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Published: August 24th 2013
Gorilla posing for a photo while eating
From what we understand the gorillas eat and then they eat more and when they are done eating they go for a quite place where they chill out until it is time to eat again.
We bet Sigourney Weaver never fell on her butt when she checked out gorillas
Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda is the home of the country's claim of fame, the mountain gorillas. The Volcanoes National Park covers a mountainous area where there are several volcanoes. The rugged slopes of these mountains, slopes covered with dense vegetation, is the environment the gorillas like to call home. They move around in large family groups spending most of the time eating it seemed like to us. The gorillas have no natural enemies so they can devout all their time to eating and relaxing. We suppose they could consider taking up a hobby or do sports as well but we haven't heard that any gorillas have done that yet. From what we understand they eat and then they eat more and when they are done eating they go for a quite place where they chill out until it is time to eat again. When you start to think about it, being a gorilla perhaps isn't such a bad thing after all...
To visit the gorillas you need a permit and the number of permits available each day is limited.
Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda is the home of the country's claim of fame, the mountain gorillas
So if you plan on seeing gorillas in Rwanda it is better to apply for the permit in advance. The permits are expensive, but we felt it was money well spent. This is a once in a lifetime thing to do and even though it set us back quite a few bucks it was worth every cent. It was so much fun climbing around watching the gorillas in their own habitat. We haven't for one second regretted spending the money.
The visit itself started at the park headquarters where at first a group of dancers from a native tribe performed a dance show. You can see a short movie from that here:
After the show the large tourist group, roughly 60 people, was divided into smaller groups, one for each gorilla family group. The family group we were to visit is called Umubano. Before setting off towards the national park we were briefed on how to behave when being near the gorillas. There are a few rules that must be followed to ensure that the gorillas don't feel threatened or get hurt in any way.
We walked on rough trails up into the
In the family group we visited all ages of gorillas were represented. The youngest were the cutest
mountains until we were met by trackers who knew exactly where the gorillas were. The gorillas can easily move several kilometres in a day so the trackers job is to know where the various family groups are to simplify for the tour groups to find them. The trackers also helped us getting to the gorillas, because the trail only led to the general area where they were. To get close to the gorillas were we had to leave the trail and walk straight into the dense undergrowth in the forest. The guides and the trackers helped us creating a path for us to move around by slashing the trees and the bushes with machetes as we walked. Without their help it would have been impossible for us to find the gorillas in the first place and following them as they moved around would also have been out of the question.
The terrain the gorillas seem to prefer is steep slopes covered with thick vegetation. Even though we had experienced park rangers clearing the way for us walking through the national park following the gorillas was not a walk in the park. We had to slide down steep
We were not supposed to be closer than seven meters to the gorillas. But in the rough terrain it was impossible to keep that distance
cliffs, crawl on all four through thick bushes and more than once we fell on our butts when we lost our footing. We actually even saw gorillas who lost their balance and fell so it seems like it wasn't easy for them to move around either.
When talking about gorillas it is hard to avoid the life and works of gorilla researcher Dian Fossey. She spent almost 20 years of her life studying and protecting the gorillas. She was murdered in her house in the Volcanoes National Park in 1985, possibly because she worked hard to prevent poachers from killing the gorillas. In 1988 Warner Brothers released a movie, Gorillas in the Mist, based on Dian Fossey's life. In the movie Dian Fossey was played by actress Sigourney Weaver. We are pretty sure that Sigourney Weaver never had to move through such rough terrain as we had when she was working on that movie. They wouldn't let a well paid Hollywood actress risk to fall on her butt the way we did.
The reason the movie about Dian Fossey's life is called Gorillas in the Mist is probably because the mountains where the gorillas
Being a gorilla perhaps isn't such a bad thing after all
live often are covered in mist. It wasn't so when we were there. Possibly this was because we visited the gorillas in the dry season or perhaps it was just a clear day that day. Anyway, we can easily conclude that the mountain gorillas aren't always in the mist.
When Dian Fossey was doing her research there was a big problem with poaching in Volcanoes National Park. Today there are hardly any poachers at all in Rwanda in large part thanks to the gorilla tours. The money tourists pay for the permits to see the gorillas all go back to maintaining the national park and protecting the animals. And the mountain gorillas need all the protection they can get because it is an endangered species. They are low in numbers, less than a thousand individuals live in the wild, and they only live in a small area straddling the borders between Rwanda, Congo and Uganda.
We had armed guards with us most of the time when we were on the gorilla tour. It is not dangerous to visit the mountain gorillas. The guards are there for the highly unlikely event that the tour group
The gorillas look pretty relaxed all the time. They don't seem to have any problem with humans invading their territory
encounter an elephant in a place where it can't flee. An frightened elephant could actually hurt or even kill an human. But the guards were very relaxed so we think they almost never come across any elephants.
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