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Gorilla Trekking at Volcanoes National Park in the rainy season


Athene
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This year in April we made a trip to Rwanda to visit the Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys.

The trip was originally planned as an addition to our Zimbabwe safari in August. Because we were a bit unsure about the whole Covid situation and maybe not being able to fly from Kigali to Harare, we decided to split it into two separate trips.

Everything was perfectly planned by @Doug Macdonald.

 

We flew Frankfurt – Brussels- Kigali in the morning and arrived the same evening in Kigali. We both were fully vaccinated but had to do a PCR test 72 hours before our flight and again when we arrived in Kigali - both were negative.

We started our journey in the morning with a visit to the Genocide Museum and later continued our trip to Volcanoes National Park. Our driver guide was Edmond from Amahoro tours in Musanze. Musanze is also the town with the headquarters of the Gorilla Trekking.

As I have had altitude sickness before, we decided to stay at the Bishop‘s house in Musanze with an altitude under 2000 m. It was a very nice place and from hotel it took us only about 25 minutes to the headquarters. We were the only guests and the service was perfect.

 

Bishop's House entrance, lobby and dining/pool area

 

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Musanze town to Headquarters

 

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Lots of bicycles everywhere, often used to carry very large loads.

 

 

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Kinigi Headquarters

 

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The guides from the national parks and the local guides sit together and discuss who goes to which group. As there were very few guests due to Covid and it being the rainy season the visitor groups were small.

 

 

 

Edited by Athene
added tags, spelling
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1st Gorilla Trek - Kwisanga  group (means feel at home) who were found close to the Singita Kwitonda Lodge just below the treeline of the forest.

It was an easy walk of maybe just 10 minutes with I think 5 other visitors.

 

Silverback Kigoma and family.

 

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Getting a ride on mum

 

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The group moved to an area where they began feeding on eucalyptus trees. It was quite easy to follow them.

 

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The gorillas strip the bark from the eucalyptus trees to get to the sap.

 

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The silverbacks often broke or bent the trees to let the smaller members feed.

 

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There was a second silverback in the group with a wound on his forehead.

 

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It didn't rain on the trek and the light was good for photography.

The guides check their watches at the first close contact to gorillas and after exactly one hour we left the group.

 

Edited by Athene
corrected lodge name
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You were so lucky to see them out in the open like that! When I saw the gorillas in Uganda, they were all snoozing in the middle of the trees and brush, except for the babies. Not great for pictures. Yours are fabulous though!

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madaboutcheetah

Brilliant!

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Wow! Brilliant sightings, and hardly any trekking either, you were so fortunate. Lovely photos.

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The second day was our Golden Monkey trek. There was only one group of 6 visitors for the monkeys on this day with one guide and 4 porters. We were driven to the starting point which was in a small village. We passed lots of very small huts on our way where local people who work in the fields live. They were clearly a lot poorer than the people we had seen in Musanze.

 

The path up to the forest led often between the thorny hedges bounding the cultivated fields where people were working. It was steep and narrow. Even though it wasn't raining to start with it was slippery and good boots were definitely needed. We were given good walking sticks which were also helpful. It was quite strenuous walking uphill at this altitude - the porters carried our bags and for us that was absolutely necessary. They also helped when crossing small streams or where the path was particularly steep.

 

After just over an hour we reached the group of golden monkeys. They were feeding on potatoes in a cultivated field which seemed to be tolerated by the farmer - or at least as long we were there no one interfered. The area was again just below the treeline of the forest.

 

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Just as we arrived it started to rain.

 

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The rangers who locate and follow the group watched from the next field.

 

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The golden monkeys are extremely dexterous and clean the potatoes before eating. They are also extremely cute :-)

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

@Athene- wow !!! 
 

the gorilla family out in the wide open is amazing … did the guides give you the impression that this was the norm for this family group or just very lucky ?? 
 

your photos are superb - both treks !! 
 

I am told Rwanda has now removed testing on arrival and the passenger locator form. 

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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@madaboutcheetah I think some groups are known to be found more often at specific locations. Our luck was probably mostly down to the very low visitor numbers and to our local guide. The rangers report the location of the groups in the morning before the allocation discussions take place. As there were not so many guests the guides were presumably able to leave out the most difficult treks. Some consideration of age and fitness levels seems to take place - and your local guide negotiates your wishes on your behalf.

 

We did speak to a couple who we met on our first gorilla trek who had done a second gorilla trek on the same day as our golden monkey trek. They told us that their 2nd trek was much longer and much more difficult - over 5 hours in total and through dense forest in the rain. Our second gorilla trek was also only to the lower edge of the forest (more later).

Edited by Athene
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Thanks a lot @Athenefor this great report ; love your golden monkeys : Rwanda is high on my list not in the least because there is a direct flight to Kigali from Brussels ; I was a bit hesitant because of altitude to go to Volcanoes and would rather visit Akagera and perhaps Nyungwe Forest for all the primates but you make me doubt again !

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Thank you very much @BRACQUENE

I have had altitude sickness twice before, so this was the main reason for choosing a hotel in Musanze as it is lower than most of the lodges. I did not have altitude problems being on the trekks, as they were only in the mornings approx. 3-4 hours and after that back at the hotel at a lower altitude again.

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After a while the golden monkeys moved into the nearby trees and bushes.

 

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They were getting as wet as we were.

 

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The rain became quite heavy and we were already quite wet when we started our return to the car. The path had become very slippery and everyone slipped and fell at least once. The small streams we had seen on the way up had now become much larger and faster flowing. Some were over a metre wide and the porters carried everyone over. The gardening gloves that are often recommended also would have helped as the hedges on each side of the narrow path were thorny.

 

When we reached the car we were wet through. Nevertheless we enjoyed the golden monkey trek very much.

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful photos of the Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys 

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I love your video and photos of the golden monkeys so much! When I went to Uganda I did the gorillas and the chimps but the golden monkey trek, like yours, turned out to be much steeper and more difficult, plus I think the altitude was getting to me so I had to turn back. Never did get to see them, unfortunately. I made my son (20 years old) continue as the trek was no problem for him but the monkeys were high up in the trees in any event. You really lucked out with both the gorillas and the monkeys!

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Wow, stunning photos.  I don't think I have ever seen pictures of the gorillas out in the open like that.  Amazing!

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Thanks a lot @mtanenbaum

Sorry that you didn't see the golden monkeys. We were very lucky indeed to find them out of the forest.

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Thank you very much @Atdahl

Yes, we were lucky with the gorillas. More photos from our 2nd gorilla trek to follow.

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Fabulous pictures of both the Gorillas and the golden monkeys despite the rain. As @Atdahl said, I too have never seen images of the Gorillas out in the open in either Rwanda or Uganda so you were indeed very lucky with no trek at all! Thanks for sharing. 

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