Rwanda: Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Our first couple of weeks in Africa were jammed packed as we had scheduled safaris for the whole time. (If I were to do it again I would have planned an extra couple days in Rwanda and an extra day after we arrived in case we had been delayed.) Thankfully we arrived a little delayed but able to get up the next morning to go gorilla trekking.
We got up and headed to the ranger station to get the details of the day. The National park has a system in place that limits the amount of contact the gorillas have with people to avoid altering their natural habitat too much. They only allow 10 families to be visited, and each family can only be visited once a day for an hour by a group of no more than 8 people. Thus we were partnered up with a family from New York. As there are only 10 families that can be visited each has a name and the group we visited the first day was the Hirwa group.  We were told that Hirwa means lucky and was named after the lead silverback male. The name was given because he left his original group after fighting with the lead male and losing  he then crossed two mountains in the process picking up a couple of females and kicking out another silverback from his territory to make his own group. The guide explained to us that this is uncommon and as such they named him lucky. After giving us the run down of the group members and ages we were told we would start hiking. The hiking was down by following our guide who was in radio contact with the trackers and rangers who had already gone ahead to search out the group. By doing so we were able to have a more direct route to the gorillas. The name lucky seemed fitting as we walked about 30min. when we came across them. I had my doubts as to how legit this was at first as it seemed a little too easy, I wondered if they had forced them down or fed them. These doubts were later put to rest as we met another couple staying at our hotel who had to hike for 6 1/2 hours before they saw their gorillas. So we indeed, just got lucky. I’ll explain the rest via pictures.

Close up of the Silverback.

The family picture with all the names.

Caitlin posing with the Gorillas. We were able to get extremely close, then had to get out of the way whenever they changed directions.
They were eating the sap from the trees. The guide explained that this gave them some nutrients.

Big Silverback going to town on that tree.

A little guy climbing the rock wall. He fell off of, shortly after I took the picture, not the most graceful guy.
Caitlin seemingly unaware of the gorillas up ahead. We had to point them out to her.

The gorillas hanging out in the forest, I could have hung out with them all day.
Our guides getting us ready to see the gorillas.

Big silverback. This is Hirwa.

Breaking the tree bark off, so as to get at the sap.
Getting out of the way and trying to take a picture way too close with way too much zoom.

Baby gorilla hanging out.

The little guy getting a lift.

The trees all looked like this after they had gone through.

This little guy letting his mom do all the work.

She almost looks angry at the gods in this post.

Little guy pulling the tree down to get better access to the bark.

As they are herbivores they eat all types of leaves and this guy decided this hard to reach one was the best.

Munching on more sap.

The silverback hanging out.
Already put this some of these on Facebook but for those who missed them, here they are again.

Obviously I took a lot of pictures during the day.

Hirwa checking us out.

Our guides and trackers.

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