Monday, May 18, 2015

Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

Yesterday, I did something of my dreams. I trekked in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to see Mountain Gorillas.  You might know of these gorillas from the work of Dian Fossey. We tracked the Sabyinyo group which is unusual as it has three silverbacks (adult male gorillas).

One of the silverbacks (above) gave us quite a show when we first greeted him.  He stood up and pounded his chest. The guide had warned us this could happen, and that it was a bluff. He was simply saying, "Hey there - I'm bigger than you!" The guide talked to him in gorilla language, and the gorilla simply sat down and then proceed to groom himself and ignore us.

This wise gentleman is Guhonda. He is the oldest and biggest silverback in Rwanda, weighing in at more than 220 kg, 485 lbs. He barely acknowledged our presence and even took a nap.

This is me with the first gorilla. I'm half in awe and half terrified. I'm about 4 feet away.

And below, a 6-month-old baby gorilla climbing on his big brother's back. 

This baby gorilla was just adorable. He was curious about us and I thought might even approach us, but the guide discouraged that. He and his brother tumbled down the hill together.

Our guides, Patrick and Placid (below), briefed us on the gorilla group, taught us how to behave when with the gorillas, and educated us on all manner of things including elephant footprints.  An elephant had passed by within a few hours.

The hiking to get to the gorillas was challenging.  It's at elevation (you're in the Virunga Mountains). It's over slippery rocks, up steep inclines, and through very dense vegetation. The gorillas don't use trails, and so the last bit was through jungle with no trail.  One of the trackers used a machete to cut a path. As an aside, we were very lucky to have had sunshine. It's still the rainy season here and we could have just as easily been drenched. 

In another post I will write more about the porters.  

This experience was just totally, completely, wonderfully awesome! My gratitude to all the people who have influenced my life to get to this point. First, my mom who taught me to be an independent and strong woman.  To my friends and family who were excited about the trip for me. And to my company, for affording me this opportunity.


Linda @ Friendship Tea said...

This is an amazing experience!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you and the experiences you have been able to have in your life. You have worked hard to be able to enjoy all of these opportunities.
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

WOW, just WOW!

Mary Jane

Ginger said...

Oh wow. What an amazing adventure. Thanks for sharing.

Nora @ Teacup Tales said...

Wow! I'm at a loss for words. What an amazing experience. I can't even imagine being that close to those gorillas. How wonderful to have the expertise of the guides. This is certainly a trip of a lifetime. Thank you for letting us be a part of it through your posts and photos. The first close up photo of the gorilla is absolutely stunning!

Rosemary said...

Fantastic experience!

Margie said...

Wonderfully awesome is definitely right!

I wondered how close you stood to the gorillas to get such magnificent close-ups...and then I read your comment about being 4 feet away (your camera must have an amazing zoom lens!)

Angela McRae said...

Oh, myyyyy ... I so would not have had that smile on my face with only four feet separating me from the gorilla. (Beautiful as they are!) LOVE that you had a guide named Placid. I am *so* stealing that name for a future novel!

Amanda Wilson said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey, this is truly amazing