Gorillas, Monkeys and More: "Rwanda, You Totally Amazed Me!"

Susan Chappell

21 Oct 2019

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NWS client Susan's journey gorilla tracking in Rwanda, an experience she will "never forget"

Friends and family worrying about my safety could not understand why I would want to travel to Rwanda as a lone female traveller; however, they could not have been more wrong. Rwanda was a total surprise, the cleanest country I have ever visited and the people were very friendly and welcoming.

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I arrived late Saturday evening on the KLM direct flight from Amsterdam. That evening I stayed at the Kigali Serena Hotel before my trip to Volcanoes National Park to track the gorillas.

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The following morning my guide took me on a tour around the city. My overall impression was disbelief at how clean the city was. After going through a horrific time during the genocide, construction is in progress and they are looking forward to a bright future. The Kigali Genocide Centre is a must-visit. It is very moving and gives a good insight into the past and how the country wishes to progress. Afterwards we had a 3-hour drive to the national park and arrived at my lodge, The Five Volcanoes. The scenery on the way was breathtaking, and the country lives up to its name: Rwanda, ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’!

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An early start the next morning for my first gorilla-tracking expedition. We were going to see the Muhoza gorilla family. After four hours of walking, we eventually found the group. The silverback had originally stolen a couple of wives from another group and was having to move on as they were catching up with him! My first visit to the gorillas was beyond my expectations as we got so close to these wonderful animals. The young 4-year-old was being so cheeky with the silverback! Later in the afternoon, myself and another guest visited the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. It was so interesting to hear how they look after injured gorillas and learn about their hopes for the future.

The next day required another early start as I did the Dian Fossey Walk to her original camp and grave. It was a long hike uphill but we were lucky with the sunny weather. The camp is now only ruins but it was interesting to see how it had been set up, and very moving to see her grave next to the graves of her much-loved gorillas, especially ‘DIGIT’. Only a few of us did this hike, but it made you think how hard it must have been to live up there when she first started her gorilla project.

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By this point I was getting used to the early starts and I was ready for my second day of gorilla tracking. We were off to see the Isimbi Group, a larger group than before, with plenty of playful youngsters. This was a trek and a half! One of our group decided after half an hour that he could not walk any further and the porters made a stretcher for him, out of bamboo shoots and a couple of towels. Not only were they carrying him, but also hacking through vegetation, stinging nettles and bamboo for nearly five hours before we found the group.

They were worth waiting for! The mum was feeding two babies and the youngsters were playing as acrobats on the bamboo shoots, while the silverback was having a good snooze. Just as our hour was finished with the gorillas, thunder and lightning started. It was a rather wet walk back, sometimes on hands and knees as our porters hacked through the vegetation. Eventually we got back to our transport at 4:30pm, but all of us said it was worth the effort and an experience we would never forget.

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My last day featured an easy hike to see the golden monkeys. They were high in the trees but after about 20 minutes they got used to us being around and came down to ground level, giving us great viewing. Their colour was beautiful and their facial expressions were so funny!

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Sadly, that was my last hike, but what a wonderful time I had. Hospitality at The Five Volcanoes was excellent, with staff greeting you on your return from the treks with a welcome drink, and then cleaning those muddy walking boots for you. Rwanda, you totally amazed me!

Talk to one of our specialists for further details on travelling to Rwanda.

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