Gorilla trekking, getting up-close with man’s distant ‘cousin’
Author: Owen, 2015-04-28 .
Gorilla trekking has for years been one of the top touristic attractions in Rwanda probably because it goes beyond just seeing and photographing the primates, it involves a memorable experience that involves hiking to an altitude of about 2000 metres and scenic sights in the wild.
The experience has attracted millions of people from all across the world with the latest participants including celebrities and top executives such as the International Monetary fund Managing Director Christine Largade, Movies stars such as Isaiah Washington among others.
The sights on the two hour drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi, Musanze district can only be described as an images fit for a postcard though not even cameras do it justice.
The volcanoes national park which sits in the Virunga ranges is on the border of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is home to over 10 Gorrila families according to conservationists.
Unlike other parks across the world, at the Volcanoes National park, does not present the apes in cages or locked up for your viewing convenience. The park offers an experience where you track them through the woods accompanied by guides ensuring that your athletic side is brought out.
The up-hill hike could take between half an hour to a couple of hours depending on the location of the primates. But no matter how long it takes it is worth the time and the effort, staring into the eyes of a 200 Kilogramme silverback gorilla who according to scientists, you share 98 per cent of DNA with, gives you a sense of fulfillment.
No matter how long it takes before you sight the primates, when you finally stare into their eyes it is almost a spiritual moment transcending other wildlife experiences. No film or image can capture the moment and feeling and do it justice.
As you pant and try to catch a breath –from the walk-, in front of a family of gorillas, most of them about twice the size of a grown human you will feel one with nature. So rare is the experience that once you are in contact with them you have about an hour before you bid farewell. We all expect our guests to observe some basic house rules when they visit us, the Gorillas are no different, considering that you are in their home turf, some rules apply. You are not to observe a distance of about 7 metres from the gorillas – if they get closer, you are to move further, despite your excitement you are to keep you voice low so as not to make them uncomfortable. Eating, drinking or littering would also be breaking the house rules of your hosts. You may have heard tales of not so pleasant experiences of tourists with the animals but worry not, the guides are there to ensure that you are safe- trust them they have been doing it for ages.
For the preparation for the hike, go for comfortable attire, meaning those of you who prefer heels and open shoes have to leave them behind.
Considering that you walk through bushes and shrubs, pants are safer as compared to shorts, carry warm clothing, it gets cold in the bushes. If your hands are soft, you might prefer gloves as you hold on to plants for support. The trek is energy consuming; a snack and some water might come in handy.
Due to the increasing demand from tourist from all over the world to take part in the hike, the park has limited the number of persons trekking to 80 to manage the human foot print and to limit the disturbance which could cause them to flee. It is therefore advisable to acquire a gorilla trekking permit early enough before you intended date of visit. Interestingly, the primates’ similarity with humans is the preference of peace and tranquility and likelihood to flee areas that lack peace.
You think you are too old or unfit for the hike, Early this year, a 90 year old American lady, Loann Crane became a media sensation after refusing to make age an excuse to miss out on the experience. Interestingly, Crane who was accompanied by American wildlife conservationist Jack Hanna did not make a fuss about it. “I would like to do it again next year,” she said.
What’s your excuse for missing out on the experience?