Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Safari I 2020
May 2020 (5 days)
Dates22 May 2020 - 26 May 2020
Tour LeaderGregory de Klerk
Tour Size6 Participants & 1 Rockjumper Wildlife guide
Flight Cost (Approximate)Not Applicable
Spaces AvailableSpaces Available
Type of TourWildlife
Day 1: Arrival at Kigali Intl. Airport and transfer to Select Boutique Hotel
Following your arrival and luggage collection at Kigali International Airport, you will be met by your Rockjumper Wildlife tour leader and transferred to the Select Boutique Hotel for your overnight stay. Dinner tonight will provide an ideal opportunity for a more formal introduction and a discussion on the safari itinerary.
Day 2: Visit Genocide memorial and transfer to Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Following breakfast, we will visit the Genocide Memorial museum. This is a must visit monument to the 1994 genocide that occurred in Rwanda when an estimated 1,000,000 people were massacred. Not only will this visit answer any questions you may have regarding this dark period in Rwanda’s history, but also make you appreciate where this little country finds itself today.
After this we will enjoy a very scenic two-hour drive to the beautifully situated Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, located in Rwanda’s north-western province. The road winds through lush valleys and over mountain tops as we make our way to volcano country.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is situated further down the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000ft volcanoes that straddle the border region between Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On arrival at Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, we will be met with a refreshing welcome drink before we are shown to our beautifully situated cottage.
Tonight, over dinner we will further discuss the program and answer any questions you might have on the following morning’s Mountain Gorilla trek.
Day 3: Mountain Gorilla Trek – Volcanoes National Park
After a delicious 6am breakfast, we will take a short drive to the National Park headquarters where we will receive a quick briefing on our Gorilla trek. Hereafter, a short drive to the closest access point to the Gorilla family that we have been allocated. We will also hire a local porter who will carry your backpack and assist you on the trek itself. This is a great initiative to support the local community and these people prove themselves invaluable if your trek turns out longer than expected.
The scenic and refreshing hike is set at your own comfortable pace with plenty of stops and photo opportunities, our park guide will also share some of his knowledge and answer any questions you may have. Once we reach the armed trekkers, who guard each Gorilla family, we will abandon our porter, backpack, and walking stick.
Mountain Gorillas were first discovered in 1902 by Capt. Oscar von Beringe and therefore the scientific name, Gorilla beringei beringei. Unfortunately, 43 Mountain Gorillas were captured and killed in the twenty years that followed, all in the name in scientific research. In 1921 a young naturalist, Carl Ackley came to the Virunga eager to learn about gorillas to determine if killing them for museum dioramas was justified. Akeley led an expedition to Mt. Mikeno in the Virunga Mountains at the edge of the then Belgian Congo. At that time, gorillas were quite exotic, with very few even in zoos, and collecting such animals for educational museum exhibitions was not uncommon. Akeley himself killed four Mountain Gorillas and afterwards felt great remorse for his actions and ended up becoming one of the biggest advocates for the protection of the Mountain Gorillas and their habitat. Greatly influenced by Carl Akeley, King Albert l established the Albert National Park, since renamed to the Virunga National Park in 1925. This is the oldest National Park in Africa, followed by the Kruger National Park in South Africa, established in 1926. Mountain Gorillas do not survive in captivity and it is therefore of the upmost importance that their natural habitat is protected to ensure the survival of the Mountain Gorillas as a species.
Female Mountain Gorillas reach sexual maturity at the age of 8 years. After a gestation period of 9 months, a healthy Mountain Gorilla baby is born weighing in at half that of a human baby at only 3.3 pounds. This makes it hard to believe that a fully-grown Silverback can push the scales at over 500 pounds in its prime. For the first 2 years of their lives, the youngsters will hardly leave their mother’s side. Males aged 8 to 10 years are referred to as “Blackbacks” and only after 12 years of age the males start developing the silver/grey saddle across their backs. Hereafter they are referred to as Silverbacks. Group sizes vary from as few as 8 or 10 individuals to as many as 35 and more. These are highly intelligent creatures and this is evident in the way in which they communicate and go about their daily routine. The sheer size of these gentle giants is enough to make your heart skip a beat and at first, they appear to be intimidating, but once the youngsters begin their antics, nerves will give way to laughter. Years of habituation mean these animals show very little interest in their human spectators, especially the big Silverbacks.
Mountain Gorillas are found in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo only. Fortunately for the Mountain Gorillas, the governments of these three countries realized their value as a draw card for tourism to their individual countries. It is because of this value that extra measures were put in place to help protect the natural habitat of the Mountain Gorillas as well as that of the species itself. Their numbers have risen from a very concerning 250 individuals back in the mid-eighties, to the official figure of 890 today.
An initially perceived look of intimidation from the dominant Silverback soon turns into an incredible emotional connection. We will spend a magical hour with the family of gorillas until its time for us to reluctantly depart from their presence but fortunately we have another gorilla experiences still to look forward to.
Following this amazing morning with the gorillas, we will return to our lodge for lunch and to freshen up. Hereafter we will take to the vibrant markets in Ruhengeri town, with all the colorful fresh produce neatly laid out for purchase.
Day 4: Volcanoes National Park – Visit Dian Fossey grave or Golden Monkeys and transfer to Kigali
Option 1: Dian Fossey and Digit’s grave site.
After gathering at the park office this morning, we will make our way to the trailhead to commence our trek to the site where Dian Fossey lived for the 18 years she spent protecting and studying the Mountain Gorillas. This is a very picturesque walk, through tall moss draped trees and across beautiful streams.
In 1966, a young American woman, Dian Fossey, came to the Virungas after pleading with Dr. Louis Leakey for the position as the researcher who was to conduct an intensive study on the Mountain Gorillas. Turmoil and civil unrest in the DR Congo, then called Zaire, forced Dian to flee across the border into Rwanda. In 1967 she settled in Rwanda between the two volcanoes, Bisoke and Karisimbi from which she derived the name Karesoki, the name for her new home and research center.
Dian faced great resistance and difficulties in her efforts to ensure the survival of the Mountain Gorillas; poor living conditions, harsh climate; conflict with poachers and farmers and isolation from the outside world. But thanks largely to her fearless dedication, we are today privileged enough to trek the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes to view these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Dian was also responsible for the introduction of The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, now known as Gorilla Doctors. Dian was concerned that the species would not see the turn of the century and had therefor put in a request for a fulltime veterinarian, but she unfortunately never saw this dream materialize only 6 weeks after her death. Dian was brutally murdered in her house, where her body was discovered on Boxing Day in 1985. Until today, despite numerous speculations, the reason, and the person responsible for her death remains a mystery. She was buried next to her favorite Mountain Gorilla, the young Silverback, Digit.
Option 2: Golden Monkeys
This morning will be our final outing in this paradise and our focus will be on the smaller primates with whom the Mountain Gorillas share this beautiful forest. We will make an easy trek to find the adorable Golden Monkeys. These medium sized and very beautiful monkeys are generally found along the park periphery, enjoying the fresh bamboo shoots and therefore the treks are generally less strenuous than that of their much larger relatives.
As with the Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys are also highly range restricted, only being found in the Virunga Volcanoes and a small forest island called Gishwati. Their diet consists mostly of bamboo shoots and fruit, though they are also believed to feed on insects. These monkeys are very well habituated and will approach within a few feet of their human observers.
This afternoon is set aside for sightseeing. A one-hour drive through the countryside will take us to Twin Lakes where we can enjoy the breathtaking views over the lakes and the neatly cultivated farmlands below.
After our activity of choice, we will return to the lodge for lunch before we transfer back to Kigali for the night.
Day 5: Kigali and depart
This morning we will transfer to the nearby Kigali International Airport where this incredible tour comes to an end. From the team at Rockjumper Wildlife Tours, we thank you for your participation in this truly unforgettable tour and for choosing us as your preferred operator.
Please note, should your flight depart later, Rockjumper can assist you in booking a day-room.