A snap of a branch to our left and then a rustle of leaves…. my heart was beating fast with excitement as our guide signalled us to stop. We had finally made it. I smiled in anticipation. All visitors have to be kept a safe distance from the mountain gorillas so following our guide’s command, we all waited silently. It was a welcome break after close to three hours trekking up through the fertile and thick undergrowth of Mt Bisoke and I took the free moment to catch my breath.
I was in a group of eight with our guide and trackers, moments away from seeing one of the seven habituated gorilla families in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda. There are only an estimated 750 mountain gorillas (gorilla beringei beringei) remaining in the world and we were about to see a family of nine. Following the increase in local farming and its encroachment on the gorilla’s natural habitat together with poaching, mountain gorilla numbers decreased but now there is a concerted effort to protect these special animals.
We were in the same park where the American naturalist Dian Fossey studied the primates, arriving in 1967 and setting up the Karisoke Research Centre. She brought the plight of the gorillas to the attention of the masses. Since seeing the 1980s film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ which portrayed her life with the mountain gorillas in this very park, I had always wanted to experience it for myself.
Our guide signalled and we moved round. There they were, so relaxed, one happy family. A mother watched over her two young children who were jostling amongst the bamboo shoots. The silverback was resting, slumped in the undergrowth. I thought I would be nervous but as the gorillas seemed so content, going about their daily life, I relaxed and revelled in the fact that I was one of the lucky few to share time with these primates. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the smallest member of the family. The youngest gorilla, just one year old, was swinging from a branch and munching happily on some leaves. He seemed to want to entertain us and was not fazed by the presence of our small group.Wonderful.
The hour we spent with the family was very special and the memories will last forever. I felt so privileged to spend time with the family of gorillas and would recommend the trip to anyone with an adventurous side and a desire to see these amazing creatures in their natural surroundings.
Lesley Powell went on the ‘Gorillas and Masai Mara‘ trip, travelling through Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. You can also see gorillas on the following trips:Primate Safari and Gorilla Thriller (family trip)
Book now to avoid disappointment
There are limited permits available to see the endangered mountain gorillas in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda, and these are in high demand. Exodus has secured permits for our trips but bookings must be made at least 8 weeks before departure.
Gorilla video clip now online!
See our new online video of the gorillas in Rwanda. Go to the Community page on our website and click on the ‘Exodus Videos’ button or via one of the gorilla trip pages (and then select the video tab). Just click on the following link:Mountain Gorillas video to view the video in its own browser window.