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Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

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To many, Africa is considered a lonely continent and most travellers with any intentions of visiting the continent, stay worried if they will attain their expectations while on an African tour / visit. This is so due to the continued political unrest that keep floating on major international news agencies like BBC, CNN, Aljazeera in some countries.  This has left many tourists believing that Africa is an insecure tourism destination yet many countries in Africa enjoy political stability and safety just like other peaceful destinations in the world. However, all these are just mere imaginations, Africa, lately is a very secure place for holiday seekers and many nature and wildlife lovers have broke the ice and enjoy holidays in various countries.

Rwanda is one of the best example of the destinations today that are ranking higher among the favorite places to enjoy a holiday. Twenty years after the notorious 1994 Genocide, Rwanda is today one of the safest country to be in for a tour or wildlife safari. Despite the 1994 Rwanda Genocide between the Tutsi and Hutu, the previous decades marked Rwanda’s recovery and transformation a, and today, is one of the most developed countries in east and central Africa. Rwanda is blessed with a vast number of tourist attractions, centers and tourist activities that are well distributed throughout the country such as the mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes national park.

A wildlife safari including watching the mountain gorillas in the Parc Des Volcans of Rwanda is such a mind blowing experience one can attain while touring Rwanda.Mountain gorillas came to the lime light back in the 1960’s by the help of Dian Fossey an American zoologist in her struggles in the protection and conservation of these creatures.

Mountain gorillas are very close relatives of human species since they share quite a lot in common with the human beings with a 95% DNA ( nurturing and caring for their young ones, living in groups of families, eating, playing, crying etc.) Mountain gorillas are the largest apes and very strong yet fragile creatures. They are shy animals, usually hiding in the wild feeding; thefemales looking after their young ones and the males(silverbacks) looking for new feeding grounds and very determined to protect their territories.

In order to engage in the mountain gorilla trekking activity, one must possess a gorilla trekking permit, however only 8 tourists are allowed to a specific gorilla family group per day making it only 80 visitors to the Volcanoes National park per day for the mountain gorilla trekking adventure. There are 10 visited gorilla family groups in Rwanda. These permits are available at the Rwanda Development Board at $750.

In Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekking is done from Volcanoes National Park that can be accessed easily by both air and road transport right from Kigali International Airport. By road, it’s about a 3hours’ drive to the park and 45 minutes by plane.Rwanda has a well networked road transport so need of any worries. And while for this activity, it’s best to book accommodation with in or near the park as you get prepared for your early morning adventure. There are several well developed lodges within the park; such as Gorilla Mountain View lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge and Virunga lodge among others.

After having a good sleep and waking up early morning to the sounds of the birds and great views of the beautiful the gently sloping hills covered with evergreen forests, tourists head to the Kinigi park headquarters where they are served with locally made hot coffee and tea as the a local group of entertainers bring lots of smiles to your faces jumping and dancing. You are then divided into groups of 8 and allocated to the 10 gorilla families. After being briefed, you then head to the jungles in search for the allocated gorilla group, which takes from 30 minutes to 5 or 6 hours.

Just a step in the forest introduces you the true African wilderness and sounds of nature. The guides in volcanoes national park are always willing to explain to the tourists the jungle and some of its inhabitants. As the journey proceeds, your guide is informed by the trackers who usually go ahead of the tourists tracking where exactly the gorillas are located.

This simplifies the tracking process and in a short while, after following the directions given by the game trackers, behind the thick vegetation, you see the large apes- the mountain gorillas; all covered with black fur, a look in the mountain gorilla dark eyes is scary at first glance but as you keep looking,you eventually get moved.

The gorillas just relax eating the leaves in the reach of their hands as they stare at the very curious tourists taking their photographs.

When with the animals, visitors are reminded to maintain a reasonable distance from the gorillas so as to avoid inconveniencing the animals. Visitors usually spend an hour with the se estranged creatures; taking their pictures, watching them relax in their natural habitat relaxing and playing with each other teasing and nurturing each other. It so amazing staying in close view with these animals that this one hour elapses in just a swift,but once done, the tourists are taken back to the park headquarters where they are awarded Certificates of Participation for having gone for the great adventure. In addition to the remarkable gorilla experience, being in Rwanda feels like being home away from home and this explains why tourists are always forced to visit the country again.

Linda Barbara

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