Our guests - Judy and Mark of MouseTours Travels - share their experiences of meeting mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Most interesting read!
I can't really tell you why we decided to go see mountain gorillas. It was probably something we read or saw on TV that sparked our interest.
We love to travel... wildlife adventures or cultural adventures or anything. With our website at MouseTours Travels, we try to encourage everyone to travel... it helps wildlife when you visit, and it helps people understand one another.
But let me tell you about mountain gorillas... we were talking with one of our travel buddies one afternoon, and we all just decided it was something we really wanted to do.
At the time of our visit, groups of six were allowed to visit gorilla families once per day. The local guides kept track of where they had seen the gorillas last, and we started our treks in different locations depending on where the guides thought the gorillas would be found.
The first day of tracking, we saw, first hand, the degree of habitat loss in Rwanda... one of the big problems that threatens mountain gorillas. Volcanos National Park protects the rain forest on the tops of the Virunga Mountains, but the local farmers have cleared land for crops. The cultivation goes right up to the edge of the small protected area of rain forest that remains.
Stepping into that rain forest, we were in a different world.... a world of tangly vines and stinging nettle. We weren't walking on the ground but about 2-3 feet above it... on top of those vines... falling through every so often and stumbling along as the vines grabbed at our feet and ankles. It was really rough hiking. The gorillas hadn't moved too far, and our guides were good, so we found our assigned family in about an hour.
Once we had made contact, we had one hour to view the gorillas. There were females and teenagers feeding in the trees and bamboo all around us.... under the watchful eye of the silverback. The guides had named him Ndume... He sat and ate bamboo and watched us as well. We were close enough that we could observe the effects of another threat to gorillas.... snares set out by poachers. Ndume had lost a hand to a poachers snare. Fortunately for him, his wound had healed, and he was still strong enough to lead his family.
Ndume will always have a special place in my heart, not only because he was a survivor, but because he touched me..... emotionally, yes... but I mean he really touched me.
All of us were seated in a line on a hillside. He came right up to my friend Jamie and me.... He got to where our knees were touching, then he gently put a hand on both of our shoulders and pushed softly. We leaned apart for him, and he stepped right between us, his hips brushing our shoulders... whew, what a wonderful experience.
You're not supposed to make contact with gorillas, but Jamie and I will never forget that Ndume had different ideas.... that's why we call him Our Silverback Mountain Gorilla.
The second day, our hike was longer but we walked on a path through the forest and had no stinging nettle to deal with. We visited a larger family with several babies which were just so cute we could have watched them for hours and hours.
There are different ways to help endangered mountain gorillas. One way is to send donations to conservation groups. If you're up for a bit of adventure, another way is to visit them. Having tourists there helps to keep them safe, and the money you spend in the local economies gives the locals an incentive to help preserve the habitat and protect the gorillas. Eco-tourism seems to be the latest thing in travel... but it's something that we've always loved. If you'd like to read more about where we've traveled and read our travel tips, please visit our website MouseTours Travels.
Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it!
Judy and Mark