A visit with wild gorillas in their natural habitat. About 1,063 wild mountain gorillas remain in the world, and Bwindi is home to about 459 a population that is growing, but still threatened by the increasing human population in the surrounding communities.
The gorilla safari includes two chances to spend time among the gorillas, maximizing prospects for extraordinary photographs, often at very close range. Early in the morning, depart on a trek through the dense rain forest on a quest to locate one of the “habituated” family groups.
The local guides are expert trackers, reading signs of the gorillas’ recent presence in the undergrowth. Finally, you hear and see them, and watch, enrapt as they sit in the trees chewing leaves, babies clinging to mothers’ backs, juveniles swinging from branches and a big male silver back surveying it all. It’s hard to tell who is more captivated, the gorillas or visitors!
After Bwindi, descend to the Rift Valley floor, photographing scenes of local villages and coffee plantations en route. Entering Rwanda, continue to Parc National des Volcans—Volcanoes National Park named for the string of jungle-draped volcanoes inside its borders.
The park is rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, with dense forests and steep-sided mountains rising to nearly 15,000 feet above sea level. Within the Virunga Range, the park is one of three areas where mountain gorillas reside.
Drive to park headquarters for a briefing from our guides. This area is where Dian Fossey made her ground-breaking studies on mountain gorillas before she was killed in 1985, and her grave is nearby.
Several habituated gorilla families live in the park, and we learn how important our ecotourism presence is to their survival before we trek in search of them. Set out early each morning along paths into the forest, eventually leaving trails behind as trackers follow signs that lead them to the gorillas’ current location.
The altitude is above 8,200 feet, so while our pace is unhurried, the hike is tiring, lasting from 30 minutes to several hours. With a full hour to sit with a gorilla troop, you are able to capture extraordinary photographs.