We were invited by EREKA-Group an association of selected Rwanda Tour operators spearheading the creation of awareness about Rwanda as a tourism destination. This familiarisation trip was for eight days visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park for a canopy walk, Lake Kivu in Gisenyi for boat cruises on the lake and then lastly to Volcanoes National Park for gorilla tracking.
The trip was supported by Rwanda Air that flew us from Entebbe to Rwanda and then back plus internal flights to Nyungwe Forest National Park. Other sponsors included Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Serena Hotel Rwanda and Lebambou Gorilla Lodge.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda
While we visited several places in Rwanda including the genocide memorial centre, Kings palace, Butale National Museum and so much more, my focus was on trekking the famous mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
Preparing for the gorilla trek.
We had a night at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge well located to give us views of the popular virunga volcanoes. This was going to be something that I was doing for the first time. Early in the morning, we went to the restaurant for breakfast and packed lunch. All guys were ready in their trousers, long sleeved shirts, hiking boats, rain jackets and we had to borrow garden groves from the Lodge. With our packed lunches, it was then time to drive to Volcanoes National Park for briefing about and how to behave while with gorillas. The drive took us about 20 minutes and we were at the Park head quarters. Here a local cultural dancing group was entertaining guests and who ever would love to join them would do so. We were served a cup of tea as we enjoyed music and dances from the local dancing group.
Divided into small groups
Time came and they started grouping us into small groups of eight people as this is the maximum number recommended for a gorilla family per day. We were allocated our guide of the day who then started briefing us about the dos’ and don’ts while you are with the gorillas. This guy made us like the activity and kept on encouraging us on doing the activity. We were told that we were going to trek a gorilla family called UMUBANO. UMUBANO means friendship in the local language and we were very excited to go this trek. We then drove for about fifteen minutes and started our trek passing through local people’s gardens and households until we reached at the boundaries where we found some porters waiting for us. Some of us who felt fit enough did not take porter but some of my friends decided to take porters. Off we went climbing the volcanoes and listening to an informative talk from our guide. At about 3000 meters above sea level, we encountered our first encounter with one silver back gorilla. When our guide saw him, he started talking to him and eventually, he started leading us to where the rest of the group members were. We were told that when a family has several silverbacks, then each is given roles to carry out. That the main silverback remains with the family while the other can be in charge of ensuring security for the entire family. This silver back led us until we found the other members and then it went back.
One hour with the gorillas
It was such an experience that I had never seen. We found about five of them playing, running around while the main silverback was seated their watching all movements by his family members. He sat there not even bothered at our presence but his family. As we started taking photographs, some your gorillas came closer to us and started touching us! What an experience! While we were supposed to keep at least seven meters away from the gorillas, this remained in theory as the movements of gorillas are unpredictable. In one minute, it can be the other side and in the next minutes, it will be running all over you depending on the mood you find them in. One hour was up and we were told to leave the gorillas as they needed sometime alone. We started to descend until we left Volcanoes National Park. We had to go back to the Park head quarters where we were awarded certificates for trekking gorillas and helping in the conservation of these endangered great apes.
We then had to drive back to Kigali for our overnight at Kigali serena and then to the airport for our flight back to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.