Day 14: African Wildlife Safari

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, 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 13: African Wildlife Safari

We started the day off at the Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn more about the genocide and what the people of Rwanda went through. In April, Rwanda commemorated the 28th anniversary of the 1994 genocide and I’m thinking of my friends in Rwanda.

One term I learned there is ubumuntu or “humanity – goodness, generosity and kindness.” The memorial used it to refer to the people who risked their lives to help those being persecuted. A sign out front reminded visitors that “we can all be champions of humanity by standing against division wherever we live.”

We made our way from Kigali to just outside of the Volcanoes National Park where we were staying at Ingagi Park View Lodge.

After getting settled at the hotel, we visited the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to learn about Dian Fossey’s work to save the gorillas and continuing efforts to protect the endangered gorillas. It was nice to learn about the gorillas since we would be visiting the gorillas the next day at Volcanoes National Park.

Afterward, we went back to the hotel to settle in for the rest of the rainy evening. I enjoyed a hot drink near a window overlooking the front of the hotel. A farmer worked in his field across the road from the hotel, while birds fluttered in the trees nearby. I enjoyed spotting the sunbirds visiting the flowers on my walk back to my room.