Gorilla Trekking Rwanda – Part 2

The night before my trek was hardly sleep filled as I lay there in anticipation of the day to come! We met at the park headquarters at about 6am and got divided into groups of no more than 8. There are approximately 7 different gorilla groups in the area. Our gorilla group was called ‘Group 13’, with approximately 15 gorillas in that group. My fellow trekkers were 2 other couples. Plus we had 2 guides and armed military escorts provided by the park.

Our trackers had already been up at the crack of dawn and were tracing the steps of our group from the previous day. We had a 30 minute drive from the park headquarters before we began our walk. We walked on marked trails through farm land, slowly gaining altitude before we reached the park border fence. We were at about 3000 metres, which did pose some altitude issues for me and a couple of the others, but we took it slow and just plodded along. Once we crossed into the park it was basically bushwacking, some scrambling on all fours and trying to stay away from the stinging nettle!

Our guides were in constant communication with the trackers via 2 way radio and when we heard they had come upon them and they were not far up ahead a hush fell over our group. When we came upon our trackers it was in a little clearing and there were some black furry balls dotted here and there.

As we approached, the gorillas looked at us but weren’t the least bit bothered. We just sat or crouched and soaked it all up. The moms were nursing babies or just grooming, the teens were flying around above us in the bamboo doing Tarzan acrobatics. It was definitely playtime. We never knew when one was going to land right in front of us and we had to scurry out of the way so as not to be perceived as a threat. We walked a tiny bit further and discovered the silverback. Although you know they must be formidable, it isn’t till you are a few feet away that you feel dwarfed by their presence. Once again he was not the least bit interested or bothered by us. The maximum time allowed each day with a group is one hour and that went all too quickly. I walked away trying to sum up what had just happened and realized I had been mesmerized, but that I also had just had one of the purest experiences ever.

The next day I did a trek to see the Golden Monkeys. This was also fabulous. An easier trek, wandering through farmers’ fields and low lying bamboo forest. We saw hundreds of these monkeys flying over our heads and swinging on bamboo. Unfortunately they just wouldn’t stay still for photos! The bamboo forest we hiked through was stunningly gorgeous! One can also hike up to Diane Fossey’s grave site or do another gorilla trek or just tour this very scenic area.

I thought seeing the gorillas once would be enough, but it isn’t. They are magnificent creatures and I will be going back! Suffice it to say it was absolutely fabulous!