Gorillas with ElderTreks

By Victor Block
This item appears on page 31 of the November 2013 issue.

My wife, Fyllis, and I took the 16-day “Uganda” tour with ElderTreks (Toronto, ON, Canada; 800/741-7956). Ten travelers were on the Sept. 20-Oct. 6, 2012, safari, most of whom were primarily interested in seeing mountain gorillas and big cats. 

At a price of $7,895 a person (not including air from the US), participants anticipated an intriguing itinerary, excellent guides and high-quality accommodations and food, and all expectations were met with flying colors.

Most accommodations were in luxury tents, with more emphasis on the first word than the second. They included very comfortable beds with mosquito netting, which we hardly needed, and private bath facilities. Meals were served buffet style and were bountiful, with local fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish.  

Several game drives took us into close proximity of a virtual Noah’s Ark of animals. Among the A-to-Z listing, we spotted herds of different kinds of antelopes, both savannah and forest elephants, dour-looking Cape buffalo, giraffes munching on treetop leaves, and zebras. Troops of baboons scurried off the bumpy dirt roads to allow our Land Rovers to pass, and warthogs knelt on their front knees to munch grass.

On riverboat trips, we encountered countless hippos floating in the water with only their eyes and tiny ears visible, plus giant crocodiles lying on mudflats basking in the sun.

The highlight of the trip, for many of us, was the day spent looking for endangered mountain gorillas. Of the estimated 880 of these magnificent creatures remaining in the wild, about 400 live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. 

As we set out, we soon learned why that enclave of steep hills, thick foliage and hanging vines is called “impenetrable.” After clawing our way up hillside after hillside, we finally came upon a troop of gorillas. During most of the hour we were allotted for observing them, the adults munched on leaves while the adolescents put on a show, swinging on vines and leaping from tree limb to tree limb. 

The greatest excitement occurred when the giant silverback, the alpha male that dominated the troop, began to advance toward our group of interlopers. When our guides stepped in front of us and waved their machetes, the gorilla stopped, grunted and went back to his meal.  

ElderTreks promises small-group, all-inclusive tours (they are) and off-the-beaten-path experiences that allow guides to, as ours did, make slight changes in the day’s plans to take advantage of opportunities that might present themselves.


Washington, DC