Mountain Gorillas only live in the Virungas, Bwindi and on the western side of the DRC. Located in the north of Rwanda is Parc des Volcans, a section of the Virunga Mountain Range which straddles Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Trekking through the park finds ones senses springing to life. Listen out for the calls of monkeys, insects and birds, and enjoy the stunning scenery. When you reach a break in the forest you will be treated to amazing views of the peaks of the ancient volcanoes. There is a line of volcanoes here and so the view is pretty spectacular.
It is on and between these volcanoes where one finds the habituated Gorillas. These include Volcan Karisimbi (4527 metres) which has a snow cap and where the Susa and Musanga gorilla families can mostly be found.
The Umubano and Amahoro families tend to reside around Volcan Bisoke with Group Sabyinyo found here and near Lake Nyirambubu. Mount Sabyinyo is shared by the three countries and the Kwitondo group have no qualms in crossing the borders whenever they feel like it!
Karisoke area and forest is where Dian Fossey and her favorite and most well known Gorilla ‘Digit’ is buried.
The Parc des Volcan is truly beautiful and home to ten habituated Gorilla families. Seeing these gentle giants in their natural habitat is not only a truly unique experience but it is often described as ‘life changing’ and it is also considered to be Africa's most memorable wildlife encounter, with very good reason as it is estimated that there are less than 950 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild, so one is truly honored to spend time in their commanding presence.
Gorilla trekking is without doubt, a humbling and life changing experience. Gorillas make their home amongst the bamboo covered slopes of the mountains deep in the rainforest. The trek to reach them involves a combination of steep slopes, dense vegetation and slippery underfoot conditions, so be prepared to get wet and muddy.
The length of your trek could be anything from 30 minutes to four hours one way, depending on the location of your Gorilla ‘family’. The trek is challenging but when you find your designated family and you spend a magical hour watching these majestic primates in their natural habitat, it is certainly worth the effort.
What is incredibly fascinating is the way the gorillas may try to interact with visitors. They often approach you and occasionally can be seen reaching out touching one of the guides in apparent greeting as they walk past. It is almost as if they recognise their daily visitors as a troop of fellow mates.
Anthropomorphic as it might sound, almost everybody who visits the Gorillas, experience an almost mystical sense of recognition. The Gorillas attitude to their daily human visitors differs greatly from that of any other wild animal.
Silverback Gorillas can weigh about three times as much as the average man and their bulk is exaggerated by a shaggily luxuriant coat but they are essentially a peaceful animal and they are preoccupied for most of the day by eating their way through as much bamboo and other plants as possible!
Watching the fluffy black hairy babies is incredibly amusing as they try to interact with everyone in the group, be brave in front of their close cousins and show how ‘tough’ they are. But all the time their mothers are watching close by. When the babies do get ‘out of hand’ the mothers are quick to pull them into order with a firm hand.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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