I never thought I'd find myself in a situation where I would actively avoid a staring contest with a 115kg silverback.

The gorilla confrontation took place deep in the impenetrable Bwindi Forest, Uganda.

It didn't last long, as he was more interested in inspecting his hands after a 40-minute fight with another male.

This is just one of the many incredible things you can see should you visit the oldest continent in the world.


Our trip started on the dusty yellow plains of Kenya as we set off in chaotic traffic through Nairobi and on a seven-hour journey into the Maasai Mara.

Along the way I developed a new knack for sales and haggling skills as we were dragged into multiple tourist shops.

Tourists are clearly easy prey for the expert Kenyan salesmen and I certainly felt like a zebra among lions, but in a marketplace.

I attempted to buy a wooden maasai mask for $5 US, even though the salesman wanted $30.

Snatching the mask from me so hard it nearly broke, he appeared flabbergasted at my offer.

"Sister. This is antique!" he shouted, as the shop came to a standstill.

I looked at the remaining 200 identical masks lying on the table, then returned his stare.

He read my doubtful thoughts.

"The tree ... the wood. The wood is antique."

He didn't make the sale.

Our drive to and from the Maasai Mara was like driving over jagged rocks in a dust storm. Our guide told us the suspension in the vehicle was changed every time he made a trip as the roads were so bad.

I could see why - the front axle of our car snapped clean in half on the last speed bump at Nairobi Airport a week later.

Seeing animals in their natural environment made me feel extremely insignificant, especially when meeting the powerful yellow eyes of a battle-scarred lion as he slumped down under a tree, avoiding the blazing African sun.

Kenya's wildlife is the major money maker, but they still have major issues with poaching and illegal hunting in national parks such as the Maasai Mara, not to mention the tension between Tanzania and Kenya regarding the tourism industry.

Despite that, it's clear to the people that they're very much in the animals' space; a mixture of fear and respect widely felt for the wildlife that roam freely through their communities.

Elephants tear at trees on the side of the road, baboons hoot and weave between traffic as zebra graze in groups on the outskirts of town.

It became even more abundantly clear I was in the way one night as a hippopotamus banged into our hut at 2am during its early morning feed, not once but twice.

Although my heart nearly burst through my chest, I remained calm and thought of happier times rather than its jagged jaws and 200 pounds of muscle through centimetres of wall by my head.

I had already met it on the path earlier that evening before a security guard casually waved it away with his torch. It slumped off, unperturbed.

The excitement continued as we discovered a large paw print by our car the next morning.

It belonged to a young, wild leopard who often used the outdoor dining room to rest during the evenings.

A staff member told me that he arrived earlier than usual one evening, scattering screaming guests from their tables.

"We shooed him out and he fell asleep between two tents instead," he laughed at my awestruck face. "He must have been full, he wasn't too bothered."

Through all these incredible experiences there's a dark side to Africa too. Rubbish litters the streets, unemployment in Uganda is unbelievably high, not to mention the 80 per cent loss of its wildlife during the civil war.

There are still problems with locals poisoning lions as they attack and kill their livestock and Kenya has banned plastic as it continually litters the streets in towns, cities and villages, then, of course, there's the poverty.

In saying that, experiencing the dusty flats of Kenya to the sunset-red soils of Uganda, with its quilted fields blanketing steep hillsides with tea plantations and maize, the countries are chaotic, but the colourful buzzing kind of chaotic that you can easily fall in love with.

Africa in all its wild beauty really is a must see, no matter what time of life.