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 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.