Gorilla trekking was the highlight of my visit to Rwanda. I joined three other visitors in trekking for Group 13, a family of 26 led by the stately Silverback Agashya.
Gorilla trekking begins with an early morning check-in at Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi. Visitors are divided into groups based on which gorilla group they have been assigned to. Those of us trekking for Group 13 then drove about 30 minutes up the hill, then walked another 30 minutes through family gardens planted with beans, potatoes and maize. When we reached the 4-foot stone wall that marks the parks border we were told the gorillas were very close. In fact, we could even see a juvenile peeking out from the upper branches of a small tree. At first we were told the gorillas would be coming out to snatch a few snacks from the locals’ gardens but they did not appear so we hopped the wall and walked a mere 30 yards to where a female and youngster sat eating leaves. It was so easy that it was actually disappointing! I had been looking forward to at least a brisk hike in the forest. (Apologies to all who suffered on our marathon gorilla trekking in 2006.)
Disappointment was soon forgotten as we found new members of the group including fat bellied females, rambunctious adolescents, tiny babies and finally the Silverback. He gave us a look, took account of his group, then lay down for a rest, moving only when wrestling youngsters bumped into him. More group members moved in providing new chances for photos and before long it was time to go.
After lunch at the newly opened Gorilla Mountain View Lodge, I visited the nearby cultural village to see some dancing and crafts, we visited the well perched Virunga Lodge before staying the night at the spectacular and expensive Sabinyo Silverback’s Lodge.
Today after breakfast we made the 2.5-hour drive back to Kigali where I visited the Genocide Museum. It’s difficult to convey the emotional impact of a visit to this excellent museum. It does a fantastic job of explaining the root causes and development of what ultimately became one of Africa’s greatest tragedies. I consider it a must-see on any visit to Rwanda.
I arrived two hours before my flight to Nairobi–good thing as it took off 30 minutes early! Now I’m once again cooling my heals in Nairobi Airport on my way to Tanzania. Arusha here I come.