A Greatest Experience: Hiking in Rwanda to see Mountain Gorillas

Silverback Gorillas, Rwanda

Silverback Gorillas, Rwanda

5 years on and the one experience that comes to mind when someone asks about my favourite trip – as hard as it is to pick just one, this one is usually the first one I think about: Coming Face to Face with a Silverback Gorilla in Rwanda.

Back in 2011 I decided to make my first trip to Africa. I was doing an organised camping tour, roughing it through East Africa. I didn’t know what to imagine, wild desert plains, giraffes wandering around, maybe the odd zebra drinking in a waterhole… but the trip surpassed anything I could have imagined.

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla

The day of the hike in Volcanoes National Park I realised how unfit I was. I part of a small group expecting to only hike 1-2 hours, when the reality was closer to 3 hours each way – through bush that was hacked away with machetes (by the trackers) and mostly uphill through mud… as you’d expect with somewhere called ‘Volcanoes’. Every time the group paused I’d just catch up, so I quickly became dehydrated and exhausted because I hardly got to stop myself.

All that frustration and exhaustion melted away the moment I stepped through that last lot of bush and stumbled across the Amahoro group, otherwise known as the ‘Peaceful Group’.

Gorilla eating

Gorilla eating

They were stunning, from the adults grooming each other, some lying around and others eating. They were so at peace.

Gorillas grooming

Gorillas grooming in Rwanda

Gorilla sleeping, Rwanda

Gorilla sleeping, Rwanda

I’ll never forget the little baby that tumbled around on the bush floor doing little acrobatics for us as we watched on in awe. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. These giants could easily squash me with the power behind them, especially the big daddy silverback gorilla.

Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla tumbling around

Baby Gorilla tumbling around

Seeing these Gorillas in the wild in Rwanda, one of the most lush countries of Africa, was an experience that I wouldn’t realise quite how incredible it was until it was over. You could only spend one hour with the gorillas, before leaving them in peace. That one hour we stood a few meters away from these incredible creatures. Their coats were glossy in the sunlight and they looked incredibly healthy. And happy. So happy.

It was a dream come true to spend time with them, a dream I never imagined I would ever have. Now it’s one that I hope I’ll have in the future again.

One day I’ll return to Rwanda or Uganda to see the gorillas again.

I wish zoo’s would be forced to see how fantastic the lives are of these animals compared to the ones that are holed up in the awful establishments that are zoos around the world. If there is one way to kill off such an amazing animal, it’s to kill it with torture in small disgusting spaces, when they are used to being free. I bet if we asked these gorillas, they’d rather live 10 years in the wild than 15 in captivity (if they even get that). These groups are breeding and being protected. Poachers are still prominent, but I’d much rather pay an African’s wage to protect these wild creatures than pay a fee at a zoo.

This was part of my series ’30 of my Greatest Travel Experiences before I’m 30′. To check out more visit this page to check out more of my greatest adventures: 30 of my Greatest Travel Experiences before I’m 30 »

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