While on this remarkable quest, you will find the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats in Volcanoes National Park eating, the young mountain gorillas playing around or sometimes a loving female mountain gorilla carrying and coddling a young one. Mountain gorillas are among human beings closest wild animals with approximately 95% DNA similar to humans. These unique animals live in the jungles on the slopes of the major Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda, Uganda and democratic republic of Congo however Rwanda is blessed to have half of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga area in volcanoes national park located just a 2-3 hours drive in the northwestern part of Rwanda.
The park has two major mountains of the Virunga’s – Karisimbi and Bisoke that are covered with dense equatorial forests and homes to the mountain gorillas.
To describe them by their outer appearance, mountain gorillas are covered with black and can very scary at first sight especially the silverbacks (male mountain gorillas). These wild animals however much they have a DNA close to human beings are very dangerous especially when intruded by an outsider and are strong to take down an energetic grown up human being.
As one looks at them, they look back and continue doing what they are doing. One cannot really tell what the heck these untamed animals could be thinking about especially when they look back into the eyes of the tourists who are always speechless, touched and amazed by what nature really provides.
As you look deep into their eyes and view the mother’s love for their baby mountain gorillas, you get a feeling that most people feel when they take long without seeing some of the people they know and as much as you may want to draw more closer, you are strictly not allowed because you may win your self a dangerous punch from the silverback or a very protective mother gorilla.
With more and more tourists to the country, the visit to the national park to view the mountain gorillas is highly restricted to only 8 tourists tracking each gorilla family in the national park. The 8 tourists are just given an allowance of strictly one hour to look and take as many photographs as they can but using cameras without flashlight as it may anger the gorillas.
Regulating visitors interested in mountain gorilla tracking is mainly done to reduce disease spread especially from flu from the people since mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases.
Permits to enable tourists go gorilla trekking are sold at only $750 and can mainly be obtained from Rwanda development board offices in Kigali or from a tour operator.
The Real Trekking Experience
Very early in the morning, tourists well prepared for the hike are expected to gather at the Kinigi park headquarters where they are divided into groups of 8 and allocated to the various gorilla groups they will be tracking. Led by guides, they then head to the jungles across the gentle slopes trekking the gorillas for about 30 minutes to 5 hours depending on how fast you get to the allocated gorilla family. Once you get to the allocated gorilla family, the guide quickly briefs you about the major rules while with the gorilla- keeping a reasonable distance, avoiding flash photography and minimizing noise among others.
Mountain gorillas are usually in groups led by a silverback and in volcanoes national park they can either be found in one place eating or on the move ahead of the tourists while others can be behind the tourists when the hunters seem to be hunted. Getting close to the mountain gorillas is an awesome experience and the gorilla trekking experience in the jungles of volcanoes national park is a tale that lives to be told. After the marvelous expedition, tourists are directed back to the park headquarters and handed their certificates of recognition.