Sunday, August 30, 2015


As with the Golden Monkeys, Gorilla tours are also available at Volcanos National Park. Advance planing is required as the visits are limited and quite popular, although there are eight habituated groups versus two for the monkeys. Again limited to eight people per tour and for one hour with the beasts.

And as with the monkeys, one begins the day at the park headquarters, entertained by the same dance troop (I wonder if it is always the same or if it varies; and as we visited on back to back days we saw the same dancers?). After the introductory talk we were off.

We started in the same village. Here we arranged for porters to carry our gear. I engaged a porter on both days, although as it turned out I probably did not need one on either. But even if I had known that I still would have taken one. The fee was a small one for me, US$10 per person, but a significant sum for them.  Furthermore it forges a positive link between the villagers and the wildlife in the park (the park fees also find their way back to the villages).

We walked through the same farm fields as the day before up until the last half mile or so. We entered the park west of where we saw the monkeys via a different gate into he park wall. I wonder if the two species avoid each other? Again we had an armed guard but we did not see any elephants or buffalo. Nor were we ever afraid while in the presence of the gorillas. And again there were trackers who were out bright and early to find the troop and direct us to our encounter.

And again luck was with us as not far into the park we came upon this sight.

A gorilla in the wild!

It had found a spot to rest, a mid morning siesta, as it would turn out just a few meters from the rest of the group. Thus just around the bend ...

... the main part of the troop were sprawled out relaxing, including one curious youngster who took a few steps toward us before heading off to play (more on him or her later).

But for the most part the troop was just lying about, paying us no never mind.

Some just resting.

Some scratching.

Some snacking, like this one up in a tree.

And several grooming together ...

... or alone.

The rule was that we had to be seven meters away from the gorillas, in part to prevent disease transmission from us to them (we have doctors while they do not). But they had no such rule to follow. And we had to move back once or twice as they approached. One even walked up from behind the our group, unbeknownst to us, and stepped on the foot of the person next to me as it passed on by.

The troop's silverback spent most of the time seemingly asleep.

Despite occasional stirrings he never stood up, dashing our hopes of a full view of this magnificent being. More on this in a subsequent post.

About that youngster I noted above, well there two young gorillas, one a year old and one but nine months.

And they spent the entire hour we were with them playing.

Quite ruff and tumble.

But surprisingly, all the time silent. They easily stole the show.

I had mentioned earlier that our luck held. The gorillas could have been anywhere on the slopes of the volcano. And while they were not quite as close as the monkeys the day before, our hike once inside the park was a mere half hour to forty-five minutes. And this included rest stops for some steeps bits for which we needed to catch our breath. How lucky were we? The day before the trek to this troop was three hours up the volcano side. And then three hours back.

We were also very lucky that they had chosen a spot out in the open. They could have just as easily been scattered amongst the vegetation, with us seeing a head here and a butt there. Instead we were treated to group interactions right before us. Magical.

You can see these and more gorilla images in my SmugMug gallery. Enjoy!

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