This was my first time in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills and a destination that has positioned itself as a leader in low volume, conservation-focused tourism.
Our journey began in Kigali, the country’s capital, which really has overcome its violent past and is now a world-class city. It was with great anticipation that we left Kigali, heading in the direction of the Volcanoes National Park and an experience that had actually never been on my bucket list – a chance to walk with the region’s endangered mountain gorillas.
The countryside stretching before us on the long and winding road was simply breathtaking while stops along the way provided insight into the lives of the country’s laidback, welcoming and friendly locals! Driving up the beaten track to our lodge was a special treat, with groups of children running out to greet the new arrivals. As for the lodge itself, what a gem! Perched on the edge of the national park, Amakoro Songa Lodge is a stunning property, offering a warm and comfortable retreat to prepare for the expedition ahead.
The next morning it was all go with the lodge preparing our breakfast and snack packs for the journey, as well as providing “gators” – leg coverings that protect you from the variety of insects that you may come across on the hike.
Then, it was off to the park entrance, where that day’s participants all gather. We were split into smaller groups of up to eight and introduced to the rangers who would accompany us on our gorilla trekking adventure.
Guests travel from across the world for this experience, and it truly is a smooth-running machine. Information and details are shared, explained and most definitely appreciated by all. Then it was time for the short drive to the trail’s starting point. Here, we were met by our group’s trackers and porters who assist with all things “carrying” – whether that’s you or your backpack!
Each group of eight is assigned a gorilla family. Since the families are closely monitored, the guides know more or less how far each group will need to walk to find the gorillas. Having selected a longer path and routing this was not an easy walk, especially as there had been a lot of rain over the previous few weeks, and we were climbing to an altitude of roughly 2,700 metres! Tracks often were not tracks, and the going was tough.
But then you arrive at the location of the gorilla family that you’ve been trekking to, and it’s all worth it. There are almost no words to describe the feeling! The whole experience is so deftly and expertly managed by the rangers, who have the knowledge to advise you on the family’s behaviours, dynamics, and idiosyncrasies.
It’s important to follow your ranger’s instructions at all times, as these impressive creatures can be unpredictable. The male Silverback can grow to weigh around 250 kilograms. It is advisable to be in awe of him!
After an incredible hour spent in the rainforest, it was time to head back down to “earth”. Amakoro Songa Lodge welcomed us back with leg massages, chilled Virunga beers, and a luncheon treat. After some leisure time, we all gathered around the stunning firepit to share stories and experiences over a glass or two of lovely red wine.
Gorilla trekking really wasn’t what I had imagined but as I had never actually pictured myself being there, it surpassed absolutely any expectation that I may have had! If you are ever looking for that total outside-of-the-box experience for your next holiday adventure, this is one that I cannot recommend highly enough!
Contact us if you’d like us to plan your next incentive trip to Rwanda or anywhere else in the world.