Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gorrilas in the Rain

One thing I wanted to make sure my husband saw during his first (and possibly only) visit to Africa was mountain gorillas in the wild.  So we detoured from Tanzania to Rwanda to see gorillas.  Although I had been to see gorillas in Rwanda in 2007 on two separate hikes, and in Uganda the same trip, I was thrilled to get to see them again.  For animal lovers, it is really an amazing experience - and if you aren't an animal lover, it could convert you.  It's amazing.

First of all, seeing these animals on foot is quite an experience.  The gorillas, habituated over about 2 years, choose to let us visit them.  The guides communicate with them in grunts and reassure them we mean no harm, and they accept this.Even though man is their greatest threat.  Even though they know this, with bad experiences with snares and poachers.  Even though, without weapons, they are more powerful than we are. 

The day of our hike, it rained.  The hike was 7.5 hours round trip, with one hour of that being gorillas viewing.  Unfortunately, it was raining during the viewing and that made for less than ideal conditions, in two respects.  First, it is always tough to get good photos of gorillas as you can't use flash, it is very humid and quite dark in the rainforest, and often you get lens fog.  Second, gorillas are less active in the rain as they hunker down and wait it out vs. play and interact with one another.  But, it is what it is, you take what you get.  At least we did get to see gorillas, in both the mist and the rain.  It was a tough hike, and we ended it cold, wet and hungry, and covered in mud - but it was worth it, and I'd do it again. 

In these photos you see the secondary silverback - not the biggest silverback in the group or the leader, but the V.P. if you will, of a group called Sabayingo.  He is pictured with one of the females and her two offspring, one of whom is about 2 and the other who is just a few weeks old.  The baby is huddled close to mom with the toddler on the other side, so you can only see an ear of the baby here.  You can see the big male with his arms wrapped around him, waiting for the rain to stop, guarding his family members.  We are standing about 10 feet (best guess) from the Silverback, off to the right of this photo.

Although I didn't get great photos compared to my past gorillas trips, this was still a nice viewing.  I have been lucky enough to see gorillas in the wild 5x now - and I have no idea if I will ever have the chance again.  If it is something on your life list, make it a priority - because it is truly something special.

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