Travel

Memorable Gorilla Trekking Experience in Rwanda

The writer (extreme right) with the team heading for gorilla trekking before setting off (photo: suresh Thalange a photographer from the United Kingdom)

Gorilla trekking can be unpredictable but it’s the one activity l will do over and over again because of the extraordinary surprises it offers each time.

Last week on Wednesday, a group of international journalists and I; courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board embarked on a journey to the North West Corner of Rwanda.

The North western part of Rwanda also known as Volcanoes National Park is home to nearly 200 Mountain gorillas deep within the Virunga Mountains out of the 900 running through the intersection of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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At 5:30am, we all converged at the reception area of the Kigali Serena Hotel where we spent a night.

And as we left for our next trip, we were treated to a healthy breakfast.

Serena treated us to a healthy breakfast

Serena treated us to a healthy breakfast

Every morning in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, trackers search for nests of 10 gorilla families that are habituated with humans following tracks, crushed vegetation, foot prints and droppings.

The trackers radio-call the park rangers and communicate to them where the group of Gorillas is at the moment as they continue following them, monitoring their movements.

They keep updating the park rangers who are already leading their group of tourists up the path.

If you’re fit, you can trek into the rainforest to try and see them but, l must say, some sights are easier to come by than others.

I would advise that you take a porter with you to help with the bags for an amicable fee.

At this point, we are all excited although we are panting and our hearts are beating so fast in our small group of eight. We walk up a path for over an hour taking breaks from time to time.

At this point, we found them settled

At this point, we found them settled

Our Park ranger, a one Patrick receives a radio call that the trackers have spotted our assigned family of PABLO, one of the most famous families in the park.

It’s at that point that anticipations run high; the entire group is silently awaiting our first encounter with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda.

“You will all have to leave your walking sticks and bags here because we hide them from Gorillas that find them threating and don’t forget to remove the flash from all your cameras,” Patrick says.

He then takes on the machete and begins to hack a trail through the jungle leaving a fairly wide pathway.

We follow him into the dense, green forest with lots of fresh and broken bamboo.

The bamboo we had to pass through

The bamboo we had to pass through

After a few minutes through, we realize that we are surrounded by gorillas and –  boom –  our one hour of observing Gorillas began.

During a typical mountain gorilla encounter, the family sits in a clearing where they groom each other, eat and watch juveniles play.

In the one hour we were given, we watched them feed, groom young ones and took lots of photos not forgetting selfies, for some of us.

Two of the mother Gorillas in the group of Pablo are clutching and feeding their young babies so young that it may be a bit hard to notice.

Actually the two were named at the Kwita Izina 2017.

Kwita Izina is celebrated in Rwanda every year showing how proud the country is of their native mountain gorillas in the Virunga area.

Mama and the young ones; one of them was named at Kwita Izina

Mama and the young ones; one of them was named at Kwita Izina

In 2010, the number of Gorillas had almost doubled to 480.

The Rwanda Development Board and conservation programs have played a large part in driving this change and tourism.

Back to the Gorillas, the young ones are climbing up vines and hurling themselves rolling around the forest floor. Very interesting to watch.

The silver back or dominant alpha male is also jumping from one branch to another in such for the best vegetation to eat and also monitoring the wellbeing of the family.

Following mountain gorillas through the bamboo and bushy vegetation isn’t easy since there are stinging nettles that make it a bit hard to trek.

The writer braving the forest during the trekking

The writer braving the forest during the trekking

According to Patrick, they are healthy for the gorillas and humans.

“It’s also advisable not to scratch ourselves as it may make it worse,” he says.

I occasionally grabbed onto bamboos and vines to prevent a steep pedigree from turning into somersault tumble since I know very well humans are not as agile as the baby gorillas.

The gorillas continue feeding and one of them farts for long. Hmm … one would think it was chasing us a way since our one hour was elapsing.

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 It’s was truly an incredible time to absorb the gentle marvelous Gorillas that are quite similar to us and l treasured every second l got with them.

The trackers gave us back our walking sticks and bags to hike the slops.

Our last stop before heading to the gorilla trekking as a team

Our last stop before heading to the gorilla trekking as a team

As we went back, I was holding on bamboos with one hand while using the other on the stick to level myself up and down.

Sweaty and a bit dirty; we are all euphoric exhausted when we finally arrive back at the base.

Although permits to the park are posh, they go towards ongoing conservation efforts and your tips to the rangers, trackers and porters provide them with an alternative income to poaching.

The rangers congratulated us and of course gave us cool certificate for surviving the trek.

The only guarantee about trekking Mountain Gorillas is that every experience will be different and amazing.

Mother looking at her young ones to play

Mother looking at her young ones to play

Thanks Rwanda Development Board for sharing your REMARKABLE NATURE with us.

During the trekking - the writer, second in line

During the trekking – the writer, second in line

 

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