"Gorilla trek into the Congo - Virunga Nat. Park" Parc National de Virunga by shortbutkute
Parc National de Virunga Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 193 photos
In September 2005, I travelled with Africa Travel Company on a 14 day round trip from Nairobi.
The day of our trek started early leaving our Kisoro campground and travelling to the border in our overland truck. At the border we were given a briefing on gorillas and what to do and what not to do in situations. We were split into 3 groups of 8 - a slow group, medium group and fast group. Needless to say I definately was not in the fast group and opted for the medium.
Our group were all females accompanied by 2 local rangers. We travelled in a Pajero 4WD to "base camp", where once again we got another briefing. By this stage I was beginning to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. Were we going to be attacked by these gorillas or what?
We started heading up the first mountain at around 9.30/10am. Just as the sun was beginning to warm up. We trekked for close on 3 hours before we had a short break on top of a hill. The countryside was amazing. We walked through potato fields, terraced mountains with coffee crops and then started into the jungle. There was quite a lot of hidden rocks and roots, that yes I kept tripping over.
After a total of 7 hours trekking up and down gigantic mountains (to me they were) I had just about had enough. I thought I was fairly fit but the heat was starting to get to me and my determination to see the gorillas kicked in. I came across a fluorescent green caterpillar and bent down to pick it up.
Our "leader" Sabine, started tapping me on the shoulder and I thought she was telling me not to touch the native wildlife, when she pointed to a gorilla about 5m in front of us that I hadn't seen cause I was so buggered. The feeling I had when I first seen them was one of absolute amazement. I was finally fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams.
It is government law that you can only spend 1hr with a family at a time. This may seem unreasonable, as the price of the permit isn't that cheap, but if putting a time limit on visits means that it protects the gorillas from catching any human disease and basically from being too accustomed to us, I'm all for it. You cannot eat, drink, smoke or go to the toilet near the gorillas. Talking should be kept to a minimum also so as not to disturb them.
We witnessed about a dozen gorillas, (including the silverback and two babies) eat, play, sleep and mate. The similarities between them and humans was amazing. Little things like when they were scratching under their arms, picking their nose, breastfeeding the babies down to the Silverback farting and lying back and sleeping, after mating with one of the females (mated 3 times while we were there) just made me feel like somehow we must be decendants of the ape family.
The babies were so cheeky. I even had them running over my boots a couple of times. They wouldn't keep still. Trying to break down small saplings so they would fall onto us and then running off and hiding, but come back and have another try. They were so inquisitive. I guess just the same way we were about them.
At the start of the trek you are cautioned not to yell, make eye contact or sudden movements that might make them feel threatened. I was worried I would be a big girl and forget all this and scream and get attacked or something. At the end as we were starting to move away from them, the silverback mock charged us and I had him within a metre of me and all I could think about was I hoped he didn't think I was going to be mate #4. Thank God I was sensible and straight away put my head down, not making eye contact. I could hear his breathing and even though my heart was beating pretty fast, I really wasn't scared. The other girls started to run and screamed a bit, but I managed to get a pic (a bit blurry of course) of him charging us. What an experience, even if it was only a mock charge!!
I felt extremely priviliged to be a part of their family, even if it was only for an hour.
- Pros:To get to experience the gentle nature of these animals is incredible. The way numbers are decreasing sadly the mountain gorillas may not always be around.
- Cons:To be honest the only con I can think of was that it rained. Really nothing to worry about seeing as tho' it is a jungle!!
- In a nutshell:Unbelievable experience not to miss!
The gorilla trek is the main reason people visit this area. Don't forget to get to know the locals on the way. It... more travel advice
Make sure you don't be completly stoopid like me and forget your waterproof jacket!! On our way back from the gorillas... more travel advice
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