A deep, gruff, resonating growl emanates form the dense jungle ahead. Instinct tells us to walk the other way but our guide urges us to follow. A few more swipes of his machete, a last effort up the embankment and we are confronted by a sight I have dreamed about but one I almost cannot believe is real.
We are barely eight metres away from two adult mountain gorillas who seem intent on lazing in the early morning sun while a three-month-old does its best to interfere, its incessant clambering, climbing and seeking of attention seems to annoy its elders but is a joy for us to observe.
"Rwanda, or 'Land of a Thousand Hills' as it is known, has blown me away at every turn, with vast ravines filled with oceans of mist to sprawling tea plantations and vibrant village life."
They seem aware of, but unfazed by, our presence and as we continue into a cleaing that has at least 20 more, the collective heart of the eight people in our usually chatty group seems to stop for a beat and silence falls as the realisation of how blessed, how honoured and just how vulnerable we are dawns on us all
We are in Rwanda, deep in Volcanoes National Park, and as the name of the park suggests we are surrounded by towering peaks, rugged beauty and a sense of vastness beyond anything I've ever seen.
Setting off at dawn, a trek can take anything from 30 minutes to eight hours, depending on the habits of the gorilla family you are tracking, and the terrain can be steep, muddy and challenging. Our conditions, however, are quite tame and after only an hour of walking we are under the soft brown-eyed gaze of the 'Agasha' family. Meaning 'special' in the local language, the family is made up of 30 of only 880 mountain gorillas left in the entire world and so 'Agasha' seems to sum them, and our experience, up perfectly.
This time spent with our not-so distant primate cousins has topped off a trip I count as one of the most life affirming I have ever had. Rwanda, or 'Land of a thousand Hills' as it is known, has blown me away at every turn, with vast ravines filled with oceans of mist to sprawling tea plantations and vibrant village life. There is more to this incredible country than 'just' its magical mountain gorillas.
"There is more than enough to ensure the scenery and the experiences keep evolving and stay captivating throughout your Rwanda holiday."