You can’t get a much more heart-thumping moment than coming face to face with a magnificent mountain gorilla. Alessandra McLachlan’s adrenalin was racing during her memorable encounter in Rwanda…
“While our group was watching the antics of young gorillas, I noticed one of our guides beckon me to follow him. The guide and I came to a clearing where an alpha male gorilla was laying on his stomach and holding up his head with his left hand. He was peaceful and almost seemed bored. I am not sure why I did this, but I dropped to my knees and both the gorilla and I looked deeply into each others eyes.
I know that was perhaps a little dangerous, but the alpha male of the Sabinyo family was very relaxed and did not perceive me as a threat (probably because of my size and the fact that I am a female). We sat there, looking at each other for about 5 minutes. I had goose bumps all over and was overcome by the feeling that I was completely disarmed and I felt like that particular gorilla was able to look into my soul.
He was a very intelligent being who walked the thin line between protecting and providing for his family in a such wild place (I guess in a way I felt like I could see deep into his soul as well). I was almost in a trance. I did not even realise that other members of our expedition were joining us, until the alpha male stood up and started beating his chest. He did that while looking at the newcomers. I was still on my knees and he took a last peaceful look at me and then disappeared into the foliage.
Our group spent about another 30 minutes with the gorillas. I was very emotionally shaken and my heart was racing (not in fear, but for the quality time I spent with the gorilla). I was not sure if I would see him again… then just as our time with the family expired, the male gorilla called out and the entire family walked right in front of me. I could not keep my eyes off the alpha male and can swear that he did steal a glance directly back at me. I will never forget my connection to that powerful and intelligent being!”
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* photo by Petra Groot - Intrepid Photography Competition