The mountain gorillas in Rwanda are a success story. Their numbers are increasing (720 in the world, 480 are in Rwanda), poaching has diminished, and the local people are reaping the benefits of tourism.
There are 16 groups in Rwanda- eight are for tourists to view, 8 are off limits to tourists and are used to study their behavior.
Our guide Francois was a porter for Dian Fossey and as such has extensive gorilla knowledge. Francois is showing us the noises he makes to calm the silverback in our presence. In the video he describes the sounds the silverback makes to give you an indication of his mood.
During our actual encounter with the gorillas Francois and his assistant made these friendly and comforting sounds constantly.
Once you watch Francois in the video below this picture you will swear he is the silverback!
This short video shows us part way up our trek, where our guide, Francois, gives us a demo of the gorilla sounds he will be making to keep the silverback calm in our presence. He then makes one of the guests mimic him, as if it is two silverbacks talking. The rest of the video shows how close we got to the gorillas. Francois instructed us in proper gorilla behavior in the presence of the silverback. We learned you are to stay 21feet (7 meters) away from them. Looks a little less than 7 meters to me in this photo.
Watch the silverback go right past me as Francois implores me to move out of the way. In the beginning you can hear Francois making his gorilla sounds. As the silverback gets near me (I was busy filming through my point and shoot camera and not really paying much attention) Francois says “move, move”
When it comes to primates it’s all about the eyes, especially for an animal that is so closely related to us. This is a silverback gorilla on the first day of our trek.
I love their hands also because they are so human-like
The scenery in Rwanda is lush and beautiful. This is the view from our hotel. The gorillas are at the base of those mountains.
Theo was our guide for the trip. His professionalism was a huge part of making this trip successful, especially when he bartered the purchase of fruit for us!
The Rwandans are warm and friendly towards tourists. Our hotel had a “welcome” dance for us by some cute kids.
Almost everywhere you go in Rwanda people come to greet you, especially the children. This gives you a feel of why the wildlife are being pushed out by the burgeoning people needing land to feed themselves.
They carry everything on their heads. This rock weighs over 70 pounds.
Rwanda is a mountanous country with a dependence on agriculture
All groups meet at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters for instructions and guide
assignments. The maximum number of people in each individual group is 8.
The mountain gorillas were identified here in 1902
Our head guide Francois and his assistant are showing us which group we will be visiting. They know each individual gorilla and its social standing in the group. Click on this picture to hear a 5 minute detailed introduction to the gorillas by Francois’ assistant. He has an accent so you have to concentrate on what he is saying.
After this introduction Dominic and Francois do their best gorilla
imitation to show the silverback who is the boss
In the recent past some groups had to walk for the better part of the day to find the gorillas.
Can you guess what we are hiking through?
Francois is in the back, a porter carrying our backpacks is in front of him, and at the very front is a ranger with an AK-47. His primary role is to scare away the occasional cape buffalo that roams the area.
We enter the thick vegetation at the base of the mountain to find the trackers. The two men on the right are our porters, the two in the center are the trackers that keep continual watch on the gorillas, and Francois is on the left.
Francois giving us final instructions before we meet our distant cousins. Click
on the photo to hear several minutes of it. In the beginning he talks about a wall to help keep the cape buffalo and elephant away from the potato crops.
We leave everything but cameras and follow our guides as they machete through
the thick jungle
The gorillas seem to appear out of nowhere because they are well hidden and you are
concentrating on your footing in the jungle. This was our first encounter.
This little guy came closer and proceeded to feed right in front of us
Guess who was keeping an eye on us as we watched this youngster?
Its easy to see why he is called a silverback
This is the silverback that walked right past me in the video above
This is the group for our 2nd day with them
This silverback in this group weighs 440 pounds
During our trip we found out that a female gorilla had twins on February 3rd.
On our second day we were looking at the mother of these twins as she was hiding from us
We slowly got closer to her to try and get a glimpse of her babies. She stayed behind the leaves most of the time.
As she felt more comfortable with our presence we got to see them
Many females in the troop had babies
They were as curious about us as we were about them
The youngsters spent lots of time frolicking
Sometimes they play with the silverback (this is the 440 pounder from above)
The youngsters seem to have no fear of people and come up so close that Francois has to remind you to back away. Notice how this gorilla’s left eye deviates?