100-year-old Charles Njonjo tracks mountain gorillas at Mt. Mgahinga National Park

100-year-old Charles Njonjo tracks mountain gorillas at Mt. Mgahinga National Park

Charles Mugane Njonjo, Kenya’s first post-independence Attoney General under President Jomo Kenyatta, turns a hundred on January 23, 2020.

To commemorate this milestone, the centenarian chose to celebrate it in the company of the endangered mountain gorillas in the jungles of Mt. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located in South Western Uganda.

Accompanied by his family, Njonjo was flown in by helicopter for a ‘must do before you die’ experience on every travelers ‘bucket list’.

In order to manage to track, Njonjo was carried on a sedan chair locally referred to as ‘helicopter’ specially kitted for disabled , injured or elderly trackers. A sedan costs US$300 to hire and it involves a team of eight to twelve porters who take turns at carrying ‘trackers’. It comes equipped with seat belts and a car seat for extra comfort.

Njonjo had to trade his trademark black striped coats, gold chain watch and bowler hat that earned him the nickname “Duke of Kabeteshire” for a more rugged jeans and trainers.

“I was at King’s College Budo and went there with King Freddie (Kabaka Edward Mutesa II of Buganda kingdom). I am very fond of Uganda and what I got from you. I was lucky to see gorillas, two young ones and two big male,” Njonjo said after being presented with a tracking certificate upon successfully tracking Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Njonjo, British trained barrister was one of Kenya’s most influential and wealthiest citizens, with a knack for his aristocratic manner, who is known to have secretly held talks with the Israeli government that allowed the Israeli Commandoes to land in Kenya during the 1976 hostage crisis at Entebbe.

He is married to Margaret Bryson and together, they have four children all of whom are successful professionals.

He goes down as the oldest man known to have tracked the mountain gorillas, a feat that should go down in the Guinness Book of World Records.

About the park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.

As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivaled.

Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.

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