Kathy West Photographer and Top Shelf User

Conservation Photographer & Top Shelf User

Seeing as it is World Wildlife Day, we thought it would be a great time to share a short excerpt, and some photos, from a unique photographer, an early Top Shelf backer who we've been in touch with since early 2021. 

Kathy West is a conservation photographer who dedicates herself to the promotion and awareness of endangered species and their habitats. She has a BS in Zoology and Animal behavior, and an MS in Primate Ecology and Behavior from the University of California, Davis. 

She reached out to us on several occasions to share updates on her expeditions, and the excerpt below is from her latest trip to Uganda to photograph mountain gorillas.


The Top Shelf performs like a charm in the mountains of Uganda

Going on a gorilla trek in the impossibly steep mountains of Bwindi is an incredible experience. Early one morning in August, we registered at the Buhoma-Bwindi visitors’ center, where we were assigned the gorilla family we would see the Katwe family (only one tourist group is allowed to visit each family for one hour a day). We waited as they organized our UWA rangers, guides, porters, and armed guards (to scare off any forest elephants that we might encounter on the narrow mountain trails) to lead us up the steep, root-covered path. 


Juvenile mountain gorilla from the Katwe family.

After a long and very hard climb (wait, I thought I was in pretty good shape?!) and the help of my personal “guide” who held my hand and pulled/pushed me up the rough patches, we were finally led into a beautiful, open valley that was surrounded by forest. As we adjusted to the new sights, we started to see the black forms of the gorillas amongst the bushes. Spending the next hour with them was one of the most magical experiences I have ever had. I’ll let my photos describe the stunning beauty of the animals and the absolute joy it brought us to watch these wild primates in total relaxation and unconcerned about our presence.


These images of mountain gorillas were taken from the Sahaya-Rafiki Guesthouse grounds. These are members of the Rushegura family who use this property adjacent to the Guesthouse that is regenerating native vegetation.


My Top Shelf bag was perfect not only for my camera gear in the field (and pouring rain) but just what I needed for international travel, carrying not only my gear, but also my laptop, flight papers, and cash.


Interested in visiting the Bwindi area and seeing the mountain gorillas yourself? Check out the new Sahaya-Rafiki Guesthouse. It is located on the edge of the Bwindi forest; a peaceful, quiet, wildlife-friendly space where you have endless opportunities to photograph birds, endangered monkeys, and of course, gorillas. The Guesthouse supports numerous organizations in the community that work together to support conservation many charitable organizations such as the Rafiki Wildlife Memorial Conservation Initiative) and Mothers in Motion.

My nonprofit conservation organization, Photography Inspiring Children in Conservation, is working in collaboration with Rafiki to provide skills to local youth so they can be empowered in conservation communication and livelihoods. You can read about our recent work in the Buhoma-Bwindi community here.


August 2022, Photography Inspiring Children in Conservation
sessions in the Buhoma-Bwindi community.


Image of a silverback mountain gorilla from the Katwe family in Bwindi Impenetrable NP (Uganda) was honored in the Top 100 of the 2023 NANPA Showcase. 


-Photos credit of Kathy West, MS Conservation Photographer, Primatologist

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