Words and photos by Brett Goulston
Along with my small group of 8, I crossed the border into Rwanda from Uganda with the typical level of bureaucracy expected in a developing African nation. After an hour or so and several processes which didn’t make a lot of sense, we were on our way.
We head to Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in northern Rwanda, not all that far from the border with Congo, where we check in for two nights. Almost all visitors staying in this lodge do so purely for the gorilla tracking experience. The chalet style accommodation is very comfortable with large rooms, pleasant staff and decent food.
The next morning we’re off bright and early for a once-in-a-lifetime experience – spotting mountain gorillas. We’re going to spend an hour or so viewing them close-up and taking as many photos as we desire. On arrival at the park entrance, we receive a full briefing from our local guides and 30 minutes later, off we go.
Spotting these rare primates is not necessarily difficult because the gorilla families which the tourists track have been habituated. In other words, they have become used to people and, providing you follow the basic rules set by the guide, it’s safe. The only difficulty can be trekking to their location. There’s a 90% chance you will get to see the gorillas because they are tracked each day by professional trackers whose job is not only to help protect them but also to liaise with the guides as to their whereabouts. On occasions, you may have to walk for many hours up and down hills and through difficult terrain to get to them. We’re extremely lucky on this occasion because the family we’re going to follow has come down the mountain to the edge of the jungle and is just a kilometre or so from our starting point.
However, it gets even better. The silverback – the dominant male - from the family we’re following has decided to leave the jungle and go out into the open. This makes for amazing photos and a dream opportunity to watch all the others follow him into open space.
There were 19 in the family and we were up close and personal with most of them. We watched them as they ate their way from bush to bush. The young ones played like children and the older females disciplined them when things got out of hand. They really are very human-like and in fact, share 98% of our DNA. It was truly a magical experience – one that none of us will ever forget.
If you are interested in seeing the gorillas of Rwanda or Uganda on a small group tour, visit our website. We have a small group tour departing in February 2019 - click here for details.