Tracking gorillas in Rwanda

Seeing a troop of gorillas in the wild is one of those breathtaking moments in nature you’ll never forget. And one you won’t take for granted, either, especially when you realize what little remains of their natural habitat in the last few protected patches of Africa’s central rainforests and gorilla parks.

Even though we’re quick to recommend trekking in the forests of Rwanda as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we understand why our YPA clients often ask if the $1500 day permit and hard trekking through the jungle is really worth it. That’s why we talked to wildlife photographer Chris Joubert about his recent experience seeing these powerful primates for the first time…

WHAT exactly makes seeing the gorillas so profound?
“I think the biggest thing is your realization of just how like human beings gorillas are,” Chris recalls. “When you’re up close to a lion or a dog, and you look into their eyes, you can see a bit going on, but not that much. When you’re close to a gorilla, however, and you lock eyes with them, you quickly realize they are thinking and understanding beings, just like us.”

“Their hands look like human hands, and you have this immediate sense of connection and familiarity. Other than their sheer size and strength, seeing their family dynamics – how they hug each other and hold their babies – is truly special and not something that you’ll easily experience watching other animals.”

WHY do people rate gorilla trekking as a bucket list experience?
Chris has done his fair share of traveling, but his recent trip to Rwanda left him utterly mesmerized…

“It’s one of the top things I’ve done in my life, if not number one,” he says passionately. “It’s incredible how a single hour can have such an impact on you – it goes by so quickly, but when you look back, you realize how slow and peaceful it felt in the moment. I’ve started saving up so I can take my mom and my sister.”

WHERE is the best place to see the gorillas?
Mountain gorillas inhabit four national parks over three countries:
· Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
· Rwanda: Volcanoes National Park
· DRC: Virunga National Park

Chris ventured into Rwanda for his trekking and stayed at Wilderness Bisate, situated on the doorstep of Rwanda’s lush Volcanoes National Park.

“The whole experience was seamless and amazing, and you can tell that the high-end lodges have the art of gorilla trekking down to a tee. When you wake up, your guide has your backpack and water bottle ready for you, and sorts everything out. You’re put into groups, and then given a safety briefing before you head out. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and talked to us throughout the hike.”
“It’s also worth noting that there are different groups available that can cater to different levels of fitness,” Chris adds.

WEREN’T you scared?
“This is a question that I often get asked by friends,” Chris says with a laugh. “Yes, it’s a wild animal, and a very big animal at that. But it feels like there is a level of understanding; the gorillas seem to know what they’re doing and making conscious decisions. The guides and trackers are incredibly knowledgeable and they read the gorillas’ body language very carefully, so if there’s something off, they’ll quickly explain what to do, and when you should move out of the way or off the path.”

Let us help you plan your next adventure.

If Chris’ bucket list adventure hasn’t been reason enough to book a trekking experience of your own, perhaps this will: the income earned from gorilla trekking tourism plays a vital part in gorilla population numbers slowly increasing, making it an incredible way to both experience a rare sighting and contribute towards the conservation of these magnificent creatures.

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