I never thought that one of the best travel experiences Ian and I would have, is being slapped by mountain gorillas in Rwanda! Of course, mine was a baby gorilla who wanted to show me how he had mastered vine twirling. Ian had a much louder and stance altering pat on the back by Agasha, the King silverback of this jungle. He simply wanted to remind Ian who was the Alpha in this family.
Never were we or our friends with whom we traveled, afraid of their interaction with us as we made our best effort to keep our regulated distance from them. Mountain gorillas are gentle, playful and familial “nearly human” creatures with knowing eyes and kindred spirits. I felt they were happy to spend the one hour of time each day with people knowing they have the other 23 to themselves.
The treks were fun, adventurous and made much easier with delightful porters to help each of us get through the mud. We stayed for 3 nights at the beautiful new Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanos National Park where our suite had ceiling high windows to view the volcanos, an outdoor fireplace and jacuzzi and even a massage table in the bathroom.
Another two nights we enjoyed the brand new One&Only Gorillas Nest. Our suite there had an indoor fireplace and a beautiful outdoor seating area with a second bathtub on the deck. Both properties offered their own entertainment, and signature cuisine and spirits using the finest from the native bounty.
This is the first time Ian and I had a gorilla trekking experience. I can confirm that after a combined 400 or so safari experiences across the African continent, our gorilla encounter was like none other. The entire adventure was beyond all expectation!
Rwanda is beautiful and they have seen a growth of hundred new gorilla babies in the past years due to their extensive conservation efforts. Tourism fuels these efforts by helping support the habitats of gorillas and community projects so gorilla poaching in Rwanda is now at zero! In fact, we asked what we could bring from home for the communities and when we went to drop off the raincoats, books and soccer balls to one of the local schools, the kids and teachers gifted us with their thrilling and beautiful native songs and dances.
We learned that mountain gorillas cannot survive out of this altitude and habitat. The longest a gorilla has survived in a zoo was to age 8. There are no mountain gorillas in any zoo on earth for that reason. Also, a baby gorilla cannot survive alone without their gorilla family no matter how humans care for it. The communities are involved with naming the babies although most will never see them in person. Their involvement is key to the stability of the gorilla’s existence.
Rwanda has got it right when it comes to gorillas, tourism and even the environment. They don’t allow plastic bags in their communities and you can see the positive impact.
There is never a better time to venture to Rwanda and experience the beautiful people, some of the world's best new lodges and of course, the amazing mountain gorillas. We absolutely love them all!