Wednesday, January 12, 2011
As you may or may not know Rwanda is most famous for its Mountain Gorilla’s. They only exist in this area of the world in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. They are rare and almost extinct but are coming back thanks to all the protection against poachers that now exists. Rwanda is where the Gorilla’s spend the most time of their time as it is the safest and most protected area. Everyday 3 guards with guns watch each gorilla family from 6am -4pm. There are 680 gorilla’s total from the census taken in 2010 from March- May. The last census was in 2003 with a total of 380 gorillas. Dian Fossey is the famous scientist who lived (and died) with the gorillas for over 20 years. She was the first person to study them so closely and take the first census on them. For more information I highly recommend the book and movie “Gorillas in the Mist.”
I was fortunate enough to get to see them. Since Nick did not come I was looking for fun things to do. My friend and her brother, visiting from the U.S. have been planning on going for months. My other friend and I decided we would try to join them 2 days before the trek. The thing with gorilla passes is they can only give a certain number each day. Luckily they hadn’t sold out for the particular day we wanted, so we got to go! It was a truly amazing experience. I maybe rank it second next to shark diving in South Africa.
When you arrive in the morning they split you into small groups of about 8-10 people. Each group goes to see a different family of gorillas. The hike can be 20 minutes to 6 hours to get to a family. We got to see the second largest family of gorillas; 25 in total, 12 females, 12 babies and 1 male. The group name was Agasha, meaning special. We had to hike up hill for about 2 hours. The perfect length of time it was not to long but not too short. It was great weather and had not recently rained heavily so the trails we not too muddy. The hike was through thousands of bamboo trees and was very pretty. When we arrived we walked through the brush, no real trail and standing next to us 3 feet away was a gorilla. It was scary at first, it you fell you could have hit it. The guide and other escorts, a man with a machete and another man with a gun, could communicate with the gorillas. It just sounded like grunting to us but they were making sure it was ok to visit with the gorillas. It was really cool to hear and see humans talking to gorillas and gorillas talking back. They limit you time with the gorillas to 1 hour or less depending on how they are acting. We had to leave a bit early because the male gorilla was getting angry at us. I understand why, having your photo taken nonstop for an hour every couple of days would make me a little angry too. So after walking through the brush the gorillas all went to a nice grassy clearing and played and ate so we got to just watch and take pictures of them in their everyday life. They are very happy gorillas. The ones at the zoos are very unhappy and don’t do much but sleep. Here they were playing and eating and climbing bamboo, and spinning in circles and chasing each other. A guy in our group got kicked by one of the kid gorillas as they were running around. We also got to watch a sex negotiation by a female and the male but the kids got in the way and the gorillas did not go through with it. But our guide told us this rarely happens for tourists so it was very exciting. The male (named Agasha) was about 400 pounds, and is called a silverback, (all adult male mountain gorillas are silverbacks), they get the name from the fact that white/silver hair grows on their backs.
To say the least it was an amazing experience that did not last long enough. I could have watch those gorillas for days or even years. They are fascinating and we are so much like them. I don’t know when I will be able to post pictures but I will when I can.
I will be traveling the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar (an island off the coast of Tanzania) and Kenya for the next two weeks. I’ll post a blog about the trip when I return. Happy Holidays!