Published: May 11th 2012May 11th 2012
I love to capture little insights into daily life in different destinations
As an avid wildlife photographer it has always been a dream of mine to photograph mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. So when an opportunity arose in 2011 to visit Rwanda I was not going to give it up.
I love the feeling of excitement and anticipation just before arriving at a new destination and Kigali certainly didn’t let me down. Having been met at the airport we were soon darting through the bustling streets of the country’s capital in our Land Rover, taking in glimpses of city life before we flashed past.
Before long we had left the city behind us and began our climb up into higher pasteurised farmland. This was a new side of Africa for me and totally different scenery to the countries of eastern and southern Africa that I have visited. The air was cool and the terraced hillsides were well-watered, fertile and busy with activity.
I’ve always enjoyed driving in Africa as their roads form such an integral part of daily life. Very few people have cars so most will either cycle or walk to work or school, even if that means a ten mile walk each way. The sides of the
The Virunga Volcanoes
The impressive Virunga Volcanoes viewed from Virunga Safari Lodge in Rwanda
road are always busy with activity, with kids in their smart uniforms on the way to school, young grubby toddlers playing around happily and ladies wearing beautiful colourful clothing carrying firewood or water on their heads. Despite the obvious hard working lifestyle everyone looks happy and well and the children look strong and healthy as a result of all the exercise and fresh air.
A couple of hours drive into the journey we catch our first glimpse of the Virunga Volcanoes, dramatically dotted along the horizon, a chain of eight volcanoes that make a natural border between the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. These volcanoes are home to the mountain gorillas and my excitement grows as the realisation sets in that tomorrow I will be trekking up one of these volcanoes.
Five of the eight volcanoes are accessible from Rwanda and they form the Park National des Volcans. This amazing national park is home to 7 gorilla groups and has approximately 56 permits available per day. These do get booked up well in advance, especially in peak season, so it’s definitely worth securing a permit as early as you can.
There is a range of accommodation close to
Rwanda's Misty Hills
Early morning in Rwanda can offer amazing photographic opportunities as the mist hangs in the valleys.
the park’s headquarters from top end luxurious lodges to backpacker accommodation and camp site. I was staying slightly further away, about an hour’s drive away from the park, in the amazing Virunga Safari Lodge, set high on a hill with panoramic views of the Virunga volcanoes on one side and the stunning lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera on the other. A hearty meal and a roaring log fire finished off an amazing first day, before travel fatigue took over and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The following morning was an early start, which is never a problem in Africa, and the morning mist created some stunning landscape opportunities en route to the park headquarters. After being assigned to a specialist guide we then drove half way up the mountain to a village which marked the start of the trek. The first hour’s walking in the early morning sun was delightful, traversing our way across the paddy fields, slowly making our way up the lower slopes of the mountain. A tree line and a large stone wall marked the park boundary and as we climbed up over the wall everyone’s excitement grew and gave us fresh
Gorilla in thought
A gorilla profile from the Sabinyo group in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, on safari with Capture Safaris
enthusiasm and energy for the next section of the climb through the dense forest. After another hour and a half of quite steep climbing our guide informed us that we were very close and asked us to take off any bags we were carrying and just take our cameras. If you are a keen photographer then a good tip is to take a jacket that has deep enough pockets to fit in other lenses as you can’t take your camera bag with you.
The next hour was one of the best hours of my life. We had found the Sabinyo group and were treated to a glimpse of gorilla family life, as youngsters playfully charged around and the elders ate. Soon gorillas started appearing from all around us and were totally at ease with our presence, our guide occasionally giving out a friendly call to the silverback to let him know that we meant no harm. I had a very intimate moment when the silverback came climbing up and stopped right next to me, just a few inches away. Even on all fours he was up to my chest, and proudly showing off his hugely superior muscle dominance. He
This beautiful silverback was very relaxed by our presence and happy for us to be around his family
stayed there for a good 30 seconds before looking up at me and then casually moving off, obviously content that I was no threat to take over as alpha male! I breathed out a sigh of relief and absorbed a very special moment. The hour passed in what felt like a few minutes but locked away are some very special memories. It was a dream come true and a privilege to see and photograph these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.
This trip was booked through Capture Safaris who specialize in photographic adventures to Africa www.capturesafaris.com
There are more photos below