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Gorillas in our Midst

_dsc5600bcrop.jpgOdzala’s Ngaga camp spoils all typical notions of safari. Not because the gorillas are so much more thrilling to see than most other animals (which they are), or because the setting is so much more beautiful than you’d imagine (which it is), but because you have to work damn hard to see what you came all the way to the Congo for. Unlike my other safari experiences, we didn’t pile into a Land Cruiser and roll past lions and giraffes who marched before us as if on cue. Rather, we walked, and we hacked through giant marantaceae leaves, and we listened, and we waited, and we walked and hacked some more. And when we finally found the gorillas—with whom we were permitted to spend just a single hour each day—we were always, without fail, swarmed by sweat bees that wanted nothing more than to blind us by flying kamikaze-style into our eyeballs. In spite of (or perhaps because of) all of this, interacting with the gorillas is an experience like no other. Whether watching an infant cautiously shuffling down a tree trunk, spying a lone female napping in a tree, or trembling with fear as a silverback charged us within mere feet, every moment seemed poised to be the most magnificent we’d experience for the rest of our collective lives. And if that wasn’t quite the essence of a romantic honeymoon, we at least had private dinners on the terrace of our hairy-looking raffia hut most every night. Oh, and plenty of Ngok.

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