4 March, 2014

News on the Sabyinyo Gorilla Family

Probably one of the shortest treks to the Gorillas that I have ever done. Quite fortunate though as the rain started falling around 3am that morning. To avoid the rain, we were all huddled together under the roof of the meeting point at the park office, receiving our briefing from the guides who would be conducting the Gorilla treks that morning. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, we listened very intently to all that the guides had to say. It's so easy to spot the first time trekkers, with expressions of overwhelming excitement and a hint of anxiety. 

Finally, the guides instructed the 8 of us to move to our vehicles and off we went. A twenty minute drive brought us to the starting point for our trek. Everyone was assigned a porter, given a walking stick and off we went. Not long into our trek, the first of several "how far still to the gorillas?", a question the guides hear all too often. Six hours was the reply from the guide which brought dead silence to the group. 

Ten minutes later we were at the park boundary where the guide gave us another quick talk on walking etiquette inside the National Park. The trackers radioed down, informing the guides that they have found the gorillas and that we should come up. Everyone, less talkative now was trying to control their breathing in preparation for the six hour trek to the Gorillas. 

Only twenty minutes later, we came across the trackers, much to the relief of many of the folks in our group. We took out our cameras and not too far from us, we could see and hear a rustle in the bamboo. We followed the guides into the bamboo forest. First off all, we came across Shirimpumu, a very boisterous Blackback, soon to turn Silverback and shortly after that we had both the old man, Guhonda and his second-in-charge Silverback, Gihishamwotsi make their way down a trail through the bamboo. Gihishamwotsi is showing off, with constant playful defensive postures. 

gorilla   Gorilla

Gorilla

Guhonda, not taking much notice of his antics continued down to where he settled for a nice bamboo breakfast. Above us, some of the youngsters were swinging between the bamboo clumps using vines hanging down from the bamboo canopy. With very little light for photography, most of the hour was spent just observing these incredible animals playing out their daily routine just meters in front of us. Still, even after so many treks, this is still an emotion that I can not put into words that would justify what is felt when with the Gorillas. 

Gorilla   gorilla

Gorilla

Privileged am I....

Photo and Text - Nelis Wolmarans, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Manager


A trek to see the Agashya Gorilla Family

10 February, 2014

5:15 AM

A knock on the door wakes me up and I get up to open the door. Peter my room steward comes in and places a tray of hot chocolate and some home-baked cookies on the coffee table. He cheerfully asks me how my night was and I give a sleepy mumble in response.

I quickly shower to wake me up and by 6AM I head down to reception where I am fitted with Gators, given gloves, a back pack and a simple snack along with several other guests. Some struggling more than others with the unfamiliar morning routine!

Once ready and checking I had my passport at hand, I popped into the dining room for breakfast. It is too early for me to eat so I force a piece of carrot & banana cake down with a couple of glasses of freshly squeezed juice and add a couple of boiled eggs and an extra piece of banana cake to my snack.

6:30 AM

Now feeling a little more awake I head down to the car park to see my driver Ken who whisks me off to the park HQ. 10 minutes later we are there and Ken requests the warden for me to see the Agashya family which I am fortunately allocated. I then mill about with the other trekkers and watch a colourful display of traditional dancing as I pour myself a final cup of coffee. Finally the groups have all been allocated and Ken leads to an area where my trekking group is congregating to be briefed by our guides Francois and Eugene. I have trekked with Eugene once before and know him to be a very good guide. This was going to be my first trek with Francois and I was looking forward to it.

After everyone had been introduced we were briefed about the Gorilla habitat, basic Gorilla behaviour and routines such as feeding, nesting, grooming and courtship and about the specific dynamics of the Agashya family group.

The Agashya family is made up of 23 Gorillas. Unlike all other families that tourists can see, Agashya has only one Silverback. There are 3 Black-Backs (these are sub-adult males), 7 Juvenile males, 7 Adult females, one sub-adult female (whom Agashya ‘stole’ from the Hirwa group) and 5 babies ranging in age from 8 months to 3 and a half years. We were informed that Agashya was very fortunate because he had 7 mature females to mate with (more than most Silverbacks have to themselves). As a result of this however, most of the sub-adult females leave the group. This is because they are low ranking females and will be denied mating rights to the Silverback by the other females who want as much attention from Agashya as they can get. Females are often also ‘stolen’ by other Gorillas. Agashya is a relatively easy target as he is the sole protector of his family with no other help from subordinate Silverbacks. The most recent loss was of two sub-adult females to a Silverback called Ruheni (or the ‘run-away’) who split from the Sabyinyo family years back and has since built a solid family from such skirmish raids on neighbouring families.

Agashya means ‘Special’ in Kinyarwanda, the national language. The group received this name after the way in which the Silverback called Agashya came to be the dominant and only Silverback in the group back in 2003. That year the last remaining Silverback of Group 13 died of disease, leaving no Silverback within the family to take over. As a result one of the Black-Backs took the role as leader for a couple of short months before Agashya (who had been roaming as an outcast young Silverback) happened upon the Group and seized his unique opportunity to lead his own group. Agashya easily over-powered the leading Black-Back who was no match in size or strength to himself, who quickly fled to become an outcast himself. Another black-back was blinded in one eye and ‘put in his place’. Agashya is also suspected of having killed 2 babies in the process so as to enable him to start mating with the mothers sooner. Subsequently Agashya grew bold and continued a rampage of skirmishes on all of the neighbouring Gorilla families to grow his own. Within two years he had gone from 3 mature females in the group to having 11. He now has a very large family and epitomizes successful, rags to riches story of Silverback Gorillas.

gorilla trekking rwanda

8:00 AM

Once we had been given the low-down, I jumped back in the car with Ken and we drove to the trekking site on the western foothills of Sabyinyo Mountain. On arrival 20 minutes later, I hired a porter and took a walking stick that was offered to me and we started the trek.

8:25 AM

This trek was by far the easiest (although not the shortest) I have done in several. The Agashya family were at this point in time not on a steep section of Sabyinyo Mountain which can be a gruelling trek. Instead we walked for 15 minutes on a very gradual and gentle path to the park boundary before we reached the wall of the park. The next 35 minutes was a very gentle and gradual ascent (roughly a 15 degree incline) through relatively small bamboo forest which is always a beautiful and surreal landscape to trek through. We then had to negotiate 10 minutes of steep climbing (roughly a 50 degree incline) still through bamboo, although now the bamboo was growing more densely and much taller and I began feeling slightly short of breath for the first time in the trek. The next half hour before we met the Tracker Team at the RV was more gradual once again with about a 30 degree incline and my breathing steadied once again.

9:55 AM

We met with the Tracker Team which indicated we were approximately 30 yards from the Gorillas now. This was mildly surprising because whilst we had been trekking for a respectable 1 and a half hours, the exertion levels had been minimal. So we went about our preparations and I was glad to see some dappled sunlight through the bamboo. I attached my 70-200mm lens and checked the flash was switched off before taking a couple of test shots. Satisfied I had a sip of water and we were then told to leave our bags and walking sticks behind with our porters and the rangers as our guides and took us forward to see the family which lay in a bushy clearing amidst the bamboo. As I stepped through the last section of bamboo I was thrilled to see most of the family sitting peacefully in close proximity to one another and relatively ideal conditions for non-flash photography. Just as that feeling was passing through me I was startled as I heard a cracking from the bamboo branches above me. I looked up to see a young Gorilla falling down to the ground on a bamboo branch to the side of me. The whole group of us were in awe as this small bundle of black fur rolled out of the bamboo and on to the ground and then casually sauntered off to be groomed by one of the females.

The proceeding hour was magical. Gorillas were all around us and it was hard to decide where to look and when. Most of the family were very subdued, relaxing, dozing, grooming and eating. However the 3 babies we saw were being much more active and playing constantly with each other and also rotting up some of the older Gorillas who were very tolerant. A couple of times, one particular Black-Back would throw a tantrum and come crashing through the bush screeching and knocking down branches as he came. When this happened a few other females and Balck-Backs would all get up on to their fours and start chanting a ‘ohu-ohu-oho-ohu’ seemingly trying to pacify the aggressive behaviour, which would be very short lived each time before the usual peace and serenity of the setting returned shortly after. Agashya barely blinked an eyelid to any of this commotion which was evidently common behaviour on behalf of the adolescent.

gorilla

gorillas

We moved once or twice when Agashya decided to tuck into a bamboo banquet. He is such a majestic and gentle creature, but there was no denying his strength when he would bend down a thick bamboo branch right over so that he could eat the succulent smaller leaves on the tops.

The hour passed too quickly, but I was very glad for the fact I had managed to get a handful of good pictures which is never easy. Of the 23 Gorillas in the family we had seen approximately 16, which was a good number. Once the hour was up we said goodbye and made our way back to the porters and tucked into our snacks before heading down to the car park and back to the lodge for lunch. I tipped the tracker team a small thank you, paid the porter and gave the guides a thank you.

It had been a great trek and Francois had provided entertainment throughout the trek stopping by Pyrethrum flower and explaining its use in manufacturing pesticide. He also showed us how Gorillas would eat young eucalyptus trees and demonstrated how they would eat plants like the thistle to provide them with up to 17 litres of water per day without having to drink.


January 2014

The Hirwa Gorilla Family

16 December, 2013

This was one of those treks where everything just falls into place and ends up being an absolutely amazing experience. The plan was to visit one of the closer families, but as is so often the case with a plan that involves wild free-roaming animals, nothing is set in stone and we ended up getting the opposite! Munyinya, the big Silverback and dominant male in this group decided to take his family further up the slopes and onto the ridge-line that joins Sabyinyo and Bisoke volcanoes. With it being the rainy season, the trek was muddy and slippery, which in turn gave everyone a good chuckle when someone else in the group lost their footing. I myself landed flat on my backside at least twice.

It took us one hour and fifty minutes to complete the 940ft climb to the gorillas. Spirits were high throughout the trek though. The age group varied from 38 to 70 years and everyone did remarkably well. Every so often you would here the "are we there yet?" or "and this was suppose to be the short hike?" and so often the guides response to these questions would be, "this is why they are called Mountain Gorillas". There was quite the sigh of relief when we reached the trackers.

The first 20 minutes of the hour with the Gorillas were in the thick bamboo forest and this makes it very hard to photograph these guys. I put the camera down and just enjoyed watching the little ones get up to all sorts of mischief. I have not laughed this much for quite some time. The little ones would play a game of King of the Hill and every time one of them make it to the top, he would stand upright and give us an all-mighty chest beat before getting flung off and replaced by another.

Once they moved out of the bamboo into the open, it was magic! The lighting was perfect for photography and I managed to get a few keepers. Munyinya grabbed one of the infants and started grooming the little one. What an enormous Silverback!!! Munyinya in my opinion has to be one of the biggest Silverbacks in all the families I have visited. His fingers are almost the same size as the infant's foot. Very characteristic of this Silverback is his tolerance of and love for his offspring. He is an amazing father. On several occasions I have seen him surrounded by babies with not a single mother in sight. The little ones will use him as a trampoline, jumping up and down on his back or pull his ears. The last time I tracked Hirwa, we watched the family cross a stream that came down in flood after a very heavy downpour. Kabatwa was pacing up and down the side of the stream holding both her twins in one arm. Munyinya saw this and went back to her, took the one infant and carried the little one across and then went back for the second one. Such a humbling and privileged sighting.

Our one hour came to an end and everyone left in absolute amazement. It is easy to understand why even the most experienced professional guides in Africa would class Mountain Gorilla trekking as the ultimate safari experience.

- Nelis Wolmarans

 


A trek to see the Agashya Gorilla Family

4 November, 2013

At 6am all the guests were down in the lodge for an amazing breakfast consisting of a hot and a cold buffet. Our guests were fitted with gators, a snack, back packs and gloves. At 6:30am we all took the 10min drive to the Park Headquarters where we were allocated our Gorilla families and guides. After a short but brief introduction, we jumped back in our vehicles and were off. Everyone's faces were filled with expressions of anxiousness and uncertainty but above all was that off uncontrollable excitement. The vehicles dropped us off at the closest point to our allocated Gorilla family. We were given the option of a porter each. Through porter work, these guys now have the opportunity to generate a legal income, far removed from a life where subsistence hunting was their only way of putting food on the table. By supporting them, we also help protect the forest and it's magnificent fauna and flora, which we have come to love and enjoy so much. After a 15 minute hike through the farm land, we reached the park boundary, a 76km stone wall erected to to demarcate the National Park from the farm land. This construction started in 2002 and stretches all the way from the Uganda/Rwanda border to the Democratic Republic of Congo/Rwanda border. Also erected to stop the buffalo from damaging the farmer's crops. A quick briefing on the do's and don't's in the forest and we were off to see the Gorillas.

Beautiful green lush surroundings helps you relax and forget about the uncertainties. A 150m fairly steep incline quickly pushed the breathing up and got our hearts racing. Our hike took us along the brim of a beautiful crater. Everyone stopped to have a quick peek into the crater floor and soon the steep uphill was forgotten. The nervous chatter seem to be dropping as everyone is putting a little more focus on breathing. One hour and thirty minutes later, we reached the Trackers. This is always a welcoming sight to most as this means that the Gorillas are now within a few steps. Cameras checked, a sip of water and off we go. No food or water from this point on! Now the excitement has reached a whole new level!!! A few nervous giggles were quickly turned into absolute silence when all off a sudden the loud chest-beating of the Dominant Silverback was heard. A narrow footpath opened up into a clearing and there he was, only 30ft in front of us, Agashya! His name means "special" in the local language. This family was not always this big in number. When Agashya took over, he went to other familes and collected females which he then introduced into this family, now 23 strong.

We reached this family as they started to move around, foraging. Feeding was definitely taking priority above all at this stage. With the short rainy season here, there are an abundance of young, fresh bamboo shoots. A favorite for gorillas and is probably seen as "the time of plenty". Our whole hour with the family, was spent following them through the forest. Two of the Blackbacks were less interested in filling their bellies and more so in testing their strength, roughing each other up. The strength of these animals are just insane, taking a bamboo with a diameter of 2 to 3 inches and just snapping it with no effort at all.

This family, previously known as Group 13, has lots of youngsters and this always makes for great fun watching them. Our 1 hour has come to an end and it was time for us to leave. Always too soon!

 

 


A trek to see the Susa Gorilla Family

5 September, 2013
Around 09:10am and at 8240ft above sea level we started our ascent to the 38 strong Susa family. The trek to this family is considered to be the hardest and longest of all the families viewed by tourists. Two sets of twins, many small babies and juveniles, 9 adult females and 3 Silverbacks makes this a very sort after family. One hour and twenty minutes later after a 1200ft steep ascent, we reached the park boundary. After a short briefing from our guide, Vincent, we entered the park in search of this amazing family. At around 10000ft we came across the armed trekkers who spend all daylight hours guarding this family.

Everyone checked their cameras and had a quick snack and a sip of water before we made the final few 100ft to the Gorillas. What a sight!!! Babies everywhere, with moms and Silverbacks keeping a close eye on the little ones as they, very much like human babies, have the ability to find trouble and risk injury in the safest places. They were hanging of thin vines, performing acrobatic maneuvers on the smallest branches and overlooking a steep drop into the ravine below. Every mother's worst nightmare!!! The youngest of the two sets of twins, were staying close to their mother's side and looking very healthy. I was very privileged to photograph the 2 week old newcomer when it climbed over it's mother's back to get a better look at it's human spectators. From our right came one of the smaller babies standing upright on it's mom's back, as she moved through the undergrowth. A real little showman! This little guy had us all in hysterics.

Some of the Silverbacks showed scares from a recent altercation with the Pablo Family. The Pablo family is the biggest family in the Volcanoes NP and probably in the whole of the Virungas. There are 48 members in this family and is one of the 9 research families found here in Rwanda.

As every other time, the voice from the head guide announces "5 minutes left, please take your last photos". Hate hearing that but fully understand the importance of not overstaying our time with the Gorillas. We started our descent back to the vehicles. On arrival, each trekker was presented with a certificate with their name and the name of the Gorilla family visited! 

A perfect morning spent up in the Volcanoes NP amongst these magnificent creatures! I do remember thinking when sitting amongst the Gorillas, that life just does not get any better than this!!!


August 2013

 A trek to see the Sabyinyo Gorilla Family 

From where we crossed the Park boundary, we trekked for about an hour and twenty minutes before we reached the trackers who has been sitting with the Sabyinyo Family since very early that morning. We found the 16 strong family with majority of the group still in their nests where they settled the night before. Some of the youngsters were playing about while the adults were finding the strength to remove themselves from their warm beds. Sounds a lot like us humans, doesn't it?

 After about 10 minutes, GUHONDA finally lifted his head and starred at all the onlookers before giving a grunting OK for us to be there.

Shortly after that we were surprised by new Mom, KAREMA, showing off her 10 day old baby. Everyone huddled to one side to get a glimpse of the little one. The tiny pink face was only in view for about 10 seconds before it was carried off into the thick underbrush. What an amazing feeling it was to see such a tiny little baby in a species that has seen the brink of extinction. Dian Fossey herself believed that the Mountain Gorillas of the Virungas would not see the turn of the century, but thanks to her efforts and the awareness she created towards this amazing species, I was able to now stand in the home of the Mountain Gorillas and witness this incredible sight.

The rest of the family started moving around while feeding on the lush green vegetation. Guhonda waited around for a few more minutes before he too got up and started feeding. We followed the family as they went about their day. A little ways off we came across GIHISHAMWOTSI, the second in charge Silverback. He carried a few minor bite wounds, most probably from a fight with Guhonda. The dominant Silverbacks in a family don't take kindly to their subordinates breaking rank. Gorillas heal remarkably well though. They would self-heal from wounds that would have us humans hospitalised in intensive care or even worse.

All too soon our 1 hour came to an end and we were given the command to pls take our last pictures as it was time to leave the Gorillas.


 

May 2013

Gorilla Groups - Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans in the Virunga Mountains), Rwanda

Sabyinyo Group: (13 members)
Historically this group is the easiest to trek. It is lead by 'Guhonda' who is the heaviest silverback in the area. Guhonda is not so easy going and has been known to charge but he is just bluffing.

Susa Group: (30 members)
Four silverbacks, and is led by one named 'Kurira'. The group is also known for having a set of twins, which is a very rare occurrence .

Amahoro Group: (18 members)
Amahoro means "peaceful group". This group has split into Amahoro the Umubano Group. The group currently numbers 17. Its silverback, 'Ubumwe', is so peaceful and calm that he has lost group members to 'Charles' of the Umubano Group.

Agashya Group (formerly known as 'Group 13'): (25 members) This group got its name because there were only 13 members when they were first habituated, there are currently 21. Its silverback, 'Agashya', is very easy going making this group a favorite wi th the trackers.

Umubano Group: (13 members)
This is led by 'Charles' who was formerly part of the Amahoro group. As Charles matured, he could not stand being given orders and challenged Ubumwe.

Kwitonda Group: (21 members)
This group has migrated from DR Congo and numbers 16 with one silverback. Since this group is relatively new, not much is known about them. Typically, trekking can be of moderate difficulty.

Kwitonda Group: (21 members)
This group has migrated from DR Congo and numbers 16 with one silverback. Since this group is relatively new, not much is known about them. Typically, trekking can be of moderate difficulty.

Hirwa Group: (16 members)
This group has recently emerged from different habituated famili es. The group consists of nine members with one silverback. In June 2006, trackers witness - ed the group's formation. Gorilla transfers from Group 13 and Sabyinyo joined the very small Hirwa group. Then other gorillas joined.

Karisimbi Group: (15 members)
The Karisimbi Group is better suited to visits for more serious hikers.
It appears that they have established their home range high up on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera. Thus, a visit to this group may well end up as a
full-days trek.

 
 

 


 

Rwanda News - May 2013

Gorilla News

We are well into our wet season and have measured an amazing 415mm (16.5 inches) of rain for March and still have April and May ahead of us. Very exciting news is the birth of 2 new babies, one from Isabukuru (research family) and the other from our very own Sabyinyo family bringing their family to 16 individuals. Herewith a few photos of Sabyinyo's newcomer kindly given to us by one of our guests, Kim Williams, who saw this little one the morning after it's birth. T hese little ones are born after a gestation period of 9 months and are fully dependent on their mother's care and will seldom leave her sight for the first two and a half years of their lives. They are born at roughly half the weight of a human baby at onl y one and a half kilograms.

 


 

Rwanda News - April 2013

Gorilla News

March 11, 2013
This last week has brought us the most amazing weather, slightly cool but dry. The Gorilla treks have been quite varied, some long tough treks and some short ones, with treks to the same gorilla fa milies varying day by day. On some days guests have returned as early as 11:30am and others as late as 15:30. Nevertheless, everyone returned to Sabyinyo in absolute disbelief of what they have experienced up in the forest with the Gorillas. "Life changing experience" still the phrase of the day! Most visited families of late, Sabyinyo, Hirwa, Agashya, Kwitonda and Umubano.
Equally fascinating and exciting are their much smaller neighbours, the Golden Monkeys! Same as with the Mountain Gorillas, the Golden Monkeys are also unique to this region and found nowhere else. I went to go see them with two of our very recent guests, and boy were these little guys active!!! Not the easiest to photograph, though I managed to get in a few lucky shots.
Photos courtesy Nelis Wolmarans

 


 

At present, we have only two habituated families in the Volcanoes National Park here in Rwanda. The first is a family close to the Susa Gorilla family, quite a distance from the park office and therefore very seldom visited by gue sts. The second and biggest family, almost 140 strong, is situated in the National Park, right behind Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge and therefore a much shorter trek. Hopefully within the next few months, a third family will be introduced for tourism. The Nati onal Park staff are very hard at work, habituating the third family. From the point where we left the vehicles, we walked for approximately 25 minutes to the Park boundary and then only 10 minutes from the boundary wall to the Monkeys. I don't think these guys sit still for more than 2 seconds at a time which made photographing them quite challenging, but a lot of fun non the less! Little caffeine junkies would be a pretty accurate description. They are very well habituated though and often come within 3 to 4 feet from the guests.

 

With an average body mass of only 6 to 7 kilograms, they move through the thick bamboo canopy at lightening speed. The forest canopy also protects them to their only natural predator, the Crowned Eagle. The young are born after a short gestation period of only 5 months, little over half that of the Mountain Gorillas at 9 months, and are born with a thick coat and with their eyes open. The mothers are very caring and protective of their young. Nursing will last for up to 2 years an d stopped when a new baby is born. Another must see here in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

 

The good weather mentioned earlier has also provided us with even more dramatic sunsets and sunrises. Here are a few taken from the Lodge verandah and close -by.

 

Photos courtesy Nelis Wolmarans

 

Photos and text courtesy of Nelis Wolmarans

 

 


 

Rwanda News - March 2013

Gorilla News

It is now 06:30 in the morning and the last guests just left for their Gorilla treks. I enjoy seeing the anticipation and excitement on the guests' faces. Every so often you have to nudge the clients into the dining room for breakfast, away from the awesome view from the front veranda, to ensure they get to their treks on time. The cloud formations surrounding the volcanoes have been absolutely amazing.

The length of the treks have been varying quite a bit, w hich is normal for this time of the year. Gorillas don't take in much surface water, and are therefore more so reliant on the moisture content in the plants they feed on and in the drier months of the year the families travel quite a bit more, searching fo r a better food source. The most frequently visited families lately are Agashya, Hirwa, Umubano, Amahoro, Kwitonda and quite recently Sabyinyo again. Susa family has moved much higher up the slopes of Karisimbi and has not seen tourists for about 3 weeks n ow. Hopefully the rains in March and April will bring them lower down when the young bamboo shoots appear along the park's periphery.

Sabyinyo's 2nd in charge Silverback has really developed in size over the last 2 months and will probably take over from Guhonda (now 41 years old) in the not so distant future. The old man has not lost it yet though. I saw him mating with one of the females about 2 months ago, so hopefully in about 7 months from now Guhonda will surprise us with yet another additio n to the Sabyinyo Family.

 




 

 

Rwanda News - February 2013

Gorilla News

24 January, 2013
It seems old man Guhonda the Silverback Male in charge of the Sabyinyo family had another surprise for us. At the very ripe age of 41, he has fathered yet another youngster! The newcomer is ju st under a month old and looking very healthy.
Clients that went trekking yesterday had awesome experiences in Kwitonda, Umubano and Agashya families.

 

 


 

February 2013

Flying Safaris in Uganda and Rwanda!

We are delighted to advise you that there are new scheduled flights within Uganda and Rwanda that are making the magnificent mountain gorillas more accessible than ever before!

In Uganda, AeroLink has launched new scheduled flights within the country , drastically cutting the travel time of guests travelling between Kampala and the lodges and greatly improving the experience as well!

Coastal Aviation and Fly Uganda have teamed up to operate daily f lights between Kilimanjaro, Manyara, the Serengeti and Entebbe, linking from there to Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi and Kidepo.

In Rwanda, Coastal Aviation now offers a connection between Rwanda and the savannah plains of Kenya and Tanzania! Coastal connects daily from the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara to Mwanza.

Contact us for more information.

 


 

Rwanda News - January 2013

 

Gorilla News


Trekking Amahoro Family about a week ago found them in a mini crater, on the north western slope of Bisoke Volcano. As the night before was cold and rainy, we found majority of the family still tucked in their nests. Shortly thereafter they started moving around foraging. The one and a half month old baby, clinging onto mom's back found us very intriguing, not taking its eyes off us for even one second.

We started following the family as they moved further and further from where they nest the night before. First up a steep slope and then into a very thick bamboo forest. Not long before we found ourselves surrounded by gorillas, coming from all directions, brushing past us as they seek out the fresh bamboo shoots. Undeterred by our presence, they would on occasions brush right up against the guests on the narrow trails made by buffalo that also frequent this part of the forest. On one such an occasion the female carrying the youngest infant on her back brushed pa st me with the little one's head turned to the side starring at me. Even at this young age they are very inquisitive and as they pass me, the youngster reached out with it's left arm and brushed his finger tips against my legs and then gently pulled his ar m back in grabbing onto his mother's fur while still looking me in the eyes. Another very special moment that I will carry with me for a very very long time to come.
My 3rd visit to Sabyinyo Family also came with it's own excitement. After trekking for ab out 45 minutes we came upon the trekkers from DFGFI (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International). This is always an exciting event as you know from there the Gorillas are no more than 2 or 3 minutes away. Then, from a small ledge above us, appears Guhonda, the oldest and largest of the Silverbacks in Volcanos National Park and also the dominant Silverback of Sabyinyo Family.
His grand entrance was followed by a number of OMG's and OOOH's and AAAH's. What a fine specimen he is! One of our recent clients, Frede rick Gannett sparked the interest of a very big and boisterous Blackback who initially sat quite a ways off observing us.
He then got up and slowly made his way across and started shadowing Fred's every move, planting himself no more than arms length from Fred at all times. Not sure what sparked the interest ( might be the grey beard Fred), but I am sure this too is a memory Fred will carry with him for quite some time to come.

Prior to that, our Guide, the famous Francois had a stand -off with this particular Blackback. My initial thought was, ouch, this was going to hurt and I am talking from experience. After a few vocal exchanges between Francois and the Blackback they reached an understanding and parted. With 31 years of experience with the Mountain Gorillas and 5 years of that working under Dian Fossey herself, I now see the bond Francois has developed with these magnificent creatures. To Francois, this is more than a monthly salary, this is a passion. Your Blackbacks often cause excitement on the tr eks as they have now reached an age where they feel the need to prove their strength and more so their standing within the family.

 

To anyone who has ever thought about Mountain Gorilla trekking or who is looking for an incredible, life changing experie nce, I urge you, stop thinking about it and get here as this is still the ULTIMATE WILDLIFE SAFARI!