Inspirational journeys: Meet the Silverback

As a member of the KLM family, you have– depending on availability of course – the opportunity to fly for cheap. It goes without saying that, after having flown across half the globe, lots of colleagues end up becoming a bit blasé about travelling, along the lines of ‘been there, done that’. Luckily, I still often experience things on holiday that move and inspire me. Like in Uganda, where I got to see gorillas in the wild last Christmas. Obviously, it took lots of negotiating on the home front before I was ‘allowed’ to leave my husband and child behind with the Christmas tree, but, before I knew it, I was sitting on the plane to Entebbe.

It takes several months to arrange permission to visit the gorilla families in the rain forests of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. To avoid disturbing the animals as much as possible, only two groups of eight people are allowed into the rain forest per day.

On Christmas Day, we set out with local guides and carriers. We stopped suddenly in the middle of the road in the Bwindi National Park and the guide cheerfully mentioned that we needed to descend here. We peered over the edge nervously. It was a steep slope with no sign of a trail. He was joking, right? Nope. We spent two hours slogging our way in the pouring rain through the dense rain forest, while the carriers pushed and pulled us across the slippery parts.

Uganda. Meeting the SilverbackOur efforts were finally rewarded when we got to stand face to face with a large group of gorillas. We were absolutely speechless when we heard the powerful grunting of the silverback. We grabbed onto each other and tried to position ourselves as best as possible on the steep, wet slope to take pictures. It was harder than you might think. Like people, gorillas don’t like to stand out in the rain. They hide in trees or under leaves to stay as dry as possible. And they’re grouchy. Which I experienced personally when a gorilla suddenly popped up three metres in front of me. My God, they’re huge! I remembered the advice of the guide to avoid eye contact and make yourself as small as possible. Obediently, I got down on my knees, but not before snapping a quick picture. Without proof, no one at home was going to believe this!

These are the kinds of moments when I realise how privileged I really am, that I get to visit so many special places on earth and that I can add yet another book of fantastic pictures to my by now sizeable collection. Anyone have a suggestion for another unique destination?

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