From the deepest caves in Belize to the highest Italian peaks, we've explored the world and in this new series called On The Road, we're here to update you with our stories and some must-know insider travel tips!
Jena Gardner, President and CEO of JG Black Book of Travel, recently returned from one of the most spectacular trips of her life, a trip that sadly not many get to experience.
While the intimate lodges brought comfort to the wilderness, it's the gorillas we traveled to see. And we were so thankful for the opportunity; there are just 786 of these endangered species living in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans only issues 56 permits per day, it made me even more appreciative of the incredible opportunity to see them up close!
Q: How long does each trek last and do you actually get to see gorillas each time?
A: I was surprised to learn that treks only last one hour. But that's all it takes to have an unbelievable encounter. And only 8 tourists and their guide porters and trackers are allowed on each trip. It makes for a really intimate and up close experience.
Q: How close?
A: The guides want you to keep about 20 feet away but the gorillas are running, playing, eating… they don't care that you are there and so they get much closer than you expect!
Q: If I'm not the most physically active, will I be okay?
A: The actual hiking can be pretty physically challenging. The gorilla treks are broken up into easy, moderate and difficult groups and each morning we were given the choice to decide which one we wanted to go on. I did an easy and a moderate hike. We all hired porters to assist us, carry our bags and help us with the difficult terrain. Little known fact: If it's too challenging, the porters can actually carry you up the mountain!
Q: Is there anything else travelers should know before they go?
A: Plan this trip far in advance because permits are needed for your treks. Also, you need to carry cash for tips and the bills must be clean of rips or tears and printed no earlier than 2006. Hire porters, wear gloves and jeans when hiking and pack layers!
Q: Lastly, what's your favorite story from the trip?
A: During one of the treks, one group got in between a silverback gorilla and the rest of the troop. When they saw the gorilla, the group ran to get out of the way, but my partner James was the last one and the gorilla slapped him as he passed by! He wasn't hurt, but instead wouldn't stop touting that he "wrestled a gorilla!!" He still won't stop talking about it… just ask Rina Anoussi or Amy Glass!