Adventure has always been part and parcel of my life and I guess an adventurer fits in as my third name. Perhaps you can call me Onzi Muyindo Adventurer… Not sure though such name criteria exist but deep down in my nerves I feel it describes who I am.  I have always wanted to do something different just for the feel of it and this has given me a sense of direction as I navigate through the path of life. No wonder it’s not a surprise or by default that my career path led me to Tourism sector.  It’s been over 10 years working in the Tourism sector. And it doesn’t feel like a job because I’m just doing what I love doing… travel and adventure. In this industry I have had many adventures opportunities and one that stood out is a Gorilla Trekking in the Rwanda. My best travel experience that I could do it over and over again.

‘Land of a Thousand Hills’

The Landscape of Rwanda. Photo Credits: George Atuhire

Rwanda is incredibly beautiful with lots to offer. The fertile green hills with many lakes, rivers, savannah, rain forests, mountains, craters and waterfalls. And for this reason Rwanda is known as ‘Land of a Thousand Hills. People of Rwanda are warm, friendly and eager to please.

The country has such a rich history and culture. A city tour of Kigali will introduce you to this, visit the Kigali genocide Memorial Centre, and learn about Rwanda’s history (pre-colonial to 1994 genocide). Learn about how this country has dealt with her past and overcome this horrific incident which is a true testament of mankind’s resilience. A visit to the Kandt Museum offers of natural history learning about the interdependency between human beings and their environment.

Situated in northwestern Rwanda and bordering Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Mgahinga, National Park in Uganda. Lies the Volcanoes National Park that comprises 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes i.e. Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. Activities in the park include Gorilla tracking, Golden Monkeys tracking, volcano hikes and guided bird watching.

The most popular activity being Gorilla trekking. One of the world most endangered species.  Rwanda is safe and secure making it a favorite Gorilla trekking destination for most travelers. The Gorilla trekking is an all year round activity. The distance between Kigali and Volcanoes National park is only 3 hours’ drive. Meaning it’s easy to do gorilla trekking and drive to the airport to catch an evening flight back home. Also gorilla trekking in Rwanda is relatively easy, because of the flat terrine and the Bamboo Forest.

Rwanda Gorilla trekking experience

The Virungas volcanoes, is a home to the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorilla. Other mammals in the volcanoes are the Golden Monkeys, spotted Hyena and bushbuck and over 160 species of birds. In a recent census of a mountain gorillas’ population. The results show that their population has increased and the overall total of mountain gorillas is now at 1,063.

Seeing gorillas in their natural habitat is a truly exciting opportunity. There are twelve gorilla families living in the Volcanoes National Park, which are fully habituated, with a few others habituated only for scientific research. The groups have at least one silverback along and a number of females and babies.

A Gorilla Family in the Volcanoes National Park. Photo Credits: Theogene Uwimana

We started this adventure with an early drive to the park headquarters for a briefing and allocation a gorilla trekking group. At this point we were encouraged to have a trekking porter to assist with carrying lunch box and water. The porters come in handy and you may never know when you will need them. I always encourage travellers to have a porter during this experience. This is because when the going gets tough the trekking porters offers help. They are your support system.

We drove to the trekking point and then started trekking in the footsteps of the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, with our expert trackers and guides leading us through the bamboo-covered slopes. We continued our trek to the largest living primate on earth, along the way we encountered the mountains’ elusive buffalo and elephant, colorful bird, butterflies.

A photo of Mountain Gorilla during the trekking. Photo Credits: Theogene Uwimana

After about two hours walk we encountered the gorillas we were allowed an hour with them. What a magical experience this was, very exciting to see man’s closest relatives up close. We were encouraged to keep a few meters away. However, the gorillas are so friendly and were reaching to us and touching our cameras, but mostly going about their daily lives: feeding, and playing with their young ones. Encountering the gorillas up close is truly one of the greatest wild life experiences and a life changing one.

My advice to anyone going to trek the gorillas would be to ensure they are fit for the exercise. Gorilla trekking is an activity that only allows 15year olds and above to partake. Although there has got to be a certain level of fitness. This is because gorilla trekking is an activity in the wild therefore making it difficult to estimate how many hours it may take to trek man’s closest relatives. Gorilla trekking could take 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on how far the gorillas are and also which direction they are taking on the morning of you trekking. They could be walking towards you making the trek shorter and easier or walk away from you therefore making the trek longer. We were lucky to have found them just after two hours of walking but it could slight more.

I must say whether one has had a long trek or shorter trek to the gorillas, after finding them the experience is very exciting and rewarding and you will forget how far you had to work to find them in the end its an experience comparable to none.

About the Author: Onzi Muyindo

Onzi is the Product and Reservations Manager for Uganda and Rwanda in Sense of Africa – East Africa based in Uganda Office. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Tourism, with over 10 years’ experience in Tourism Industry. She’s passionate about travel and adventure, loves to meet new people and socializing. Her parting shot … Every day counts.

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