One of the most rewarding aspects of gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the privilege of slowing down and living life at the pace of a gorilla, even if only for an hour. During these treks, after finding the gorillas, the speed and anticipation of tracking instantly dissipates into the steady rhythm of the troop. There is a deliberate and methodical slowness to most of their movements through the dense forest, which is a tempo that suits them well. Ecological interactions are mediated through space and time, and experiencing both alongside wild animals provide much clearer perspectives on how they interact with their environment, and encourages the human observer to reconsider their own pace in nature. As an ecologist, I find that extended periods of immersive observation give the deepest insights into the beauty of these complex systems.
Resisting the urge to fill up my cameras’ memory cards, I ultimately put down the lenses, and took in smells, sounds, and feelings of the forest and its gorilla inhabitants. This young one, particularly curious of the GoreTex clad stranger, provided a contemplative glance before wandering off to join its playmates.
I can vividly recall the first time I encountered a lion in the wild. As far as lion sightings go, this one was rather nondescript, but it is indelibly scorched in my memory. It was a single lioness laying in midday shade next to a water hole in Tarangire National Park. Despite distance, I remember my initial reaction was marveling over her lean strength. Even in repose, her muscles were tensed like sinewy springs, belying an awesome predatory acumen. Since then I’ve had countless other lion encounters -like this one in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park - but they all invariably elicit that same sentiment of awe.