Shooting Wildlife – Gorilla’s in the Mist
Gorillas in the Mist
I remember seeing Gorilla’s in the Mist in the 1980’s, I actually half did not believe that it was possible to see humans so close to wild Gorillas and them live to tell the tale. It was amazing to imagine a person being able to do this. The film tells the story of Dian Fossey zoologist and anthrapologist who dedicated her life to studying the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Africa.
However, on a wedding commission to Kigali in Rwanda, we got to experience this for ourselves first hand.
The National Conservation Trust runs Gorilla treks to see actual wild Gorilla families, this is actually the same place that the film was made, and where Dian Fossey on who the film was based, devoted her life to the study of primates.
First you must obtain a license authorising you to do so. There are a limited number of license available each day, so this needs to be planned well in advance. The licenses do not come cheap, although there is a local price for Rwandans.
The day starts very early, 7am meet, where you will meet with other ‘hopefuls’, we have to use this words because not everyone is capable of completing their mission!
After a briefing, and introduction to the small group (8 people) that you will be trekking with, do’s and dont’s, you start your trek up a step mountain towards the heavy forested area where they live. This is not an easy feat… even relatively fit people will find themselves stopping for water or a rest, and this trek can continue for any length of time from an hour onwards, depending on how far your family of Gorillas are on that day.
Some of us found ourselves ready to give up, with legs no longer to lift to climb the steep mountain, and as the air gets thinner, an inability to get enough oxygen into your lungs.
When we finally reach the edge of their habitat, again briefings were reiterated, and suddenly you are filled with such excitement and anticipation that the adrenalin takes away all of the fatigue! We trekked for a further 30 minutes to find out small family, the TITUS family, we came across an adult female, Silverback male, and infant Gorilla.
It is difficult to describe the feeling, you are in the presence of real Gorilla’s!! You are humbled into submission at the greatness of these animals sitting only feet away from you.
Contrary to their depiction in many films, they seem placid, happy to just sit and eat, with the exception of the infant who runs around playing, even curiously touching the leg of one of us. As long as you do not impinge on them, and show them the respect they command in their own environment, they allow the temporary trespass of these strangers on their territory.
We follow them around for a while, in true jungle environments, the guides using machetes to cut trees and branches and other foliage to clear some sort of path for us, each new member of the family that we come across is as exciting as the last.
It is a true once in a lifetime experience.
I would have loved to bring every lens I had and could possibly use, however, practicalities. The trek is gruelling, if I could have done without carrying water I would have, just for the additional loss of weight. I carried one camera body and two lenses, and in the end, I wish I had carried just the one! A great range telephoto zoom is all you need. I carried one of the less expensive bodies for fear of a Gorilla taking my camera and me not being able to do anything about it!