We’re 8000 feet above sea level, yet my shirt clings to my back from sweat borne of exertion and temperatures well over 90 degrees. Midday in equatorial Africa is hot, no matter the elevation.
Our group half-walks, half-slides down the mountainside, roots and vines our handholds as we try to follow a path carved by a forest elephant. It seems implausible that a creature of such size could navigate this terrain. Suddenly, our guide raises his hand. He turns, places a finger against his lips, and points. Craning my neck, I see a large, black hump blocking the trail about twenty yards ahead. The jungle shadows obscure features. There’s a hint of movement, and suddenly a face materializes from the gloom, staring back at us. Everyone gasps. There, just ahead, is what we’ve been hiking all morning to see — a male silverback gorilla.