Imagine Africa client Cherry Dalton and her husband John travelled to see the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda. Here she describes how the country has moved on from its recent troubled past and the magic of her ‘Attenborough moment’ with the majestic silverbacks.
Spotting the majestic mountain gorilla in its natural habitat is on the A-list of wildlife encounters. Whilst tracking the mighty silverbacks requires patience and stamina, coming face to face with a gorilla is a real privilege to cherish on any trip to Uganda or Rwanda. From the rugged rainforests of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to the woolly green slopes of Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans; gorilla territory is unapologetically remote. Trekking can therefore be quite demanding, lasting up to five hours and reaching high altitudes, yet a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in the wild is an unparalleled thrill for even the most seasoned safari aficionado.
Gorilla conservation is a national priority for both countries to guarantee the survival of their chest pounding heavyweight. The magnificent apes are still considered critically endangered but steady increases in the gorilla population are a promising nod to the future. The legacy of renowned primatologist Dian Fossey, and her ground breaking study of gorillas in the wild, is at the heart of the conservation effort. Following in the footsteps of her pioneering work, rangers and conservationists work tirelessly to protect the wild mountain gorilla. The resulting habituation of several troops has allowed for visitors to get closer than ever to these majestic animals year round. However, to avoid excessive disturbance to the gorillas’ fragile habitats, permits in both countries are limited and trekking groups are small. Crucially though, the revenue generated from a golden ticket into gorilla kingdom contributes the continuation of the conservation effort and is vital to securing the future of gorillas in the wild.
Uganda’s UNESCO protected Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is home to half of the last remaining wild mountain gorillas. Nestled deep in the heart of Eastern Africa, the secluded rainforest boasts the highest concentration of primates in the world and is hidden well off the beaten track. The Virunga Mountains of Rwanda are considered to be more accessible, as they are located only a short drive from the capital city of Kigali. There, habituated gorillas tend to stay closer to the fringes of the volcanic foothills so treks tend to be shorter and less taxing especially during the dry season. But, no matter which of these incredible destinations takes your fancy, wading through the dense foliage of the African jungle with ears pricked for the spine tingling thud of a lumbering silverback is a real bucket list adventure.