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SafariChick

Mud, Sweat and Tears

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marg

@@SafariChick...your photos are wonderful!

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dlo

Very happy for you that this met your expectations. It's truly an amazing experience isn't it? We also took over 2 hours and some people were pretty gassed but you forget it when you reach your destination.

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SafariChick

@@kittykat23uk @@Zubbie15 @@marg @@dlo thanks for reading and your nice comments!

 

Here are a few more photos from day 1 and then I will work on moving on to our trek on day 2

 

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In this one we are just standing over a resting gorilla but you can see how close we got to them sometimes from this one:

 

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That's about it for Day 1 - back soon with Day 2!

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xelas

I can see the long zoom lenses are not needed. But I was always under impression that one has to stay further away from them?!

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SafariChick

@@xelas you are right that one is technically supposed to stay farther away but sometimes the rules seem to be bent, and sometimes it is not possible due to the area that is available to stand, like in this case. The rule is 7 meters away if it's an open area or 4 meters if it's an area with restricted room - but again, not always enforced - and sometimes the gorillas themselves break the rules as you will see in my posts of day 2. Here's a photo I took at Headquarters on the morning of Day 2 before we hiked - it shows how far you are supposed to stand from the gorillas - the person in black with red sleeves is standing 7 meters away from the (fake) gorilla - Mr. S. is standing near the fake gorilla.

 

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ld1

@@SafariChick Awww, love the photos of you and Mr SafariChick with the Gorillas. It's not humanly possible to fake a Gorilla grin, everyone beems like the Cheshire-cat because it's so amazing. Reminds me of my own trip and I have a few of those disbelieving Gorilla grins myself ? ??

Edited by ld1

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Alexander33

@@SafariChick

 

I never seem to tire of seeing Gorilla photos (is there such a thing as too many?), and yours turned out great!

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SafariChick

@@Alexander33 thank you! I'm glad you never tire of them because I have a bunch to post from day 2 still! I should also mention that Mr. S. took some of the photos. We only had one camera with us and took turns using it - when not using it, the other person used his or her phone.

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Chakra

Fantastic snaps. We seem to be having an explosion of amazing gorilla shots here in ST lately, not that I'm complaining. :P Really heart warming to see how much trust they have in humans to let them come so close. Just curious, in some places the guides insist on tourists wearing face masks. Was it not the case here ?

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SafariChick

@@Chakra thanks very much. No, in Rwanda apparently that is not a requirement to wear face masks.

 

Ok time to continue the report.

 

Day 2

 

It was a beautiful morning. Not as clouded over as the previous day so we were a little concerned it could get hot. But still, a gorgeous day, couldn't complain!

 

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We really hoped for a shorter/easier group to reach today both because of having to go back to Kigali this evening and because I felt I’d paid my dues with a harder (for me) hike the first day! True to his word, Bosco was able to arrange for us to see the Sabyinyo Group which was expected to be a shorter hike. And we were assigned to the same guide as the day before, Patrick! We were very happy about that as we had really enjoyed Patrick the first day.

 

This time our group included a French mother and son (he was probably early 20s) and two Canadian women. As we did the day before, we gathered in a circle and Patrick told us about the Sabyinyo Group. It has 16 members including a 3.5 month old baby. The leader is the oldest known silverback in the world Guhonda - 45 years old. He has been slowing down and coughing, and his son, the #2 silverback, has almost entirely taken over. The son is 27. Then there are 5 female sincluding one who is 42 or 43 years old and she's had 7 babies – this is unusual as most gorillas have only 5 to 6 in their whole lifetime - only every 4 years at the most frequent, but usually it’s more like one every 5 to 6 years due to stress and other factors. Also this group has the only known gorilla who is bald on the top of his head, known as Big Ben; and it has a mother who is missing a hand due to a snare. Patrick also mentioned a few more facts as we met before the trek: There are around 1,000 mountain gorillas living, and Rwanda has around 350 of them. Out of Rwanda’s, 97% are habituated. It takes about three years to habituate a group and that is with visiting them every day.

 

We set off about the same time as the day before – by the time we started our trek it was about 8:30 a.m. Steve and I both hired porters as we had the day before. These porters were also quick to run up and support me by my hand or elbow, but there were times when I said I didn’t need it. This trek was quite a bit easier than the day before. The terrain was flatter and it was much shorter and less muddy and in about an hour we reached the point where Patrick said we were ready to put leave our backpacks and walking sticks with the porters and get our cameras out. The day before, he’d had us put on our rain jackets and pants for stinging nettle protection about 5-10 minutes before we reached the point where we’d leave the porters but he hadn’t said anything about that.

 

We were all reaching for our cameras and trying to get organized with what little we’d bring in to the gorilla area with us. We had been there about 30 seconds and I thought I’d at least put on my gloves when all of a sudden, the gorillas were among us! They came to US before we’d even left the porters. This seemed rather irregular but the gorillas don’t know the rules, apparently! Patrick told us to hurry and just get our cameras and the porters would retreat with our things as they are not supposed to be around the gorillas – I think because they don’t want too many people overwhelming them. The first gorilla who marched right up to us was the #2 silverback, the son, Mr. Vice President as Patrick called him, who was absolutely massive! He came so close to us, it took my breath away. Patrick was saying don’t worry, this guy is my best friend, he is totally gentle and won’t harm you in any way! It was just exhilarating, and Patrick was right, he was a gentle giant and not the least bit concerned about us.

 

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Apparently the vegetation right where we were standing was exactly what he wanted

 

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He wasn't the only one who came right up to us

 

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but I have to say at this moment Mr. Vice President really stole the show:

 

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Apparently he is so mellow, that one can pose for photos right next to him! (this is the French young man and then in the second one, Patrick joined in - but I want to point out they were really just standing in pretty much those spots when Mr. Big Guy put himself there and started munching so they weren't trying to violate the 7 meter rule!)

 

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Mr. S. was filming at this point so here's a short video:

 

 

It was just kind of unreal! I'm not sure who this one is:

 

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A little later, me with Mr. Big behind me:

 

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After a while, we moved in further. The gorillas were spread out but all around us. They were definitely a lot more lively than the group we saw the day before. I forgot to mention but it had only taken us about an hour to reach them, so instead of it being almost 11 when we arrived, it was 9:30 when we arrived - so they were actively feeding and moving around rather than relaxing. This made for a totally different mood and experience than the day before.

 

Soon a mother came by with a really cute baby on her back – this might have been the 3.5 month old baby.

 

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I was in love with the baby!

 

A blackback and then a juvenile wanted to walk by and everyone tried to make room. As they walked by, the juvenile grabbed one of the other hikers which you can see in the video below. A bit later, it may have been the same juvenile who grabbed one of the Canadian women and actually opened its mouth on her pants and kind of not bit her but made a mark on her pants with its mouth! She was laughing but it was a bit shocking! Patrick had warned us that there was a crazy juvenile in this group that always seemed to want to physically interact with human visitors and this may have been that one!

 

 

More to come .....

Edited by SafariChick

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Kitsafari

wow wow wow. such heartwarming and awesome interactions with the gorillas and you got great photos of their expressions and mannerisms. was it with another camera or just the Lumix?

 

Mr Vice President is a real handsome gorilla, but definiitely not one to mess with!

 

Like @@JohnR I don't think I can physically make it on my two feet up the mountains. I'll have to be stretchered if ever, ever I do finally get my ass there.

 

SafariChick, on 08 Mar 2017 - 12:55 PM, said:

 

We arrived in Rwanda quite late, around 12:20 a.m., having taken a 10:45 p.m. flight from Addis Ababa. The flight, on Ethiopian Air, was remarkable in that we had our tickets and seat assignments for many months in advance but, when we boarded, a woman with a baby was in one of our seats. When we pointed this out to the flight attendant, she said “oh, yes, but she has a baby. You can sit somewhere else”!! Somewhere else meant back of the plane – our seats had been the front row! She said “the plane is not full so it doesn’t matter.” Very interesting way of viewing things! But it was a short flight, so not a big deal.

 

 

on our way back from NDJ via Ethiopian Air, we had a stopover at Keno in Nigeria. The plane had been half empty but bus after bus after bus ferried more and more passengers to the plane at the stopover. the passengers simply sat in any empty seats until the flight stewardesses were telling the new arrivals to go to the back of the plane and that it was all free seating! I had to hear it a couple of times to confirm she did say free seating.

 

I love all the photos in posts18 and 19, but those of the babies are just... awww. this one below looks really cross... and so cute.

 

Some more photos:

 

 

 

 

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SafariChick

Sorry for the delay in continuing - life has been busy! I will just post some more photos but first a video - this was a baby who was approaching the #2 silverback. The mother was trusting it was ok but notice how quickly she reacts when the silverback reaches out towards the baby. She thought the baby going close was ok but maybe that was enough!

 

 

and now some more photos:

 

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At this point, we were about 45 minutes into our hour with the gorillas and we still hadn't seen the old #1 silverback, Guhonda. The trackers told Patrick that he was eating in a spot that was rather deep inside some thickets but we decided to try to venture in to see him. We had to push our way through a bunch of thick stuff and I was hoping we'd actually be able to see him when we got there. Here's what it looked like as we pushed our way through:

 

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Finally, we found him!

 

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a baby was hanging out feeding nearby (and its mother was nearby as well)

 

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Patrick told us that sometimes the babies are shy so if one is approaching, we might kind of squat down and look away as that might make them feel more comfortable. Here is Mr. S. doing just that as the baby approached:

 

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and when the baby stopped coming towards him, he snuck a photo:

 

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Back to a few more of the big guy:

 

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At this point, Patrick said he had actually let us stay a bit over our time (I think about 10 minutes over) because it had taken us a while to work our way in to where Guhonda was and during that time we actually weren't with any gorilla. So he said it was time to go. As we started walking out, Guhonda decided to walk his way out as well on a different route. By the time we got out to the clearing where we had started, Guhonda had fallen fast asleep! So we got a minute or two more just to take a few quick photos of this scene.

 

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I didn't get photos of when a juvenile walked past Mr. S., who was squatting down, and used him for balance as he walked by, grabbing him with both hands! (And he had been touched by another juvenile earlier, so twice in one morning!) I didn't get very good photos of the one-handed mother but was amazed at her dexterity and ability to forage and eat with her one good hand and using the other one as well. We also got to hear the gorillas while eating making some amazing sounds that Patrick said meant "Mmmmmm ..... yummy!" What an incredible experience!

Edited by SafariChick

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michael-ibk

Lovely photos, glad you had such a good time with the Gorillas. The photo of the Silverback sleeping is great, really made me laugh. :)

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SafariChick

@@michael-ibk thanks Michael, and welcome back!

In sum, Rwanda was everything I hoped it would be and that's saying a lot because my expectations were high! I loved this little country and I am sure I will be back to see more of it!

 

To close this report, here's a photo of Mr. S and I with Bosco after our second hike:

 

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Next to come: part three of the safari about Laikipia, Kenya. I will post a link here once I've started it.

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Atravelynn

to #15

The tears may appear when you have to leave. I am glad to learn there were none during gorilla time. But sweat and mud is almost unavoidable.

 

The part about the brush being used only on the hair pieces so it is new is worth misplacing the brush. That is just hilarious. Not so funny is the missing charger. Hope that turns out ok.

 

The role of dogs in the genocide is just chilling and new info for me.

 

Love the sites on the way to the gorillas.

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SafariChick

Thanks, @@Atravelynn. Yes the brush story is a good one - I keep meaning to take a photo of it and add it to the report - maybe I will!

A sad note to add - just read that Isabukuru, the head silverback of the group bearing his name which we saw on Day 1, was found dead yesterday. He had been showing signs of illness for a long time apparently and I know we were told by Bosco and Patrick that he was exhibiting signs of respiratory illness in recent months, but this article mentions other problems that have been going on for much longer.

 

https://gorillafund.org/leading-silverback-isabukuru-found-dead/?utm_content=buffer6c91c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

It sounds like the group is doing well. Isabukuru was a pretty special gorilla, as you can see by this quote from the above link:

 

Kubaha, the second silverback of the group, has taken over and is leading the group peacefully so far. Silverback Kubaha is also taking care of the three young gorillas who were “adopted” by Isabukuru, as their mothers transferred to other groups while they were still very young. The Fossey Fund trackers will continue to monitor Kubaha every day in the hopes that he will continue a peaceful takeover of the group.

Caring for young gorillas was just one special aspect of Isabukuru’s personality and history. He was a brother to silverback Cantsbee, who was the longest-reigning, most-successful of the silverbacks studied by the Fossey Fund over its 50-year history. Secondly, he was exceptionally large for his age and very popular among females, even as a younger blackback. He broke away from the group led by Cantsbee in 2007, and started his own group at the young age of 14, taking three females with him.

 

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amybatt

I just read that too, Jane, and thought of you! And Cantsbee is missing again too, after his MIA at the end of last year. They gave up the search for him again. Sad if both brothers are gone now.

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Tulips

Live these photos, Safaricick!

 

I just say, I noticed someone wearing jeans in one of the photos with the gorillas. Can't say I'd find it comfortable to hike in those!

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Alexander33

@@SafariChick

 

Thanks for continuing with the rest of your photos and narrative. I really appreciate your depictions showing you and Mr. Safarichick and the others with the gorillas. Wow, you really got close to that baby there at the end. I will be sure to bring my wide-angle lens with me, for sure. The stuff of dreams!

 

That was some very high vegetation you encountered on your trek to find Guhonda. I wasn't envisioning its being over my head! It's good to see the photos of your your "get-up," with the gaiters, boots and gloves. Gives me something to copy.

 

Speaking of which, I'll be looking forward to your Kenya continuation. We're going there next January, with 4 nights in Laikipia. (No, I'm not stalking you, I promise!). I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on the issue with the pastoralists that I surmise was heating up while you were there -- not to mention everything you saw.....

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SafariChick

@@amybatt I know, I am so sad about Cantsbee as well! The French mother and son who were with us on day two seeing the Sabyinyo group had been to Cantsbee's group, the Pablo group, the day before and had seen him and I was so happy about that. It seemed such a miracle when he reappeared after so long - and now he's missing again and his brother dead. It's terribly sad when you follow these charismatic animals and even see them up close and in person and then learn they've died soon after. I think we are all rooting for them live very long, healthy lives but it's not always to be, and I guess that's nature. Well at least in Cantsbee's case, he is/was quite old I believe.

 

@@Tulips I agree, jeans would not be my choice of attire either!

 

@@Alexander33 thanks for all the comments. Your comment about the gaiters reminds me that I am not sure if I mentioned that the second day, we borrowed some gaiters from our hotel. They seem to have enough that every guest could borrow some if they want, and they will even put them on for you. These seemed much better to me than our own which we'd worn the first day, at least for this purpose. And the added benefit is we didn't have to take our gaters with us dirty after trek # 2. And I should also mention that the hotel did an amazing job cleaning our boots after the first hike, and even after the second one when we only had a couple of hours to eat lunch and hang out before we left, they again got them miraculously clean! I will get to that Laikipia report ASAP - life has been extremely busy right now! And don't worry, I don't feel you're stalking me!

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Atravelynn

So sorry about Isabukuru. I hope another silverback can take over the group.

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amybatt

If I'm not mistaken, Cantsbee is one of two still alive that Diann Fossey actually observed. She named him, when he was born it was thought his mother was a male so Diann said "it can't be" and thus came the name Cantsbee. I think he's in his late 30s. Hopefully he turns up again, but I think once they start showing odd behavior it's just the start of something bigger.

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SafariChick

@@amybatt that's exactly right about Dian Fossey and what she said and why that is Cantsbee's name! He is 38 if he's still alive.

 

@@Atravelynn yes, the article I posted above says

 

Kubaha, the second silverback of the group, has taken over and is leading the group peacefully so far. Silverback Kubaha is also taking care of the three young gorillas who were “adopted” by Isabukuru, as their mothers transferred to other groups while they were still very young.

 

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TonyQ

@@SafariChick

A wonderful report with superb photos and very engaging writing. You brought back a lot of good memories!

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