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Chasing Gorillas in the jungle

Days three and four - An unforgettable experience

all seasons in one day 28 °C

Day three 30 jan 2011

Where to begin! We were up at 3:30am and ready for our 4:30am pick up. It was as we were driving through the streets of Kigali at this time that I started thinking what the…f have we gotten ourselves into, this is crazy, all we know about this guy is that he had our names on a sheet of paper and he paid for our hotel, we’re driving off into the middle of bloody nowhere, he could be looking to harvest our organs!!! Anyway after a few of those kind of thoughts I calmed a bit and we went off into the country side and saw the sunrise as we got closer to the Volcanoes national park.

This may be my westernised rose coloured glasses and from what else I’ve seen, but the poverty doesn’t seem to get people down. The children run along next to our car and smile and wave and practice their English, everyone is quite friendly – as C says, ‘they’re happy’. It’s also surprised us how many people heard about the Brissy flood. Even a porter at the hotel was asking how bad it was.

We waited around for the rest of the tourists to turn up, then were allocated to a group that was to see a family of gorillas. There are 18 families within the Rawandan area of the national park. Eight are ok for tourism and ten are kept for research. The family we headed off to see was called Suva.

Gorilla background
The Suva family has 27 gorillas (one of the largest) with three silverbacks. Apparently there is usually only one chief silverback (he is the only one allowed to mate), however the Suva chief is a bit old (38) so he allows the second in charge to do some of his ‘duty’. This isn’t good for the third silverback as he has a girlfriend that he tries to sneak off with, but the other two bust him and it’s on for young and old. Sooner or later he will leave this family and start his own. Gorillas generally only have one baby at a time but sometimes they have twins but the twins don’t survive. Suva have some of the only surviving twins known – they are called emera and titusana ( I think). I think that the Barwick twins should be called this!

Lucky for us the Suva family is the furthest away and the highest. We trekked up hill for 3.5 hours. It started in a bamboo forest that was really pretty (but slippery) and changed to thick lantana like ground cover. We were caned by stinging nettles most of the way. Eventually we met up with the trackers (who spend about 8 hours a day following and protecting each family) and had to leave our bags and walking sticks. We went about another 5 mins and the gorillas were just there, lazing about on the top of a hill. It was awe inspiring. The chief silverback was stretched out, two females were playing with babies. It was as though we weren’t even there, until the chief decided that he wanted a bit so he came toward us, but jumped on a female….. and went for it in front of us (yes we have video of it). After that they all made a move past us, but as they did two gorillas, one after another, stopped right at Chris (he was crouching down) and touched his arm and stared at him…. it was bloody scary, but brilliant. We then followed them up and down hills, found more of the family and before we knew it the allowed hour was over.
We went down the same way we came up (but a lot faster) and headed back toward the car. It was an unforgettable experience – it took a bit to get used to realising that they weren’t zoo animals – they were in their own habitat, doing what they do all the time.

We got back to the hotel and had some lunch, went for a brief explore down the main street and then crashed. On all accounts a pretty good birthday!


Day Four 31 January 2011

Apparently I have to write about days as well. After the twelve hour sleep (Wendy neglected to mention we fell asleep at 5.30pm), 5.30am wake up. Despite the wake up call being absent, we had decent breakfast, sticking to the rules of cooked food and thick skinned fruit only. Back to the meeting centre and then off to find our next gorilla family, the ‘kwitonda’ family, three silver backs and 18 other females, juveniles and many young babies. The approach was more of a gentle slope, but the undergrowth was thick, and the guide up the front was earning his keep with the machete.

After 2 hours of walking, and going through the same drill leave the poles, gear, and taking cameras only we came across the no 3 silverback first and two juveniles. The juveniles were practicing wrestling. Some trees will never look the same again. We followed the group around and saw the cutest little baby gorillas, photos do not them justice. One of the youngest was only 8mtths old and was still trying to learn how to move along under his own power, when all else failed, mum to the rescue and hang on!

We continued to follow them around unitl no2 silverback decided he wanted to see what was happening and surprised everyone by coming from behind. We all crouched down and he came up to have a good look and smell, strangely enough he seem to look at me (each of uss). Whatever deodorant I am wearing seems to attract these gorillas. That is great except for the fact with one swipe they will knock your block off.


We finished watching and then returned home through the bushes, return journeys always seem so much faster. We headed back to the hotel and had some lunch.

We tried to go up to a high peak to look at the twin lakes but the weather was against us. Even so the view was very pretty (and wet).

So now I am writing the blog while W re-packs and then we are off to a party organized by some vets over here looking after the gorillas.

Posted by ourlife 21:04 Archived in Rwanda Tagged gorillas

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Wow guys kn awesome. Must have been an amazing experience. How can something so ugly & huge be so gorgeous (like me!) Hugs J

by JackN

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