Rwanda is among the three countries in the world that host the rare mountain gorillas. Thi tiny country located in Central Africa hosts a third of the total population of the mountain gorillas in the world. Over the past ten years, many travelers have visited Rwanda mainly to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Today Rwanda is considered the best place to enjoy a gorilla safari while adventuring through Africa. Rwanda’s gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park located in the northwestern part of Rwanda. The park is located in Ruhengeri (now called Musanze District). A drive from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda to the park is just about 2-3 hours drive.
Gorilla tracking is regarded one of the most adventurous thing to do while in Rwanda and about 80% of travelers go to Rwanda mainly to gorilla tracking. Many travelers leave their beautiful offices and residence to come and spend at least one or two days in the wild with gorillas observing their behaviors as well as taking photos ( a slash camera is prohibited). However it’s very herd to talk of gorillas in Rwanda with out mentioning the works of Dian Fossey who was a prominent primatologist who spent over 18 years in the wild of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park caring out research on the behaviors of gorillas and she was against gorilla poaching, although her work was put to an end when she was killed by poachers whom she had made her self very unpopular, her body was laid to rest in the forest, many gorilla trackers can’t leave the forest with out visiting her grave yard.
Like human beings, gorillas also suffer from cold and many others. You are advised not to go for a gorilla trek if you have contagious disease that can be transmitted to gorillas, this may affect the life of gorillas and hence resulting into their reduction in their number. In case it happens and you develop a cough or flue before heading to the forest kindly please, talk to the ranger guide or park wardens at the headquarters, you will be refunded your money for the gorilla permit, but failure to do so, you may end up losing both, the money and the chance to see the gorillas in the wild. Other transmitted diseases such as Influenza, diarrhea, cough as well as cold can stop you from tracking gorillas. You are recommended to check with your doctor to prove your health status before scheduling your Rwanda gorilla trek.
Gorilla tracking facts
Gorillas are tracked in groups and there about 10 gorilla groups in Rwanda these include Agasha gorilla group is made up of 25 members, Amahoro group consists of 17 individual members, Bwenge comprises of 10 members, Hirwa has 12 members, Kwitonda consists of 18 members, Ntambara has 12 members, Sabyinyo comprises of 12 individuals, Susa group, Ugyenda has 11 members, Umubano consists of 11 members and Amahoro group. 8 members are allowed to track in each group with arranger guide who is readily available to take you through the forest, these are provided on the money you paid for the gorilla tracking, they are always armed to protect you against any problem you may enter during the hike and also to give you relevant information on all forest flora and fauna you meet on your way.
Since the hike is so demanding, porters are sometimes needed; these are requested at a fee. Their duty is to carry you when you get tired or help you carry your small bag, battle water and sometimes packed lunch.
Tracking gorillas begins at the park headquarters at 8:00am where you receive a short briefing about the dos and don’ts while with gorillas in the forest and also get assigned to the group booked for. After you will be lead by a ranger guide to the forest to begin the activity possibly one of the most exciting activities at the park. tracking time is some times unpredictable as getting to gorillas may go to up to half or full day in the jungle as reaching them depends on where they spent their last night from, so a reasonable degree of fitness is needed plus tracking gears such as strong shoes/boots, long sleeved shirts or blouses, cameras (lash cameras are not recommended) bottled water and some times packed lunch (depending on the lodge).
Passing through the jungle is some times challenging as you may hike through muddy, stinging plants among other many challenging stuff. But ounce you meet gorillas you may forget all the troubles you’ve gone through and begin enjoying gorillas while doing their daily activities such as playing, making nest, feeding among other as well as taking photos. Tipping is always at traveler’s interests and it is given according to travelers’ pleasure. In case you are well pleased, you can tip more and if not, you can tip less. Below is the guideline to follow when tipping.
You may get scared when you look at the thick volcano forest a home of mountain gorillas, you may question your self how you are going to hike through it in search of these rare giants. This is very simple tracking is guided with well experienced ranger guides who are not only guides but also passionate about gorillas, since most of the time are in the forest, they know where gorillas can be located, they can recognize where the gorillas were the previous day and they know all the paths in the forest which can link you to the gorillas without the hassle of walking through the entire forest searching for them.
Ranger guides are the people that habituate gorillas so they know their sign languages such as compacted bamboo, stalks, dung, footprints and isolated nests from the previous evening so all these make them locate gorillas with a lot of easy. Due to their experience, rangers can easily sense how long the nest has been built as well as which group was that. However, during the rain season (heavy rain) it may become very difficult for them to distinguish the signs but still you are well assured of seeing the gorillas.
Gorillas are easy to see in the dense forest, this is so because gorillas tend to be safe and that no one can encroach on them and also it is very easy to find a lot of food plant. This is the reason as to why some times it becomes tiresome for human to locate them and if they re- locate to other places it may even take you the whole day in the jungle searching them.
During the search you go through mud, elevated vines, stinging nettles and many others on your way to and back, along the way you stop to drink water in order to get more energy for tracking. If you feel tired, your porter will give you a hand and the group will continue with the trek. however if you get to the gorillas you will forget all the troubles you’ve gone through and utilize the one hour you are allowed to stay with the gorillas. Enjoy watching them as well as taking photos.
Amazing too, the ranger guide will make a groaning sound that will make them aware that friends are coming this indicates that these species are more intelligent than any other animal species. It has all the five senses like human and it’s regarded the second close relative of man the first is the chimpanzee sharing almost 97% of human DNA, a dominant male (sliver buck) take charge of all group members and he determines all the activities in the group.
When you meet these you are advised to bend so that the sliver buck can see you all the times, as this help the family to feel not threatened. Maintain also a calm look and try not look into the eyes of the gorillas. Children below the age of 15 years are not allowed to track gorillas.
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