By Luke Kenton
This wildlife photographer had a really lucky escAPE after he came within inches of a huge mountain gorilla and its sibling, resulting in an intense stare down.
During a three-week trek in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, wildlife photographer and artist, Szabolcs Kokay, was left startled when a large male gorilla came charging through the trees towards him as he lay propped up against a tree, clutching his camera.
Suddenly daunted by the power of the majestic creature, Szabolcs’ camera twitches nervously as the 42-year-old Hungarian realises just how vulnerable he is, should the male have chosen to showcase his strength.
Locking eyes with immature Blackback gorilla for several heart-pounding seconds, Szabolcs’ fear quickly turns to awe, as an adorable baby gorilla emerges close behind and the larger male begins to exhibit calmer behavior.
Mesmerised by the duo in front of him, Szabolcs felt ‘totally relaxed’ as the baby gorilla steps gently over his leg, before the bigger male stands on his foot – a weight which he’s ‘thankful’ his hiking boots absorbed without feeling any pain.
Claiming the encounter to be the most profound in his 20 years of wildlife artistry, Szabolcs said: “This is the most personal encounter with any animals in my entire life.
“At first, I was intimidated when the gorilla approached so quickly, but seeing how they had such a strong human character and the way they react with their young, I was able to enjoy the unbelievable experience.
“I clearly felt that this animal was so much stronger than I am and that was a fascinating feeling.
“On one hand, you see how weak and small you are compared to these creatures, but it was also mesmerising to see how gentle and harmless they were.
“It’s amazing that they don’t use the power that they have – they truly are gentle giants.
“Having real physical contact with these gorillas when they stepped over me was also something very new.
“It didn’t hurt at all when the male stepped on my foot, because luckily he stepped on my strong hiking boots, rather than my leg.
“I’m very happy to have caught it all on video, so now I can relieve it again and again.
“I’m a full-time natural history illustrator and wildlife artist.
“I prefer to experience my subjects first-hand, so I travel the world looking for inspiration.
“This was more of an immersive experience I ever could’ve hoped for.”
To see Szabolcs’ work, please visit: http://www.kokay.hu/