Dream day - Mountain Gorillas Virnugu NP

Rwanda Travel Blog

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Virungu NP

Ok this is going to be a long journal entry so get a drink and get comfy, if you need to go toilet do it now. you dont want to miss the journal entry and photo's

Well today was the day I had dreamt about since I was a child. I managed to get some sleep but I  was so excited, I got up at 4.30am . We had breakfast and made a packed lunch. Everyone was very chatty and excited.  We got picked up at 5.30am there was a mini bus and a pick up truck which myself, Sam and Cathy got into. It was around a 20-minute drive to the park. We were able for the first time to see the chain of volcanoe's where the mountain gorillas were living on. The view was superb, mist and clouds over the volcanoe's . There was farmland so close to the volcanoe's  and the people were already up doing their jobs.


We arrived at the park where we had a cup of tea and had a look at the information boards and the gift shop.

Some of the volcanoes
On the way over the girls were chatting about the gorilla's and wondering what they would see. We got told that three of are group would have to leave and join another group at first no one voluntered because we wanted to stay together and experience the gorilla's but in the end Sam, then Steve and Cathy volunteered which was a shame.


The guides were putting out signs with the different gorilla groups on them. Are guide came over and introduced himself and his co leader. The group we were going to see was called Sabyino. He told us all about the family, we were going to see the oldest and biggest silverback on the mountain it was 35years old and weighed 220lb. The other adult silverback is thought to be dead after having a fight with the alpha male, the last time they saw him he had terrible bites marks etc and they never saw him alive again.

Also a couple of the female gorillas had left the group. We got told that we would have 2 armed army guides with us and not to take their photos and that there were already trackers out finding are gorillas. 


There was a nice 30minute drive to the start where we would then get told more. So we all got in the mini bus. Everyone was so quite and deep in their own thoughts and just waiting to see the gorillas. We drove through the countryside then made it to are destination is was right next to a village, which was strange to see people living so close but I knew there was a problem with poachers and farmers killing the gorillas in the past.  We got out and the armed guards were there waiting for us.

The guide told us that it is about a 30-40 minute walk to the edge of the forest and that the trackers have found are family of gorillas and it would take about an hour to get to them. We got given wooden walking sticks with a gorilla carved out as the handle.


We had a nice slow walk to the edge of the forest. The views were breathtakingly stunning. I stopped to take photo's and some video to show the people back home. You had the tall lush green chain of volcanoes and then the farmland below it was beautifull. We stopped at the edge and got given the rules. They were pretty simple but very important for the safety of us and for the well being of the gorillas.  We crossed the border between farmland and forest this was just a stonewall to keep the animals of the farmland.


We walked and sometimes had to get right down on our hands and kness to get under the vegetation for around 40 minutes.   It was nice to be getting some exercise,  the vegetation was so thick and hard to get through.  We then got stopped and we could hear in the distance branches breaking. Our guide told us to be quite, so we all stood dead still, he got on his radio quietly and then informed us that the trackers were up ahead and that they had found the gorillas. I was so excited my heart was pounding, we followed the guide and he told us to put are packs and sticks down but to take any valuables with us but no food or anything that gives of strong scent. 

We followed the guide and the co guide followed behind.

We could see the trackers. We were told earlier that when he says stop taking photo's do it straight away and stay behind him.


Within minutes we had our first sighting it was a female with her baby they were maybe 7ft away from us. My heart was racing and I could not believe my eyes I was finally here face to face with the mountain gorillas.   We all stood around and watched her eating and then grooming the baby, they were so cute and didn’t seem to care that we were there.  Then the female looked up I looked straight into her deep dark eyes what an amazing moment words cant express how I felt or what it was like to be there. To be this close was so surreal I will always remember this moment.


Then all of a sudden the mother with her baby started to move behind us,  so the guide got in front said cameras down and we had to move back.

Then he started coming towards me, so the guide quickly got infront of me
The mother stopped again so we stood there and watched her again. After a while she moved away and we lost sight so we continued through the tree's for a few minutes , everyone so happy and could not wait to see what we would see next .  We walked a short distance and then seen another gorilla so we stopped to watch. Then all of a sudden out of no where a juvenile gorilla came through the thick undergrowth from behind us and ran  past us,  and as it did it pushed past my leg hard enough to feel it. 

 I was in shock for a moment I had actually been touched by a mountain gorilla as did a few of the other's I never expected to be that lucky I never dreamt of getting that close especially touched, We followed them through the thick undergrowth to the bamboo's where we seen another female gorilla,  I took some photo's then my batteries died luckily I had more I was having problems taking photos because of the light and movement etc. 


We crawled through the bamboo on are hands and knees at times we then reached an opening where there was a female eating her lunch.

Finally the little one came out after beating his little chest
So we stood back and watched and took photos and I took some video. To be watching them and to be looking into their eyes, hear them, smell the forest it is to hard to put into words everyone was in a dream like state not believing what they were seeing. We were able to get within 7ft ish again of the female gorilla and then out of the undergrowth popped another one who came along to see what was going on.

We stood and watched for a few minute then one decided to get up and move so are guide got in front all the time making gorilla noises to keep them calm we had to move pretty fast but where we got moved to was full of nasty stinging nettles so the guides chopped them down with there machetes. Just as I though the day could not get much better the silverback turned up to see him was awesome.


 To be I would say 15ft away from a 220lb silverback and to watch it eating  was unbelievable we watched this massive gorilla for maybe 10 minuets untill it looked up and I broke one of the rules, dont look directly into a silverback's eyes.

bit blurry, a lot of photo's were like this, i had trouble with the lighting etc
But I just stared into his deep black eyes. it was memorising,  but then he got Peed of and came towards me.  The guide quickly got infront of me and made noises and told me to look at the floor and get down so you are submisive again I couldn’t describe the feeling well scared would be an understatement. . Then along came a female and climbed the tree beside us,  we moved back and watched it climbing the tree and eating. It was better than I could every hope for. Then are guide told us we had to go back because are hour was up. In some ways  it seemed to have gone in a heartbeat I would happily of stayed there all day and watched them but I understand that it will stress them out and that they are wild animals and to much human contact would be bad for them.


 On the way back in the thick bamboo was a female gorilla with two small baby gorillas they were well hidden, Then the two babies started play fighting it was comical to watch, Then one of them stood and beated his chest it was so cute then one popped his head out.

But we had to go but what a way to end the trip. It is so easy to get lost in their world and to forget anybody else is with you when you are watching them. We walked back to the bags had a drink and then I got the guide to do a group photo.

We slowly walked back people were quite and reflecting on there own thoughts and feelings. We walked back to the edge of the forest climbed over the wall and said goodbye to the volcanoes and the gorillas. We walked for 15minutes then had a break and a chat.  We walked back to the mini bus and drove back to the park where we got sorted into groups. The other three were all ready back so we went over and they told us all about what they had seen and how it went.


What was funny earlier on is the gorilla farting the other's heard them having sex then the silverback came out laid down and had a cigar looking bamboo in his mouth so the Sam, Steve and Cathy had an excellent time.

I went into the shop to see what I could get in was surprisingly very limited so I bought some books. We got back in the mini bus and truck and drove back to camp.


We saw Emanuel and everyone told him all about it.  We hung around and talked with the group and everyones showing each other there photo's they are all so good but I think mine are pretty crap I found it hard using the new camera and not knowing the setting and I only managed to record maybe 10mins as the tape run out  (  Me being a dumb ass filmed 40 mins with the lens cap on, how gutted was I )  I didn’t prepare my gear last night so I am a bit disappointed that I may not have much to show the people back home. But I am so happy and the spirit of the group has totally changed it was worth the long 6 days of driving to get here and se them as Emanuel said it is very stressful for the leaders to get the group to the gorillas.

  I had tea and we all shared our stories then I went to the bar and we all had a few drinks slowly they went to bad because they were tired. Eric and me stayed up to 11.30 drinking and chatting.

Sunflower300 says:
Wow! That's all I can find to say. I'm in awe.
Posted on: Nov 06, 2009
ted332 says:
wow! amazing adventure! :)
Posted on: Nov 06, 2009
Vlindeke says:
What a great experience!
Posted on: Nov 06, 2009
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Virungu NP
Virungu NP
Some of the volcanoes
Some of the volcanoes
Then he started coming towards me,…
Then he started coming towards me…
Finally the little one came out af…
Finally the little one came out a…
bit blurry, a lot of photos were …
bit blurry, a lot of photo's were…
The farmland just below the NP.
The farmland just below the NP. …
My first sighting, how cute
My first sighting, how cute
Mother and baby
Mother and baby
Another mother and baby
Another mother and baby
the mighty silverback
the mighty silverback
He was getting peed of with me loo…
He was getting peed of with me lo…
after getting down and being submi…
after getting down and being subm…
This photo make it looks like it h…
This photo make it looks like it …
Female gorilla
Female gorilla
This one popped out the undergrowt…
This one popped out the undergrow…
We were able to get pretty close t…
We were able to get pretty close …
These did not come out very well, …
These did not come out very well,…
From back left-right
Missey, Sue,…
From back left-right Missey, Sue…