Silver Back Gorillas

Rwanda Travel Blog

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Ascending the volcano mountain, with one of our armed soldiers in the foreground.

Ruhengeri is the "base camp" for visitors when seeing the gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park.  The hotel, or mission complex (A Catholic owned compound) where we stayed is one of two or three available lodgings in Ruhengeri.  Rates were about $US30 per night.  They have a restaurant and the food is decent.  They also have wireless internet! 

The going rate into the park and visiting the gorillas is pretty steep.  It was $US500 per person, and that rate is likely to go up every year.  Considering you can get a 6 night excursion to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro for $US1200 and upwards, visiting the gorillas (which takes up to 4 or 5 hours) isn't very cost effective.

This view is looking from our hotel. One of these mountians is the mountain we went up, I'm just not sure which one.
   But that said, it was worth it.  And the fees help protect the gorillas and their environment.

The hike up the mountain isn't for the faint of heart, but it is do-able.  Depending on the family your guide is taking you to, and their exact location, it takes approximately 2-3 hours to reach them.  The jungle is like a lost world.  You could easily be lost forever without the guides.  Once you reach the gorillas, the guide gives you about an hour to take your pics and video.  He also tells you to keep your distance, however, the gorillas don't listen.  They will walk right by you, even touching you.  The male isn't as nonchalant as the others, though.  Ours usually kept his back turned to us. 

More later .

. . 

The trip back down was a breeze.  When we reached the road where our vehicles were parked, several of the local children drew pictures of the gorillas and were selling them.  I bought one from a girl for 1000 Rwanda francs--or about $2.00 in U.S. currency.  They usually don't tender this much but it was the smallest bill I had on me.  The girl thought she struck it rich!  Many people here are subsistent farmers and make somewhere around 100 francs per day.  ORTPN, also known as the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks, gave each of us certificates of our visit.  I thought it was interesting that they posted a sign on one of their bulletin boards in the park headquarters that Bill Gates (Microsoft) had recently visited, himself.  Do you think the entry fee might have hit him too hard? 

Anyway, as a final thought, Rwanda is an absolutely beautiful country.  They call it the little Switzerland.  And the only thing they have more of than mountains are banana trees.  I love the people here, although wherever you go they stare at you, especially if you are a muzumbu "white person".  We actually went into a village called Nyanga where many of the Rwandans had never seen a white person ever.  All of a sudden we felt like we were the gorillas being watched.

**SEE ENTRY #3 FOR THE RECENTLY ADDED VIDEOS**

RJ82 says:
hmmm well then i hope someone in our group knows how to track them. haah otherwise it just a bunch of people lost in the jungle =]
Posted on: Jun 11, 2008
pearcetoyou says:
Slightly different, RJ. I think Harriet is planning a trek without guides. Not as expensive, but there's no guarantee you will find the gorillas, either.
Posted on: Jun 11, 2008
RJ82 says:
this is great! is this gorilla tracking like harriet was mentioning? i cant wait to do this myself next year
Posted on: Jun 11, 2008
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Ascending the volcano mountain, wi…
Ascending the volcano mountain, w…
This view is looking from our hote…
This view is looking from our hot…
This gorilla had no concern with w…
This gorilla had no concern with …
This one liked to make eye contact.
This one liked to make eye contact.
Mother clutching her one month old…
Mother clutching her one month ol…
Mission hotel in Ruhengeri
Mission hotel in Ruhengeri
The hotel grounds on backside.
The hotel grounds on backside.
Some children in Rwanda--they love…
Some children in Rwanda--they lov…
The jungle.
The jungle.
Posing on my hotel balcony.
Posing on my hotel balcony.
Shopping in Ruhengeri . . . its n…
Shopping in Ruhengeri . . . it's …
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