillas?

Tourism is directly helping the mountain gorillas by providing a sustainable source of income for gorilla conservation. Ecotourism with such an endangered species not only encourages the need to tread lightly through limiting the number of tourists to each gorilla group, but also provides benefits to local communities who are engaged in the tourism industry through employment, local businesses selling crafts, accommodation and food among others.

  • We read in the news recently that mountain gorilla numbers are now above 1000 for the first time. What has contributed to this growth in numbers?

A number of factors have contributed to the increase in mountain gorilla numbers from 650 when I first started working with gorillas in the 1990s to over 1,000 this year. This includes veterinary care for individual gorillas, improving community health to reduce disease transmission between people and gorillas and other community conservation efforts such as ecotourism and support to local coffee farmers, which improves community livelihoods and reduces their dependence on the gorilla habitat to meet basic needs for food and fuel wood; as well as law enforcement and research and monitoring to guide better management of the critically endangered gorillas and their fragile habitats.

A Gorilla in Uganda

  • How did you become a Gorilla Doctor?

I became a gorilla doctor after I conducted research on parasites and bacteria in the mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as part of my studies as a veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.  I had always wanted to be a vet and when I started a wildlife club in my high school, Kibuli Secondary School in Uganda, I decided that I want to become a vet who also works with wildlife. In the fourth year of vet school, I got the opportunity to study the mountain gorillas and was hosted by Dr. Liz Macfie, heading the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) in Uganda that was working with Uganda National Parks, which later became Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to develop mountain gorilla ecotourism. The four weeks I spent at Bwindi in 1994, when tourism had just began was a life changing experience that made me want to become a full time wildlife veterinarian. One year later I got my dream job as the first veterinarian for Uganda Wildlife Authority because they needed a vet to look after the gorillas to minimize the risk of cross species disease transmission from closely related humans including tourists.


 Uganda celebrates 25 years of gorilla tourism this year, what’s been the biggest change in 25 years?

It is exciting that Uganda is celebrating 25 years of gorilla tourism this year. I have seen a lot of changes since I first started working with gorillas in 1994. At that time there were only two gorilla groups, Mubare and Katendegyere. Unfortunately Katendegyere gorilla group eventually disintegrated because of too many males and also suffered from the first recorded scabies disease outbreak in the mountain gorillas traced to people living around the park who have limited access to health services. This eventually led to more gorilla groups being habituated and causing the biggest change in 25 years, economic benefits from gorilla tourism that has transformed the local economy of Bwindi.  Since the number of habituated gorilla groups has increased to 14, the number of lodges and tourists to Bwindi has increased and so have the benefits to the local community and sustainable income for UWA and Uganda as a whole. This has in turn resulted in greater support for gorillas, the park and wildlife conservation in general. 

We know that every time we trek for gorillas we are helping through awareness and our permit price but how else can our readers support gorillas survival both now and in the future?

People can support gorilla tourism through adding a day or two after the gorilla trekking to learn about the local conservation efforts on the ground, how gorillas are looked after through health services and how the local communities’ quality of life is being improved through engagement in conservation and livelihood activities that enable them to coexist with the gorillas and other wildlife at Bwindi.

For more information on our work please visit www.ctph.org

To find out more about Wildfoot Travel’s trips to Uganda click here.