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Tracking Mountain Gorillas ...... An all too brief trip to the "land of a thousand hills"


madaboutcheetah
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madaboutcheetah

Dear All,

 

I finally got to track Mountain gorillas after all these years of reading reports and looking at trip planning.  This time a business trip to Nairobi got me the chance to track gorillas........  This was an all too brief trip.  Thanks to friends in Nairobi I was able to book this trip.

 

Many thanks to Nkusi Guillium who was not just fantastic guide picking me up from Kigali and driving me to Volcanoes ..... but, also to talk to the parks authorities to get me two amazing treks!!  My itinerary went like this

 

Sept 13.  Arrive Nairobi - connect to Kigali.  Visit the Genocide museum and drive to Volcanoes NP.  Overnight Virunga inn

Sept 14.  First trek - we got the Umubano group (I got lucky - this trek I got a private trek no one else allotted to this group) ....... Torrential rain made it a brutal trek back downhill (more later).  Afternoon visit to the Ellen Degeneres campus 

Sept 15. Second trek - Got the Agashya group (7 members including me today ..... fairly easy trek) ........  Shower/pack ........ drive to Kigali and  connect to Nairobi.  O/N the Movenpick hotel.

Sept 16.  Meetings 8am to 1:30 Pm.  Picked up by Jackson from Emakoko for the transfer to the Nairobi National park.  O/n Emakoko

Sept 17.  Fly home .........  

 

All too hectic.   

 

Here's the first few images from the Umubano group.  Honestly it rained the entire time.  The first trek - oddly, going up was a steep uphill (but, I had no problem.......  I run/ strength train all the time) ....... but, coming down was BRUTAL.  It had rained hard for a while after we got to the group.  My guide John was very sympathetic - he stopped the clock and we pulled out of the sighting and went back in when the rain had stopped a bit.  However, coming down was a different story.  The entire downhill climb was muddy, slippery and I just couldn't get a hold of my footing.  Luckily, my porter was handy and I made it down in one piece.  What took like an hour to go up .......... I think took much much longer coming down due to the conditions.  I'm glad I got this done - if I had known September is the rainy season - I probably would have just added on the Mara or something to the Nairobi meetings. ;)

 

More to come when I edit.

 

 

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madaboutcheetah

A word on the Virunga Inn ..... I didn't really need any OTT lodging here since everyone has the same access to the gorillas.  I went with a middle end option of the Virunga Inn ..... Very comfortable, not luxury ..... Neat, clean and comfortable.  The owner Salim is hands on and very invovled in the day to day operations.  Food was average - but, they did their best to accomodate to my requests and it was more than adequate.  

 

They do a Shoe cleaning service also after each trek and gosh doesn't that come in handy after these super muddy trips!!  

 

Their location is about an easy 10 minute drive to the park HQ where everyone gathers at 6:30 am for a coffee and briefing.  Your guide from Kigali will then drive you to the trail head where you will trek the gorilla group you are assigned to!!  I didn't have time to do a golden monkey trek.

 

PS - Go NOW!!!  Rumour has it that Rwanda are about to increase the Gorilla permits to $2200  ....... Insane !!! 

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Towlersonsafari

Lovely pictures @madaboutcheetah We saw the Umubano group in 2005- there was a very sad looking second in command called Charles- did you see him? was he less sad?  the genocide memorial is very hard viewing, 

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madaboutcheetah

@Towlersonsafari- yes I did see Charles … he’s the one in the picture. This group now is 11 members including 6 silverbacks….  Yes the memorial was very saddening.

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@madaboutcheetahwe made the same experience when we walked down after having visited the Golden monkeys, with all the rain and the very slippery paths we would have been lost without the porters.

Lovely pictures of the Umubano group!

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Glad you finally made it Hari - awesome photos. USD 2,200? Brutal! I think I paid USD 750,-- back in 2016.

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Towlersonsafari

very glad he is still around. Charles was also my dads name so had a soft spot for him @madaboutcheetah

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That is some business trip!
Lovely photos of the gorillas, beautiful 

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Congratulations Hari for finally having made it to see the Gorilla’s. Despite the weather your pictures are outstanding- the snarling silverback (?) image is scary given how close you were. Great logistics for such a short trip. 

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Great pictures Hari, I really need to find a job that sends me on work trips to Africa! And how lucky to have one trek to yourself, even if the way back was tough. 

 

Hard to believe they think $2200 is viable, unless they extend/increase the rebates that are offered when you go other NPs in the country. 

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Awesome pictures Hari @madaboutcheetahand a trip to remember for sure ; Rwanda is on my radar but if these prices become reality :( I will think twice before visiting the Mountain Gorilla's 

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Like @Towlersonsafariwe saw the umubano group in 2005 although I'm pretty sure they weren't with me lol. We only had a tiny bit of rain  and it was slick so I imagine it was rough going for you.

 

1500 is already insane but 2200 is absolutely crazy. Fortunately I've already been twice but it's sad that some people will never get to have this amazing experience.

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Thanks for the kind words @AKR1@Zubbie15@BRACQUENEand @dlo-  Indeed, very lucky to have had the one trek to myself and the heavy rain meant that we could pull out of the sighting and wait patiently under a big canopy with some mild protection from the heavy storm and then go back to photograph when the rain subsided somewhat ..... John the guide, was sympathetic to the fact that i wasn't able to photograph in the heavy storm and also, the gorillas were moving into thick cover to stay away from the downpour.  He stopped the clock for the time we went away to wait (maybe 40 minutes or so) 

 

This, that and the other ........  I did get an online visa easily for Rwanda - but, on entry in Kigali the immigration officer goes " Do you not know that Members of the commonwealth get a free entry stamp for 30 days?" ......... Go figure!!!  Probably one of the easiest countries to visit from India.  However, I don't think the airlines or the immigration officers in Indian airports are aware of this free entry stamp as I had to show my e visa to them ....... 

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stunning shots of the gorillas, esp of the silverback. You did brlliantly despite the rain. but the walk down sounds brutal!

i've still not done mountain gorillas and not sure if I can take the ardous treks but it does look like rwanda is out of the question altogether. 

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