Rwanda is a small country with big assets and I had the opportunity in 2006 to experience its most treasured asset – the Mountain Gorillas.
I have to admit that prior to seeing the movie Gorillas in the Mist, I was not aware of their existence so I am indebted to Dian Fossey for bringing their plight to the world, which in turn brought it to our screens. The movie put Rwanda and the gorillas onto the map.
My passion is wildlife photography and conservation so I knew ahead of time that a single gorilla permit for one hour on one day would only whet my appetite for more. I purchased three permits and was very happy I made that decision. In fact, I would go as far as saying even that wasn’t enough!
The Virunga region in the north west of the country is some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. Each day we ventured to a different area with a hike in often steep terrain and sometimes challenging weather with our very dedicated and knowledgeable guides. It is worth mentioning the possibility of hiring local porters who carry your bags up the slopes which I was so glad of and only happy to give the locals some employment.
As you enter the rainforest your anticipation and excitement builds but nothing prepared me for the emotional moment when I first set eyes on a Mountain Gorilla. I was overwhelmed and lost for words. It truly was a very magical moment filled with tears of joy, literally. Despite their intimidating size these gentle giants are very vulnerable. It was a real privilege to be allowed to sit and watch them going about their daily routines.
I observed three different groups, so this variety enhanced the whole trip and I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone who is able to stretch their budget. The profit from the permits helps preserve their habitat and conservation so it is a very worthwhile program.
Over the years I have travelled extensively and I have to say that Rwanda stole my heart. The landscape is unique, the hospitality the best I have encountered in Africa and the people who you cannot help but fall in love with, are charming. Everyone went out of their way to make my stay exceptional and I have to say all my expectations were exceeded and I look forward to the day I return.
Go do it!
by Kim Laker
For more information about booking your own Virunga gorilla experience, contact the Volcanoes Safaris team!