If there was one activity that stood out on this trip to me it was the highly-anticipated gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Each day, 10 groups of eight are allowed to spend an hour with different gorilla families. Which gorilla group you visit depends on your physical ability and where the gorillas are generally located that day. You go up with a trek guide while two trackers go ahead to find the gorilla family and ensure there are as few surprises as possible.
My group split into two – easy and moderately easy – to visit two different gorilla groups. I joined the moderately easy group; however our trek guide said it ended up being one of the most difficult treks he’s led due to the rain, muddy trails and the gorillas who were moving up the mountain away from us. At times, the trail was pure mud. It was worth it. We saw the Titus gorilla group, the original family named after the silverback Titus that was a part of Dian Fossey’s research at Karisoke. According to volcanoesnationalparkrwanda.com, Titus, as a young gorilla, “lost his family to poachers including his father, uncle and brother and his mother and sister joined other families leaving Titus to be raised by an unrelated male gorillas. According to Dian Fossey, Titus, the infant, seemed ‘underdeveloped and spindly’ and had difficulty breathing, but Titus overcame these difficulties.” Titus eventually became his family’s leader.
The only thing I would do different is pack lighter – I paid for a porter to carry my backpack and to help me up the mountain. That was definitely worth the $20 cost (not counting tip) because I sure needed a hand at some points when my feet got stuck in the mud. It is interesting to note that the men who acted as porters are part of the local community.
Apparently, they have a lottery system to determine which men get to serve as porters for the day. It provides the community with extra income that they otherwise would have made through poaching. This system is one way used to deter poaching in the national park.
Day 9 was again spent in the Sereneti National Park on game drives. We saw large groups of elephants, zebras and lions.
Like the day before, that night was spent at Tanzania Bush Camps. We left March 14 for a second camp site of Tanzania Bush Camps in the Ndutu Areas.
Both sites were more like #glamcamping with bathrooms/showers in each tent. Internet was available in the recreation tent, and you could have hot water if you gave staff time to heat the water. We needed a guide to walk to our tents after dark because of the presence of wildlife, both prey and predators. The first camp site had a camp fire each night, and it was a nice way to unwind with not only my group but other guests.
On March 11, 2022, we left for the plains of the Serengeti.
En route, our group separated with half going straight on to the Serengeti and the other half making two stops along the way. The first stop was a Maasai Village. The Maasai is one of the most famous tribes of Africa. They are semi-nomadic and are known to have lived predominantly on their livestock. During our visit, we were welcomed with a dance and given a tour of their school (they learn both English and Swahili). Then, each one of us received a guide who showed us their home, spoke to us about their lives and answered questions.
We then visited Olduvai Gorge, also known as the Cradle of Mankind. About 30 miles wide and 295 feet deep, Olduvai Gorge was first discovered in 1911 by German neurologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel and, in 1959, paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey discovered the fossilized bone fragments of one of our earliest hominid ancestors. The gorge became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Today, the gorge contains some of the most important archaeological sites in the world, and is important because the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors have been found there.
While I was fascinated by the history, I also enjoyed the amazing views and the cute wildlife found there.
We finally made it to Serengeti and the wildlife did not disappoint. We even two cheetahs.
We witnessed a heck of a stand-off on Day 6 between a mother buffalo and hyenas in the Ngorongoro Crater.
We first noticed the hyenas nosing around a herd of buffalos. It was then we noticed the unmoving small brown mound that the hyenas seemed laser focused on. The baby’s mother alternated between standing guard, charging the hyenas back and then walking away, thus letting the hyenas closer.
At one point, we thought the hyenas would win. The mother was walking off and we saw a hyena bite and pull on the baby. It was heartbreaking until, suddenly, the mother came rushing back with others from the herd. They stood guard and, then, the baby slowly stood. I’ll admit we screamed at that point. It was a happy, but completely unexpected turn of events.
The hyenas were, obviously, not happy and still tried to take the baby. But, other buffalo guided both mother and baby back into the herd and the hyenas slowly moved on.
Day 5 began with us preparing to leave Tarangire Safari Lodge where we stayed the last two nights. It was basically glamping and I can definitely say I didn’t expect it to be this wonderful but it was.
It was interesting that electricity was only on for certain hours each day, and we had to have a guide to go back to our cabin after dark due to presence of wild animals. And we definitely had visitors that included monkeys, Dik-diks and giraffes. Can you spot the giraffe in the below picture?
As we finished breakfast, one of the lodge workers asked if we’d seen the African Scops-Owl that sleeps in a tree just outside of the lodge’s front entrance. Naturally, I had to go find it and he was kind enough to point it out.
I previously worked as a news and sports photographer. Recently I have been enjoying wildlife photography. My approach toward bird photos is similar to sports photography. I attempt to capture mostly action and hopefully a unique perspective.