Up Close: Gorilla Trekking at Rwanda’s Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
What does it feel like to track gorillas in Rwanda’s incredible Volcanoes National Park? Here’s a very special look at AAC client Kathy Paraking’s notes from her Gorilla Safari journal written from the spectacular lodge location:
“Felecia arrived at 0515 with our coffee and hot chocolate and cookies; Sammie drove us to the park HQ where we were assigned the Hirwa gorilla family and we met our fellow trackers who seemed older and less fit than ourselves except for a lovely couple from Ireland. Our guide discussed the Hirwa family and what to expect on our visit. We then got back in our vehicles and went to the starting point. It was a 3-minute drive from the Sabyinyo. We all arrived and hired our porters who carried our packs and assisted us on the slippery trail.
As we headed up the trail we went through eucalyptus trees and field after field of potato plants in various stages of growth from just being put in the ground to flowering. There were cattle grazing and goats and sheep. People working the fields. We arrived at the park wall and were informed that the family was just 10 minutes ahead. We all needed assistance from the porters getting over as there was a 6 foot crevice that was 3 feet wide to traverse. The porters were great.
The four trackers, I think they should be called caretakers, were great at getting us all in good spots to see the gorillas and they frequently made low grunting sounds to communicate with them. We saw many juveniles, babies (those under 4) and females as well as the Silverback nicknamed Lucky. In the last few minutes of our hour, one of the females came over to sit by Lucky and several juveniles and babies with her own 2 week old. The baby was completely adorable. All the while there were gorillas walking around us getting within inches. One female climbed a bamboo tree and came crashing down. One of the babies tried to climb on Lucky but was unceremoniously pushed off. Lucky was initially lying down with a bundle of babies and juveniles and I did not recognize that he was there. When he lifted his massive arm to scratch himself I was shocked at its size. He did eventually sit up and he is a very big boy. I never at any time felt fear, only admiration and joy with several chuckles at the various behaviors like accidentally rolling down the hill.
Like everyone had told us, the hour was up all too quickly.”
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