I may not really explain why we decided to go for mountain gorilla safari in Africa. It was probably something we read or saw on TV that sparked our interest. And the fact that they are rare, their closeness to human and being the world’s most threatened species.
We love to travel for Adventure; be it thrilling adventures like White water rafting, wildlife adventures or cultural adventures or anything. With scrutiny we chose a company website called Select Safaris Africa, basically we encourage everyone to travel… it helps wildlife when you visit, and it helps to reconcile cultural differences as people understand one another.
But let’s talk about mountain gorillas… After a through talk with one of our travel buddies for some time, we all just decided that gorilla safaris is all what we really wanted to go for. We were a perfect group of six and by coincidence a group of six was allowed to visit each gorilla families once per day at the time of our visit. The local guides kept track of where they had seen the gorillas last, and we started our treks in different locations depending on where the guides thought the gorillas would be found.
The first day of tracking, we noticed, the degree of mount gorilla habitat loss in Rwanda… one of the big problems that threaten the lives of mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park of the Virungas protects the rain forest on the tops of the Virunga Mountains, but the local farmers have cleared a big part of land for crops. The cultivation goes right up to the edge of the small protected area of rain forest that remains.
Our first Step into the wild, the thick rain forest meant we were in totally a different world…. marked with tangly vines and stinging nettle. We realized weren’t walking on the ground but about 2-3 feet above it… on top of the vines… falling through every so often and stumbling along as the vines grabbed at our feet and ankles. It was really such a rough hiking. Good enough the gorillas hadn’t moved too far and our guides were good, so we were able to find our assigned family in about an hour and all knew it was such a perfect Rwanda gorilla tour.
After we have met these 500 pound African gentle giants, we enjoyed their presence for one hour to view them watch their infants play in tree branches and feeding on bamboo shootout all around us…. under the watchful eye of the silverback, the dominant male called Ndume… He sat and ate bamboo and watched us as well. We were close enough that we could observe the effects of another threat to gorillas…. snares set out by poachers. Ndume had lost a hand to a poacher’s snare. Fortunately for him, his wound had healed, and he was still strong enough to lead his family.
The silverback, Ndume will always have a special place in my heart, not only because he was a survivor, rather felt like staying a little longer in his presence because he touched me…..emotionally, yes… but I mean he really touched me.
Amazingly all of us were seated high on the hillside. Ndume gently moved and came right up to my friend Karin and me…. He moved around and got to where our knees were touching, then he gently put his hand on both of our shoulders and softly he pushed us. We leaned apart for him, and he stepped right between us, his hips brushing our shoulders… wow, what a wonderful experience!.
Remember you’re not supposed to make contact with gorillas, but Karin and I will live not to forget that wonderful experience. Ndume had totally a different idea…. that’s why we decided to call him Our Silverback Mountain Gorilla. Going into our second day, our hike was longer but we walked on a path through the forest and had no stinging nettle to deal with. We visited a larger family with several infants which were just so cute we could have watched them for hours and hours.
We came to understand that there are different ways to help endangered mountain gorillas. One way is to send donations to conservation groups. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, another way is to visit them. Having tourists there helps to keep them safe, and the money you spend in the local economies gives the locals an incentive to help preserve the habitat and protect the gorillas. Eco-tourism seems to be the latest thing in travel… but it’s something that we’ve always loved. If you’d like to read more about where we’ve traveled and read our travel tips, please visit our website www.rwandasafaritrips.com
Happy travels… even if you don’t travel the world… just remember that life is a journey… embrace and enjoy it!