During my leave I decided to go for a gorilla tour in Africa together with my family we decided to travel with a group we worked with at an orphanage in the capital Kigali City, to visit the rare mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga National Park, which borders The Congo and Uganda in central and East Africa.
The scenery along this two-hour drive northwards to volcanoes national park in Ruhengeri are spectacular, the two lanes Road (built by the Chinese) kept on going higher with the abundance of green foliage that simmered before our eyes. Perhaps this gives Rwanda its name “Land of a thousand Hills” But even that lovely assault on the senses didn’t prepare us for what was to come.
We were stunned to sleep in Gorilla Nest Lodge, just outside the Volcanoes National Park. Imagine a luxury hotel, superbly crafted from local stone, wood and bamboo, tucked into the jungle at the bottom of a blue-green volcanic range.
Top that off with beautiful spacious rooms, fine dining and friendly service from people that speak English, French, Swahili and Kinyarwanda (the national language) and you have a virtual Shangri-la in the middle of Africa.
Finding the Family
Following such a peaceful night stay we were driven to the Volcanoes Park entrance by 7:00am local time and met our guide, Fidel, who has worked as a park ranger-guide for a period of fourteen years. He briefed us about how a gorilla safari in in Rwanda is conducted and informed us that we would be walking for about three hours to find the family group we were assigned to observe.
We set out for our Rwanda gorilla trek, eight in all and made our way into the thick forest up the hillside past planted fields and traditional mud huts; over the stone wall, which was built by villagers (who were paid by the government) to keep out elephants and buffalo and to delineate the park boundary.
We were well prepared for what is usually a muddy and wet misty experience into the Jungle (with our boots, raincoats and packed Lunch), but were lucky and blessed with sunny weather and Climate and above all a clear trail.
We were lucky to have such a resourceful guide, as we continued with this Gorilla Safari into the forest, Fidel told us that the dominant male in that family group (the Silverback) is called “The President”. He said if there is no dominant male in the group, then a female takes up the responsibility as the leader.
Just Like Us
Male gorillas turn adults and attain silverbacks at the age of 10years,” Fidel said quietly. “From eight years on females are called adults because they can have babies. Gorillas can live up to forty years. Gestation period for pregnancy is about eight to nine months.
“Female Gorillas usually live longer than males. They are vegetarians. They sleep, play, socialize and eat just like us. Perhaps this is why they are termed as our closest cousins. Their DNA is ninety-seven percent the same as humans.”
He suddenly held up his hand and whispered, “straight ahead.” We heard the sound of twigs breaking and grunting noises before we could see anything.
Our guide gently pushed aside some bamboo sticks and my wife was staring face to face with a 500-pound silverback ten feet in front of her who was contently sitting down to lunch on some freshly stripped morsels of bamboo leaves. She froze, as we lined up alongside her; our mouths agape at the spectacle.
Shortly a number of females alongside their toddlers and a newborn joined the silverback. We enjoyed as we watched the children play, climb tree branches and being pulled back to their mothers when they got too far away or too close to the spectators.
We were deep in thought. Imagine we were the ones with the camera equipment, but if the gorillas could take our picture, they would probably be laughing hysterically at images of our grinning stupefied faces.
As required, we left the gorilla family after an hour’s viewing and made our way back down the mountain. We were in such awe that there was little conversation probably meditating how thrilling the Rwanda gorilla tour is.
Everyone come to understand that the $750.00 per person we had paid for permits to see the gorillas were the best money we had ever spent. The funds from the Rwanda gorilla trips permits help the rangers protect the gorillas, continue research like Dian fossey research Centre which located in this park, also provide funds for the surrounding communities to build schools, health clinics and crafts centers.
Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed worldwide for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government, family life and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, investment, security and eco-tourism have made it assessable, affordable and one of the safest destinations for adults and children in Africa as well as travelers who enjoy Rwanda safari trips to see the beauty of this central and East African tiny Nation.
After the breathtaking moment with the mountain Gorillas you can spice up your Rwanda safari with Kigali City tour which enables you see the National Museum to learn about the cultural history of Rwanda. Pay tribute to Rwanda Genocide victims by visiting Kigali Genocide memorial centre or other Genocide memorial sites in other districts. For other stunning wildlife arrange with your tour company to visit Nyungwe forest national park and Akagera National park as well.
Quick Tips to Traveling Rwanda
- The cheaper flights from London to Rwanda are via Kenya or via Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Their largely spoken national language is Kinyarwanda, but many people also speak English, Swahili or French and there is a big push for everyone to learn English language.
- Immunization certificate or immunization cards are required.
- Currency is the Rwandan franc which equals about 550 francs to every US dollar.