They are such gentle, majestic creatures and I feel privileged that I got to see them in the wild like that…
Trekking to see the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park is something I’ll never forget. They’re such gentle, majestic creatures and I feel privileged that I got to spend an hour watching them in the wild like that. The permits are like gold dust and costly, so for me, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When you arrive at Volcanoes National Park, it’s still early – I think I’d got up at about five – and the guides do a quick assessment of how fit and agile they think you are and divide you up into groups accordingly. The gorillas are free to roam on the mountains, so the spotters go out the evening before to see where each group has settled down for the night, and some might be only an hour away and others might be three or four hours away. After that, you have a briefing about what to expect and a few rules, like, not going too close to the gorillas and keeping your voice down when you’re near them, and that the youngsters were often curious and would approach us, which was okay. As we were setting off, we were asked if we wanted to hire a porter, and I’m so glad I did because he didn’t just hold my bag, he basically helped me up and down the volcano.
So we trekked along, with the porter pulling me up some of the steepest bits. And then suddenly, after about two hours, one of the guides told us we needed to be quiet, and there was a gorilla, a female sitting at the side of a clearing with her three-month-old baby in her arms. It was just incredible, I can’t describe the feeling, it was amazing. And the guides were telling us to come closer and we realised there was a whole family in the clearing. There was the silverback sitting there munching a bamboo, more females and lots of youngsters running around, climbing trees and being naughty, and every now and then the silverback would tell them off. I was in complete awe, taking photos all the time but also wanting to soak up the experience and immerse myself in it. And then, after about an hour, when the gorillas had finished their breakfast, they just got up and started walking away into the forest. And that was it, time to head back down.
On the way up, I was so excited by the thought of the mountain gorillas that I didn’t really take in my surroundings, like the birdsong or anything like that. On the way down, my head was still full of what we’d just seen, but you can’t help noticing the absolutely incredible views when there’s a gap in the greenery. I think if I’d done a second trek, which a lot of people do, I might have taken in a bit more of the flora and fauna along the way.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Vicki, who's travelled extensively in Rwanda. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the guides who track mountain gorillas day and night to ensure you get the best sightings, the Kigalians who'll give you a real insight into their vibrant city and the coffee-growers who'll tutor you in the art of tasting.
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