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Published: November 15th 2011
Sun shining, bags in the back of the ute, we jump in and off we go heading to see the Mountain Gorilla in the Parc Des Volcans. After a very early start and hoping to get a lift to see any of the Gorilla families we were very lucky to be offered a lift to see the Susa family which we were hoping to see and which is the largest, but also the most difficult to reach.
It is very strange when you arrive at the head quarters for the morning check in and finding out that we need to organize our own transport as well as for the guide. We asked around the forty of so people and finally found a group of young travelers and we all stuck together. For each family only eight people group are able to visit the families and we had six which was even better so off we went. We were surprised that not more people were hoping to visit this family since it is the largest and involved a very nice hike. Other Gorilla families are so close to the edge of the NP that by the time we arrived just to
the location to begin the hike others had already seen a family and were heading back. Half the appeal for us is trekking through the forest in search of these great apes, but for others it is a ten minute drive, five minute walk, spend the hour with them and done.
After just an hour of driving along a horrible road we arrived at our starting point which is nothing like the forests we were expecting and soon we are told that it is an hour walk just to the boundary of the park. Ok fair enough so of we go with our armed guards saying hello to endless amount of children who seemed to be expecting us, also all asking for money. By this stage the sun was still shining and as we got higher the views created by the endless logging made for some fantastic views back across the valley. We would really get a good view of how small an area the Parc Des Volcans really is and how much has been cleared, well this has stopped in Rwanda and a fence has been erected around the whole NP boundary. We think parts in Democratic Republic
of the Congo over the other side of the mountains are in a more dire position though.
Anyway, soon enough we are confronted by a wall of green where the farm land finishes and the NP begins, here we wait to get in radio contact with the trackers who went ahead to see where we need to go. Three hours walk we were told and when looking at the thick undergrowth that is right in front of us it was going to be a fun challenge. Although, once inside and walking around it is really enjoyable, plus the prospect of seeing the Mountain Gorilla in the back of our mind made the going much more enjoyable.
For a NP we were all quite surprised at how quite it was inside, no birds and no other monkeys jumping around the trees. Maybe because of the altitude or maybe they have been hunted also, not sure, but it made for some eerie hiking in complete silence through the forest. Soon enough we catch up with the trackers to where the gorillas were last seem which is a large area that has been completely flattened for a sleeping area. We are
told they have recently moved on and heading up the hill, the chase is on.
Within only ten minutes we saw a sight that we will never forget, our first Gorilla sitting on a ledge gorging of plant material. For us this was amazing but nothing for what was going to happen over the next hour or so. A few more meters forward we are confronted by a whole family of gorillas, some climbing trees, some sleeping, some beating there chest, some eating but the highlight was the two little twins that were right in front of us with their Mum. They were so curious of us but when they tried to come closer they we pulled back by their watchful mother or another family member.
At first we didn’t realize that the dominate male was also sitting their staring us down which made us at very unease. This guy is huge and the family has three silverbacks but recently the family has split dividing it nearly in half but the still remain very close. Well it is really hard to describe the whole hour as it went by for what seemed minutes but they are really incredible
Oh and also there is a rule saying that we are not allowed within seven meters of these guys but that goes right out the window and with such a large Gorilla family like this it is hard to know where they all are. At one stage we were right in the middle of the whole family and one time when Chris was taking a photo he felt something brush against his leg, looked down and saw a big ball of fur strolling past. It was one of the youngsters but still gives you a hell of a scare when they come that close without notice. There were a few hairy moments and this was easily shown on the face of our guide. Twice it seemed that he was ready to bolt back down the hill but the silverbacks in the end were just playing around. They were all really relaxed, gentle creatures.
Actually don’t be surprised if teenager gorillas will playful push you into the bush but you’ll fell over in the stingy needles bushes or with your face into the mud. They are just mucking around and they don’t realize the size difference. Whatever you
do but don’t run because you’ll become an enemy to them and we don’t think you really would like to have a double size of yours creature behind you. As well our guide told us that gorillas can get drunk of bamboo trees and they are becoming a little too friendly and playful. Our experiences show that we wouldn’t like to be chased by a 220 kg silverback gorilla. In fact these primates are harmless unless you are asking for a trouble. Good news that they are vegetarian and eat over 40 kg of leaves per day, and it is why they have a big and round belly.
We noticed the intelligence of these animals as well, holding eye contact with one of them you can sense that they are thinking, wondering what we are doing here. Just their behavior also, picking things out of their teeth with their fingernails, the way they make their beds, peel certain plants like a banana to get to the ripe part.
A truly remarkable lifetime experience with a memorable date: 2011-11-11 and we saw first our gorilla at 11am. It was sunny day in the rainy season. What a magic day!!
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