Preparing a Group for Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda's PNV
Behind the scenes of Gorilla tracking in Rwanda's PNV
Uganda & Rwanda Expert
02 Apr 2018
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Savouring a freshly percolated coffee, I watched the morning mists slowly lifting off the valley below, with the magnificent Virunga volcanoes looming in the backdrop. It was time to meet my group over breakfast and ensure that they were fully prepared for today's activity - Gorilla tracking in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. Reminding everyone to dress in long trousers, bring rain jackets, wear thin layers and to bring their brimmed hat, cameras, lenses, video cameras, and money for souvenirs and tips, we gathered to depart to the park HQ.
A 15-minute drive down a rubble 'road' passing waving children and simple mud and mubati iron huts, had us at the main road. Half an hour later with volcano views throughout the journey, we arrived at the vehicle parking lot. While the participants enjoyed watching the Intore Dancers and consuming a complementary cup of tea provided by the park authorities, I finalised their paperwork and met with the rangers and guides to discuss the possible locations and nesting sites of the Gorilla groups.
My aim was to select a Gorilla group corresponding with the number of participants in my group. I agreed with Sarah, our head ranger for the day, that the participants would track the Agashya Gorilla family. The Agashya (which means 'special') family originally only had 13 members, at which time it was referred to as the '13 Group'. Subsequently however, they thrived, increasing to over 25 family members, but interestingly the group has only one Silverback. Mostly frequenting the foothills of Mt Sabyinyo and Mt Gahinga, the Agashya Gorilla family is considered as one of the easier gorilla groups to track for most visitors. However, when they do move up to higher elevations, tracking them can mean more effort is required.
It was Sarah’s turn to impart her knowledge to the rest of the group. She talked about the background of the Agashya Gorilla family, describing each individual Gorilla, and pointing out their unique individual characteristics and even their personality traits. She went through the park rules and regulations; the do’s and the don’ts. Before long, it was time to head off - but not before a final check to see who needed walking poles, and who wanted porters to carry their day-packs. Porters are invariably men who had previously been poachers in the forests and who used the bushmeat to feed their families, or, to sell in order to earn money for food, medical bills, or school fees for their children or for extended family members. By enlisting the services of a porter, guests decrease the load they have to carry while tracking Gorillas. Additionally, they help the resident communities to earn income.
A final farewell to my group and off they went into the Virungas for their golden hour among the Mountain gorillas, accompanied by Sarah and a team of trackers and porters. They were in for an awe-inspiring and absolutely unforgettable experience.
While my charges enjoyed what is undeniably one of the most impressive wildlife experiences to be had anywhere on Earth, I set about touching base with management of the carefully selected properties we use for our guests. Its essential to check that health and safety guidelines are being adhered to and I thoroughly enjoy building relationships with our partners in host countries.