Angie Joins The Great Gorilla Project

Angie Joins The Great Gorilla Project

Posted by Angie. L on 28th Apr 2020

The below blog post was written by Angie, who joined The Great Gorilla Project in January 2020.

I am only just getting around to writing this blog after returning from The Great Gorillas Project in early February this year. I was flung straight back into a hectic work schedule and it’s only now we are experiencing lockdown that I find I have time on my hands to reflect on what was the most amazing adventure. I had spent nearly 18months planning this trip, the excitement was building and by the time the date arrived for my departure I was overwhelmed with trepidation – after all this was my first volunteering trip and my first ‘holiday’ without my husband in 15 years!

After two long flights I arrived in Kigali and met the first two of my travelling companions. After arriving at the Hotel and meeting the other 3 ladies our gang was complete. It’s always slightly daunting meeting complete strangers – let alone strangers you will be spending two weeks with – but we just ‘clicked’ and the next 14 days were spent laughing, sharing life stories, some tears (of joy!) and lifelong friendships made. Off we drove to Kisoro, passing through the most amazing scenery as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains, truly breath taking. We then settled into the Golden Monkey Guesthouse which we were to call home for the next 2 weeks.

Kisoro

My first sighting of the mountain gorillas in the Mgahinga National Park is one I will never forget. Our expert guides alerted us when we were about 200 feet away and I could feel the adrenaline and emotion building. As we came around a corner a lone adult female was sitting in a clearing, seemingly waiting to greet us and introduce us to her family. The next blissful hour was spent in the company of a family of 18 – awesome and humbling. I will never, ever forget that feeling... We shared hugs and a few tears afterwards, trying to let the experience sink in... did that actually happen? Did we REALLY see Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat?

Mountain Gorilla

Whilst the main highlight of the trip for me was very much based on the gorilla trekking, what stood out for me even more was the visits to the schools and projects going on in the area. We saw and learned so much about the efforts being made to preserve the mountain gorillas and teach the importance of conservation to local people. They were being shown how to grow their own vegetables and herbs (for medicine), how to keep bees (an amazing young lady by the name of Jovita running this) and being educated by some incredible women (Regina from the Gorilla Organisation and Patricia from the Mgahinga Community Development Organisation to name but a couple) who spend their lives setting up projects to benefit the local people and the families.

We visited Potters Village, a baby urgent care unit, run by an amazing English Doctor by the name of Nikki. She was rightly extremely proud of the vital work being done by the centre to save babies lives and to care and educate the sometimes very young Mums on childcare. A very emotional visit and one I will be supporting now I’m back home.

So many school children to visit!! They were all amazing and so excited to see us and share their school work with us – always very keen to have their photos taken! We planted trees and vegetable gardens with their help and learned about the hardships faced by parents desperate to give their children an education. We learned so much about the politics of the country and how people are determined to better their lives – we could learn a lot from their resilience!

Volunteers on The Great Gorilla Project

A visit to the Queen Elizabeth National Park for 3 days was another highlight, with a quick visit to the Equator which was very exciting!! Too many animals to name; hippos, elephants, lions, leopard (very lucky to see her thanks to our guide Harriet!), buffalo. A cruise along the Kazinga Channel which gave us plenty of photo opportunities.

We had a trek to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – which pretty much did what it said on the tin – a hard trek but so very rewarding. Beautiful... We were also fortunate to take a hike to find a family of Chimpanzees, high up in the trees, but awesome to see them through a long lens and to hear them chattering away.

Overall, amongst all the excitement and physical challenges we faced, the care we received from all the team – Denis our amazing driver and caretaker, Clair and the team at Golden Monkey, Sheba who gave us a wonderful evening of teaching us to drum (with dancing) were a joy to us. Never once did we need anything, we were safe and looked after so well. Amazing people who I will never forget. So many wonderful experiences, I could write a novel!

So if this does not make up your mind on whether to visit Uganda, then nothing will! I truly loved it, am desperate to go back, and will never ever forget all my wonderful experiences. Thank you Great Projects!!!


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