FC: Rwanda March 1-5, 2012
1: I took the Rwanda extension with two other people from the Tanzania tour - Brenda and Cathy. We stayed in Kigali, the capitol of Rwanda, on our first night. The next day, our guides Florence and Bosco drove us 2 1/2 hours to the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes. This chain of volcanoes stretches through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We stayed at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for three wonderful nights. We had breathtaking views of the volcanoes to the north of the lodge and the beautiful countryside to the south. We walked out of our cottages, looked to the left and saw the unmistakable Mount Sabyinyo. Mount Sabyinyo is known as the "teeth of an old man" because of its serrated summit, which marks the intersection of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
7: On March 3, 2012 we made out first mountain gorilla trek to see the Bwenge group. Brenda, Cathy and I were the only trekkers in our group since porters had to carry Brenda on a stretcher because her ankle was so swollen. We had to hike straight uphill though farmland to get to the Buffalo wall which separates the farmland from the forest. Our guide, Fidele, was wonderful and stopped as we needed. It took us at least an hour and a half just to get to the Buffalo wall
9: We hired porters from the local community to carry our bags and help us as we made our way up the hills and through the forest. My porter on the first trek was a woman named Bobbie. Local residents take turns being porters and by hiring them, we help to support the local community.
10: Once we made our way over the Buffalo wall and into the forest, we hiked another 45 minutes or so to find the gorilla group. Trackers monitor the habituated groups during daylight hours and report the gorilla whereabouts to the guides. The trackers observe interactions between gorillas and monitor the health of the gorillas, as well as destroy any snares and traps that poachers might have set. Every six months they rotate to a different gorilla group in Volcanoes National Park.
12: This was a map on the wall at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. It gives a general view of the Volcanoes as well as the areas where some of the gorillas groups may be found. I believe that our first trek was on Mount Bisoke and the second trek was on Mount Sabyinyo.
13: This is the Bwenge group family tree. Bwenge was the only silverback in the group of ten gorillas. The group also included 32 year old Maggie, who is one of three remaining gorillas that was studied by Dian Fossey. **Many thanks to Molly Feltner, who was the Communications Officer for the Gorilla Doctors non-profit organization. She took the time to identify the gorillas as best she could from the photos that I took on both treks.
15: Bwenge - 22 year old silverback Maggie - 32 year old matriarch Faida - 11 years old
16: Susukura, Faida's daughter, was the youngest in the group. She was about 9 months old when these photos were taken.
17: One and a half year olds Gasore, Maggie's son, and Ubuhamya were the other young gorillas who were playing in full view right in front of me. What a thrill.
22: This was the last photo that I took of the Bwenge family. As I walked by Susukura, she looked right at me. It would have been the perfect photo but instead it is the perfect image forever etched in my mind.
23: This is the Kwitonda family tree. This was the second gorilla group that we trekked to. Although the hike to the Buffalo wall was not nearly as long and steep as our first trek, it took us at least an hour and a half to get to the gorillas. It was raining and thundering as we trekked through the mud and heavy vegetation until we finally arrived to observe the group.
24: The Kwitonda group was the second largest group of habituated gorillas with twenty three gorillas. There were four silverbacks in the group but we only saw two - Akarevuro and Kigoma. | We only saw a third of the group but it was very hard to change positions without slipping. We were also concerned about getting the cameras wet, but I brought plastic sleeves to cover my cameras and was able to take some photos and video
25: As you can see, there wasn't a lot of activity in this group because of the rain, but I still enjoyed watching the gorillas. Both humans and gorillas were wet and cold, and unfortunately the majority of the group voted to leave ten minutes before our hour was up.
28: The yawn of a silverback
29: The yawn of an infant
30: This was another magical time spent with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. What an amazing experience.
31: As we made our way down the mountain and into the farmland, we were greeted by local children who were singing and dancing.
32: Rwandan women making beautiful baskets
33: These photos and the ones on the following pages are from our 2 1/2 hour drive back to the Rwandan capital of Kigali.