Yesterday, we kicked off Volcanoes Safaris Week on the Black Blog of Travel with some travel Necessities for the best gorilla safari in Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Marta from Volcanoes Safaris, tells about her gorilla trekking day in Rwanda.
by Marta Barberini
Virunga Lodge at Volcanoes Safaris
I'm half asleep but I graciously try to get out of bed (failing three times before succeeding), open the door and welcome the sweetest guy in Virunga Lodge, Jon D’Amour. He has an aromatic smelling hot coffee and a couple of cookies which is exactly what I need to start what's going to be a phenomenal day of gorilla tracking!The sunrise from the lodge is stunning and after a few minutes of contemplation, a feeling of complete zen comes over me. I have a quick breakfast and meet the rest of the crew. I'm ready for this adventure.
The first stop is the park headquarters where everybody gathers to be assigned to a specific gorilla group. This turns into an unexpected bargaining process for the easiest or cutest or biggest gorilla group. I feel like I'm back at the Chatuchack market in Bangkok or in the middle of the Djemma el Fna in Marrakesh – it’s absolutely chaos. I don’t have a particular gorilla group preference but I do know who I want as a guide: Francois. Francois is the super star of Parc National Des Volcans. He has been there for over 3 decades and he worked closely with Dian Fossey before she was killed.
After much debate, I finally find out I will be tracking the Umubano Gorilla Group and a gentle looking guide approaches and says, “Hello, my name is Francois.” I couldn't control my excitement. “You are the FAMOUS one!” I managed to scream in front of everyone before realising what came out of my mouth. He politely smiles (although he does look a bit scared) and begins to brief us on the day's tracking. By now, I've got the energy of Wonder Woman! Give me a cloak and I’ll fly!
After the briefing, we jump in the car and drive to the tracking start point. Francois lives up to his reputation guiding us along the trail while eating eucalyptus leaves and making unbelievably real gorilla sounds. After walking through farmland for about 30 minutes we arrive at the jungle. As far as I can see, the nice, easy trail is gone. What’s left are just bushes and dense vegetation. I now realise the role of walking sticks and that of the guy with the giant machete (who's purpose I was beginning to become suspicious of). We finally get to the gorillas and everything becomes suddenly quiet and mystic. At least it was quiet until the silverback of the group decides it’s time to show his presence and suddenly charges our ranger. I felt like I lost 5 years of my life! But I got them back just moments later when I realise that all the gorillas, including a one-month-old baby, are gathering in one spot to play. They had implicitly accepted our presence. We all forget our worries, cameras and tiredness and just enjoy what we will all remember as a once in a lifetime experience.