When Kong Boy Meets Kong Band

Kong boy is me (Hong Kong).

Kong band is a group of gorillas (not the British virtualĀ band but a group of gorillas is called a band).

I’m going to share my Kong moment – The biggest animal I’ve touched in the wild in 2018 was the Silverback Mountain Gorilla of Uganda! I also bear hugged the “more common” lions, rhinos, and elephants I worked with but they were in sanctuaries so the wild Gorilla is my biggest wild beast of the year. And, I didn’t hug him. He hugged me! Too ginormous bucket list encounter not to share.

So I went on my expedition to Uganda earlier this year in the search of the real-life King Kong. Not the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus but the largest extant primate – the Eastern Gorilla.

It is much rarer than the western gorilla. There are 2 subspecies – Eastern lowland gorilla and Mountain gorilla. In Uganda, we can possibly find the much rarer subspecies, the Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), if we’re lucky.

Before you can try your luck searching for gorillas, first you need to know where exactly to go. This subspecies is only possible to be found in 3 countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. They are more easily reached in Rwanda and DR Congo. But in Uganda, there is something else I like more. It’s even more raw and real. In here I chose to climb up to over 8,000 feet above sea level in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park situated along DR Congo border.

My armed guide and I spent hours climbing and finding a number of chameleons and other reptiles. They’re very interesting but we had to keep going as there’s not much time to find the gorillas before it’s dark.

Finally, all of a sudden, the Kong’s here in front of my eyes!

So excited. My pumping adrenaline got me sneaking forward to get closer forgetting the fact that we’re talking about over 400 pounds of pure muscles here right in front of me.

Hmm, I was not going to grab or touch this beast like the crocs or anacondas I used to handle. I was just trying to take a closer look and some photos. Guess it’s fine, huh?

Oooh damn. He looked at me.

In the jungle, any ape can outrun any human. I understood there’s no way back. Trying to run away is the least you want to do in that extreme situation. I had to stay still, stay low, and let them understand that we’re no enemy. Be humble. And, not to forget to take pictures. Even if I would be attacked at least it’s more worth it. However, at the back of my mind I was still trying to get even closer.

The rest is all about sitting patiently and waiting for the chance. Probably you think it’s the easy part of the trip. If you think that I could have a beer or a joint and chill, take a look at those tiny buddies all around that kept me company.

Reward for being nice and patient surrounded by a whole business of flies – Coming out of nowhere, here came the Silverback!

And he’s with his family.

They looked like they had accepted me in the neighborhood. My anxiety level had peaked and I started feeling a little at peace… Until one of them suddenly got up and charged towards me!

The only 3 words I could hear from everyone were O, M, and G. Probably there was also an F that I couldn’t remember well.

Everything happened after this photo was not recorded as everyone got a panic attack. I got grabbed and pulled… Everyone froze and it’s like blackout for a minute. That one minute was like I’d traveled across the universe.

Fortunately, I stayed calm (or just too shocked to respond). They trusted that we’re humble and harmless then they let me go. Afterward, casting my mind back, I realized that they had been testing me.

As I passed the test, and the gorillas were less defensive, there came the time I enjoyed after all the efforts. I took some photos of the baby who was well hidden before they trusted us.

This is the look he gave me before we had to head back. What a dope way to farewell. Lit!

What a privilege to meet the silverback, mother, babies, and the whole family of the very rare Mountain Gorillas! What a Kong moment! As always, finding rare wildlife leaves the most unforgettably bittersweet memories. We all know they’re a few steps away from extinction. I hope they can walk a few more steps.