Charlotte Lapalus

Words by Charlotte Lapalus.


A hundred kilometers more, and I would reach the Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi, sprawling across more than 300 square kilometers at the foot of the Virunga volcanoes. I had been driving for four hours, slowed down by potholes and a bustling traffic of rundown trucks coming and going from neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, and Rwanda. 

Billboards advertised the usual sodas and mobile networks as I passed by men pushing bicycles loaded with bundles of still-green bananas, and women in colorful boubous walking confidently with bundles of firewood atop their heads. As the day dwindled, I arrived at dusk, seeking warmth by a fireplace. Beyond 1,000 meters in altitude, the evenings turned chilly.


Timidly, dawn broke over the forest. The rustling leaves, bird songs, and distant river murmurs embraced the atmosphere, creating a natural symphony. Alongside the rangers, I ventured into this dense forest, shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The rugged trail led us through machete-cleared paths, revealing a vibrant and bustling canopy. Fresh dung and bare branches were our clues guiding us towards our destination.


Silence loomed, interrupted only by the deep rumble of the forest. After hours of walking through this vegetative labyrinth, doubt began to creep in when suddenly, the trackers ahead whispered, “They’re here.” My heart raced, excitement mingling with apprehension. 


Branches cracked, fleeting shadows darted in all directions. Then, a louder rumble emerged, and amidst the foliage, the majestic silhouette of a silverback emerged. The group froze. Fear, joy, the embrace of the moment permeated the air. The king of the apes observed us… roles reversed, and suddenly, I felt confined, as if in a cage, being observed. We were on their territory, somehow stripped of power akin to animals in zoos. 


Gradually, I regained my senses… the bright eyes of a playful young gorilla captivated my gaze. A baby nestled in its mother’s arms puzzled by the incessant noise of my camera, and an older silverback imposing its presence from atop the cliff. The scene was majestic and silent; the gorillas were calm, companionable, engrossed in their activities. I found myself fascinated by the intricate details—how their dexterous hands meticulously selected plants to consume or their ears so remarkably similar to ours.


Distracted by a butterfly fluttering around my neighbor’s head, I lost track of the moment. Suddenly, a tense atmosphere descended. The cries, the movements, everything accelerated. The gorillas seemed agitated, one of them grabbed my pants, pulling me towards it with restrained force. A shiver ran through me. The rangers swiftly reacted, emitting gentle throaty noises to calm them. It was an alert; it was time to leave.

I had spent an hour with them, adhering to the rule in Uganda to avoid disturbing them.


It was an emotionally charged tête-à-tête in their kingdom. The strict rules to preserve their health were well in place, and I felt a deep sense of gratitude for their adherence, emphasizing the importance of preserving this delicate ecosystem.


The Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi had unveiled its treasure—an unforgettable encounter with these imposing and graceful creatures. Once again, the awareness of our place as equals resonated within me with renewed intensity.

Charlotte Lapalus

Charlotte, a French photographer living in Marseille, is celebrated for her captivating photography. Her deliberate employment of muted colours imbues her creations with a warm minimal aesthetic, evoking a sense of melancholic serenity that resonates throughout her body of work.


At the heart of Charlotte’s artistry lies a fascination with humanity and a dedication to women’s empowerment. With each frame, Charlotte weaves a visual narrative that not only captivates the eye but also conveys a connection to the fundamental nature of her subjects, infusing her art with depth, emotion, and a powerful message.