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Rwanda-Gorilla Trek-May 2020

In May of 2020, I am going on my first Gorilla Trek! I have done safaris though in Kenya and South Africa.

I will be starting in Kigali, Rwanda with my tour group and eventually will end up in Uganda. I am so excited about this trip, but people have been giving me fears about doing this.

Everything from "it's too dangerous in Rwanda", "too much walking to actually see the gorillas", "what if the gorillas attack", & "what if you're kidnapped". It's made me really reconsider this trip many times, but I'm still going. I am going as a solo on this trip, but I will be with a tour/safari group. I have had 2 different roommates, but they backed out.

So now I'm going to dispel some of these rumors. I have been watching videos on others that have gone to Rwanda and I feel much better now.

The fascinating idea to venture deep into the jungle of Eastern Africa in search of the endangered mountain gorilla is — in the mind of many— nothing but for me, definitely something I've always wanted to do. Uganda & Rwanda have gained popularity in recent years for being a tourist-friendly destination and for being just one in a handful of African countries homing mountain gorillas. And despite the physical effort required, emerging into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has never been so doable.

Before you head over to Uganda you must know trekking down gorillas is not a walk in the park. It does require some sort of physical endurance. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is just as its name indicates, truly impenetrable. But thanks to the knowledge of a group of dedicated official gorilla trekkers and rangers from the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority), walking on imaginary ground over dry leaves, branches, and roots to reach the gorillas is as a task that can be completed safely and successfully.

A gorilla trekking is basically a trek through the dense jungle in search of gorilla families called troops. Only 8 people can trek with one gorilla family. It can take 3-6 hours to do this.. It’s estimated that 15 to 16 gorilla families with roughly 10 individuals (one silverback male, females and their offsprings) are tracked in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, the country with the highest population of mountain gorillas followed by Congo and Rwanda. When I say “families that are trekked” mean that these gorilla troops have been habituated to humans, meaning despite being completely wild animals, they seem not to be disturbed by human presence. However, the rangers and trekkers will make sure we don’t possess a danger to their well-being and natural habitat, as well as making sure we are safe from a potential gorilla attack. There are also more gorilla families in Bwindi that are not familiar with humans and are kept out of the trekking arena.

So yes, there may be a lot of walking involved-I can still walk for many hours. It's not something I would do all of the time, but I can do it. I have been advised to never look the gorillas directly in their eyes-because that's a sign of attack. I can avoid looking gorillas in the eyes-doable.

I did have a work associate that did this trip and she was attacked twice by orangutang, but she was the only one the group that was attacked and she wears perfume, so I'm thinking they were attracted to the smell. She was scratched and refused to do the Rabies shots and she was fine.

What about being kidnapped-remember the woman from Newport Beach, CA that was kidnapped while on trek with her tour guide-this was a few years back. Most people don't know the whole story. Yes, she & the tour guide were kidnapped. The kidnapper took them to his village, but the village turned the kidnapper into the police. The people of this village rely on tourism and didn't want anything to disrupt that. Neither the woman, nor the tour guide were harmed.

How dangerous is it in Rwanda? From watching numerous videos of travelers visiting, I am no longer worried. These travelers had only good things to say about their visit. It is a third world country, but I have been to third world countries around the world.

This is not the normal adventure, most of us take. It's good for me.

I hope I have inspired you to travel. Valerie Brown

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