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  • Day14

    Gorillas in the clear

    July 13, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    Mountain Gorilla Day!
    Up at the regular 5.45am for a 6.30am departure for the Ranger's station. Not as many people here today - the gorilla treks are always booked out (96 people per day), so there must be less on the monkey treks - so it didn't take long to get our allocated group. There are 12 habituated groups of gorillas, and only one group if trekkers visits each one, and we have been allocated the Umabano group, which is a family group of 15.

    The treks are designated as easy (up to 1 hour), medium (1-2 hours) or difficult (over 2 hours), but it's all dependent on where the gorillas move. Ours is usually a medium trek, and we've been fortunate to be allocated Francois as our guide - he's been working with gorillas for 36 years and was one of Diane Fossey''s guides, so he's fluent in gorilla and is a legend among the guides.

    It was a 45 minute drive to the start of the track, so we set off walking at 8.45am. The mountain gorillas roam all over the mountain, so we headed up and up, with the guides in radio contact with trackers who had gone up earlier to locate the group. It was a grueling walk, constantly uphill for almost 2 hours, with a number of stops to catch our breath. The altitude adds to the difficulty of the walk, and word came down that the family had been located at 2900m (as comparison, Mount Kosciuszko is 2,200m above sea level).

    About 100m from the group, the head tracker met us and we left our bags and porters and headed up with Francois. The first gorilla we spotted was the number 3 silverback of the group (unlike chimpanzees, gorillas have multiple silverbacks in a family group), who was pkaying with a younger male. We watched them for a while at close quarters, then went further uphill and saw both the head silverback and number 2. As we were moving uphill, a young male crossed the path between us and brushed against Oliver's leg with his hand!

    We spent over an hour observing the family playing, grooming and sleeping, then made our way down. The return journey was considerably quicker at 45 minutes.

    We returned to our lodge for late lunch, then went for a drive to the twin lakes, Burera and Ruhondo, and a sundowner at Virunga Lodge (the first lodge built after the genocide, to cater for gorilla tourism...but at $1600 a night, we won't be staying there anytime soon!)

    Returned for buffet tea and viewing of a gorilla DVD around the open fire before bed.
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