Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda. You Read That Right

gorilla trekking rwandaThat is a silverback gorilla chewing on a tree. But he isn’t the entire reason I have the look of fear on my face. It’s because I am holding on for dear life to not slip down the rain-soaked mountain,  basically how I felt all this day.  Because we DID fall a lot.  But that is part and parcel if you want to see gorillas in the wild. Taking vacations to see animals is my FAV. Galapagos Islands last year, Antarctica for penguins a few Christmases ago, a fourth trip to Africa this past November. Why haven’t I told you yet about Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?

Probably because it took this long for the bruises to heal. {Joke, sort of.}

That monster truck-sized silverback, intent on chewing the tree, is EXTREMELY close. I wasn’t breaking any rules, a trekker took the shot. But look at Larry’s face (below) when he glances up to notice another silverback decided to perch between my camera and him.  WHOA, they are stupendous creatures.


The tennis-ball-sized bruise on my right buttock was a bonus memento of what Larry and friends, Nev and Cindy and I agreed was the most grueling hike we’ve ever experienced.  And knowing now what we learned then, would we still have done it?  I vote yes.  That is my foot, below, so you know those guys are pretty close.


Here are things to ponder about gorilla trekking:

  1. First, appreciate getting there.  This video still cracks me up, the road TO the place where we’d start trekking. Travelers who get car sick should take Dramamine that morning.
    A snippet of how the roads are getting to the start point of the trek.
  2. If you love animals, and you love to travel to places that not everyone can or should visit, put this on your bucket list. These animals are disappearing, due to humans. Thankfully, gorilla trekking businesses in Rwanda make good money and provide finances to keep these guys safe and to grow their population.  See point #5 about poachers.
  3. IMG_7363Pack travel clothes with substance. I’m not being melodramatic, if our clothing tore easily, we’d have been in deep trouble with nettles, ants and mosquitos. Wear long, thick socks and tuck your pants legs in.  BRING LEATHER GLOVES. Wear a hat, scarf.  Long sleeves and layers.  Waterproof jacket.  Sunscreen.  Bug repellant.  Comfortable hiking boots with good grip. And say “yes” to a walking stick.  You get them with the trek. TOTALLY necessary… there is no guarantee you will not be given a route just as challenging as ours. Others in our tour were granted a flat trail in another direction but still appreciated the stick.
  4. Groups of eight visitors go out on a trek.  Plus guides and porters.  Many groups fan out each morning to different directions where trekkers have already spotted the gorilla families.
  5. OUR group, for reasons I cannot fathom, appeared “fit” to the trekking company, and they sent us on a three-hour hike UP a volcano, chopping through jungle, stomping through fire ants, snagging nettles (OW OW OW OW) on our skin, slipping and sliding in dark, rich, wet soil, grabbing vines and branches to help break our falls. Uh yeah, GRUELLING.
  6. Porters are imperative, no matter how SUPERIOR you are at hiking, climbing or being a stud. Porters are ex-poachers who’ve been rehabilitated with jobs helping tourists (and Americans trip very well) as incentive to not poach. They carry your stuff, shove your butt up hills, hold your hands and arms and entire bodies. And they break your falls, of which we had plenty (Larry and two porters slipped, were heading down a ravine and only by the grace of Mother Nature were vines in the right place to catch them. A bunch of us hauled them back up. Whew).IMG_7372
  7. One hour sitting amongst a gorilla family, we parked our aching butts and put our cameras to work.
  8. As our hour wound up, rain threatened.  And it dawns on you then… there are absolutely no choices for getting back home – you must trek.  So another three hours on no real trail slipping, sliding, swearing, falling, bruising, back down the volcano.
  9. We bought this Rwanda Gorilla Trek extension on our trip to Tanzania via Overseas Adventure Travel.
  10. Gorillas aren’t friendly critters. They’re used to these guides, so they ignore visitors because we sit quietly and take photos. The babies really don’t care about you, either, and their parents tend to keep them away from you.





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