My very first encounter with a Gorilla on my treks in Rwanda was with this male Silverback called Guhonda who is said to be the oldest and largest Silverback in the world. Guhonda is the head of the Sabyinyo family named after the Sabyinyo volcano which means “old man’s teeth”.
My first glimpse of Guhonda was of him sitting comfortably in some bamboo chewing away like a gentle giant just 2 meters from me which, for a first encounter, is one of those that makes your heart pound in your head from excitement.
After the first few minutes of my close encounter with Guhonda my guides asked me to to follow them to see the rest of the Sabyinyo family who were all situated just behind some bushes. I spent the next 20 minutes observing and photographing the rest of the members until Guhonda suddenly came marching out from where I first saw him and walked right up towards me, stopped about 3 meters from me and stared directly toward me.
Having never been in the company of Gorilla’s, least of all a fully mature Silverback, my heart was now pounding even more thinking that perhaps Guhonda had a bone to pick with me. Then all of a sudden Guhonda stood upright, hooted, stamped his feet and thumped on his chest and that is the moment this image was captured.
It was only afterwards that the guides told me that Guhonda was warding off nearby forest buffalo, for me it was a thrill of a lifetime that put a cherry on top of this bucket list trip right from day one. Silverback Gorilla’s often use such displays to intimidate other Silverback’s or other threats to their family’s safety. They are said to display a variety of up to 9 different actions and in this encounter I got 3 all in one.
This was shot with a 50mm fixed lens so you can deduce just how close I was to Guhonda when this happened. This was a truly amazing experience and one which will remain at the top of my list for a very long time to come.