Rwanda: Volcanoes NP – Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Mountain Gorillas live only in two places on earth – in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda/Congo and in Bwindi Forest in Uganda (actually considered a separate species these days). On the Rwanda side, the gorillas are in the Volcanoes National Park which covers 5 conical volcanic peaks and mountain forest. Visiting gorillas is a once in a lifetime experience. Gorillas “charge” higher rate per hour to see them than lawyers or accountants, but they are not scummy, don’t talk much, and are much more enjoyable to interact with. In Rwanda, the process of gorilla tracking is highly organized, permits are sold well in advance, groups are 8 people max, gorillas are tracked in advance, and tour groups are herded (oops – led) to the location. Then you spend an hour with them. I got extremely lucky (beyond extremely actually) to go see the second largest gorilla group in Rwanda – Agashya group – consisting of 22 individuals – 1 silverback (mature alpha male), 2 blackbacks (young males), 9 females, and the rest babies and adolescents of various ages. Agashya means “special” and is named after the silverback who leads it for it’s the only group where a single silverback is able to control and lead such a large group of gorillas (all of then are his babies actually). Watching them was amazing – they eat leaves, play around, little ones learn from their mothers… The silverback actually pounded his chest and charged us (I nearly dropped the camera at that point – it’s a 500 lb animal!). You get really close to them – like a only a meter or two, and when a blackbacks was passing me by, he slapped me on the leg! Insane!