Gorilla Treks in Rwanda: There must be a Bucket List

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I was there Volcanoes National Park, a sliver of jungle in northern Rwanda, for 30 minutes long, when a ball of fur came to the size of my mind toward my heart. To be fair, I was on his peat. I was spying on a mountain mountain gorillas of the family with nine, including the patronage of 400 pounds, a large silver back with a high face and hugging twice the width of my mine. The heaps were scattered around the tree tree tree and the bamboo vegetables rooted on a fully packed fauna, and I was about 30 feet away with six other tourists. We spent all colors of brand new khaki, with camera phones or lenses zooming smoothly. Go-Pro video cameras had a young couple from Mexico City carrying out their wrists.

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I was crouched near a tree-anxious to avoid annoying the silverback-when King Kong Junior rushed, crashing off a stand of bamboo. He tried to turn it off with the sleeve. Soon, Placide Nkurunziza, one of our two group leaders, grabbed my other blend and gently grunted (main talk for “scram”) by the little man, who dropped me promptly and sprinted back down the hill to find more happy playmates. I paid $ 1,500 to spend hours with the gorillas. The kidnapping was a bonus.

At the last official count, there are 604 mountain gorillas – more than half of the people left on the planet – living in the Virunga Mountains, which is a Rwandan Volcano National Park located in its fraction. Virunga territory is shared by neighboring national parks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, together with the rare masses. But Rwanda, much more ambitious than the other two countries, after the gorilla scenes have turned into a luxury commodity, complete with extremely high lodges.


Daoine People think I would always like to do this. I'm not putting it aside until I'm 65. '

In an effort to protect the number of endangered mountain gorillas, park officials allow only 96 tourists to see them each day – divided into groups of eight, plus guides, trackers and optional porters – and restrict the human ape rendezvous to an hour. In 2017, the cost of the trekking permit doubled, from $ 750 people per day to $ 1,500. “We were not sure how our clients would work when the price went up,” said Linda Friedman, Custom owner Safaris, Maryland, who arranged my trip. “But they weren't blink.” The number of international visitors to Rwanda rose to 1.7 million last year, up from 1.3 million in 2015. “People think, I always want to do this. I'm not being set aside until I'm 65, ”said Ms Friedman.

Bisate Lodge Wilderness Safaris.

Photo:

Dana Allen

Treks themselves can take a few hours or all day, depending on where the gorillas are hanging out that day, how many foliage the guides need to machete to reach and the weather (the rain is common). Relative breeze was in my trek, a sunny, cool day, which lasted about three hours, consumed a lot on a wide path, which is slowly wandering and throws around decaying eucharistic trees and potato fields. the flower species are in line with the field. When we crossed the low rock wall that limits the park and started climbing up to serve our gorilla family, the terrain was steeper and slightly slippery. My porter, Arthur, stayed with my side to help him solve the way. He made my rucksack, which was filled with trails snacks, which sent my hotel, Amakoro Songa Lodge, available: hard-boiled eggs, tiny bananas, fruit passions and marble cake. I couldn't help but imagine how enthusiastic he was or scared me – Dian Fossey would have been if the late zoologist, who spent 18 years studying primates in the rainforest, was looking at me. Papal party going up the mountain.

One of the 200 or so mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

Photo:

Michael Lorentz

A small nation, hit by the green peaks, terraced farmland and grasslands not being fed, Rwanda is a beautiful place of beauty, but it is not surprising that it is emerging to the luxury circuit. Many people combine this East-Central African country with the 1994 genocide in which between 800,000 and one million Rwandan were killed over a 100-day period. Twenty-five years later, Kigali, the capital city, is a clean net conference hub and peacekeeping is a top priority for the Rwandan government. (Although armed conflicts occur periodically, including an attack last month near Volcanoes National Park, the US Department of State maintains Level 1 travel counseling for Rwanda, the same issue it issues to Ireland and for Canada.)

Paul Kagame

Gorilla tourism is very popular with gorilla tourism and is strictly controlled, because the economy has a lack of space and mineral resources to its neighbors in a tiny Rwandan. “The government aims to preserve gorillas, without selling tourist packages,” said Rosette Rugamba, head of Rwanda Tourism and National Parks, when we met in Kigali last year.

These days, with more luxe accommodations, the country draws the kind of whirlwind, gin-and-tonic-swing visitors who are in the game on the Serengeti or the Delta Okavango for a long time. Virunga Lodge opened in 2004, a pioneer of scene setting, and is located on a mountain surface with panoramic views of six volcanoes and two crater lakes. After the visits, guests tend to get massages at the depositor's spa, then assemble them around the stone fireplace for cocktails before dinner. Much later, three of the postage brands opened in Africa – Wilderness Safaris, Singita and One & Only-outss just outside of Volcanoes National Park. Each places a small number of rooms on a significant price tag. Rates at Shipping Singita Kwitonda 8-mounted, which passed in August, ran $ 3,300 to $ 6,600 nights for two, including every meal but without the permission for gorilla treks included.

The bar at Singita Kwitonda's new Lodge.

Photo:

Singita

Tara Stoinski,

the president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, one of the country's largest conservation profits, proposes a high impact, low impact Rwanda approach. “It is a strategic decision by the Rwandan government to reduce the pressure on gorillas,” she said, referring to the price hike of the license, “but it has an opportunity to increase revenue.” The model seems to be working. “The gorilla population is doing well,” said Prosper Uwingeli, chief steward of Volcanoes National Park, at a birth mention of about 30 infants this year (Naomi Campbell model and singer Ne-Yo present at the children's naming festival in month). September ). Mr Uwingeli also points out that 10% of the park's tourism income pays to local schools and health clinics, among other community projects, as a means of availing of local support and protecting the gorilla habitat – farmers do not. and wild animals 400 pounds do the most friendly neighbors always.

The gorillas are also assisted by Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Last year, the couple collected more than $ 5 million dollars, through their new wildlife foundation, the Ellen Fund, to help the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Gorilla Fund Dian Fossey build outside the park. It will open in 2021, will be the new headquarters in Africa for the Fossey organization and will host a public exhibition. Ms. DeGeneres and Ms de Rossi made their first visit to Rwanda in May 2018. Earlier that year, Ms de Rossi founded the medal as a 60 year gift to his wife. “She admitted Dian Fossey,” said Ms de Rossi, “so I reached the Gorilla Fund and I said‘ How can we help. '? A few months later, the two went on their first gorilla trek. “This huge creature beside me was the most exciting experience of my life,” said Ms de Rossi. “When you see something that you could easily crush from her bare hands, choose to take you – you have no other experience. We are planning another trip next year. ”

IRELAND / SPORTS ON RWANDA GORILLAS

SNEAK PEAK The scene from Virunga Lodge Rwanda, at the top of rattling mountain road. One of the first high-level hotels in the region, the company is now lodging.

Photo:

Michael Turek

Waiting there: Some of the 35 hotels – and counting – near Volcanoes National Park offer various community and conservation projects. These include: Virunga Lodge, an hour-long drive from the park, offers 10 elegant houses with private terraces. (from $ 1,210 nights for two, volcanoessafaris.com). More comfortable but extremely comfortable, Amakoro Songa Lodge is only 10 minutes from the entrance of the field. It was opened in 2016 by Rosette Rugamba, former head of Rwanda Tourism, which covers a senene garden rooted in lava rocks. (from $ 1,100 per night for two, songaafrica.com/amakoro-songa-lodge). Also well located, Bistate Lodge (from $ 2,600 nights for two years, wilderness-safaris.com) and Singita Kwitonda (from $ 3,300 at night for two, singita.com), they are both exceptionally stylish and have cult followers.

Amakoro Songa Lodge, just outside Volcanoes National Park

Trekking Ann: You can buy gorilla trekking permits online (irembo.gov.rw) or by tour operator. Each permit costs $ 1,500 per person per day for a group trek. Too shy to go traveling with strangers? You can pay $ 15,000 for a private trip. Among US tour operators, Custom Safaris is very familiar with the country and can transport to Kigali, the capital, and fix Volcanoes National Park (about two hours drive), as well as in near the park and two other nationals of the country's parks. If you're lucky, you'll end up with Paul Ndengeye as your guide / driver (customsafaris.com). Visitors can visit 12 gorilla families who have their habitual residence – and some of these families are more easily accessible than others. Let your guide know how much your favorite operation is and you will be placed in the appropriate trekking group.

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