Archive - December 2010

December 1, 2010 December 01, 2010

One of the most exciting trips I've ever taken was to Rwanda to trek up Mt. Karisimbi, which rises 13,500 ft. high, to see mountain gorillas. It's part of the Virunga National Park which consists of 7 extinct volcanoes. We had permits for three days and were fortunate to see gorillas each of those days. It was about 9200 ft. in altitude where we caught up with the Susa group that first day. They are the largest family, with 35 members. We hiked through tall bamboo forests as we searched for them. It truly was "Gorillas in the Mist" with a heavy fog obscuring the bamboo…first there was a pungent, musky odor; then we see dark shapes moving silently through the bamboo. As we approach it seems there are gorillas everywhere. There were two impressive, mature silverbacks. The Alpha male made the decisions, we were told, as to when they get up, where they eat, rest and when to build nests in the trees at night.

I followed his younger brother and watched him eat off alone. When he started to move he headed straight toward me. One of our guides, Patience, was with me and whispered for me to move out of his way. I tried to but the silverback deliberately walked up to me and as he passed, reached out and popped my left thigh playfully and knocked me down! He never broke stride. I was laughing, part in awe and part in relief that he didn't do the King Kong bit and pick me up over his shoulder! After Patience was sure I was OK he said that it was something the silverback did occasionally just to show who was boss. I was pretty sure I knew that before he showed me.

Day two we found Sabyinyo Group which had the largest silverback in Rwanda. There were only 10 members of this group. The last day we saw Group 13 and were privileged to observe for an hour its 7 members: most of that time, the silverback with two females with young, one a four-month old and the other a four-day old. It was an idyllic scene that we wished we could have observed quietly all day, but the viewing is limited to one hour and the guides time it carefully as soon as you make first contact with a group. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas in existence and close to 200 of them are typically found in the Rwanda section of the mountains. These are a few of photos from that memorable trip.