Trip Report - Rwanda Gorilla Trek!

Old Dec 5th, 2008, 01:53 PM
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Trip Report - Rwanda Gorilla Trek!


Tour Operator: Amohoro Tours (via Good Earth Tours)
Guide: Mike
Accommodations: Gorilla Nest Lodge (for the gorilla treks) and Kivu Sun (night after the trek)
Time of year: mid-November 2008

We were picked up at the airport by Mike, of Amohoro Tours, and whisked away to begin our adventures. Our first stop was at the Genocide museum as we had arrived first thing in the morning. Really moving, sad, confusing and frustrating as to how such a thing could have happened.

Afterwards, exhausted by the flight and day, we headed to the Gorilla Nest Lodge. We were served the yummiest hot ginger tea upon arrival, well appreciated on a chilly day. Mike made sure we were comfortably settled in before he left us for the evening. Dinner was fine. The staff was nice, and one lady in particular was an absolute angel, who brought over hot water bottles for us when she heard we’d asked for extra blankets in our cold room.

Next day, early morning wake up call (good thing our internal clocks were already messed up!). There were these hilarious birds outside our room that reminded us of young teenagers with their call “Naw! Naw! Naw! Awwww….”. Wish we knew what those birds were! =) Anyone??

Quick breakfast, then off we went to the Gorilla headquarters. We were assigned to the Kwitonda group, and had two guides. After a short overview of what to expect, we drove over to where we would meet up with the guards. Happy to report we had a lightly cloudy day. No rain during our hike! The trek itself was pretty easy through lightly wooded areas. Lots of mud. Not too many nettles. Within 45 minutes, we came upon our group, sprawled out in a small clearing lit by weak sunlight. Pretty good lighting for pictures overall! After a glorious hour with the gorillas, we had an easy hike back, approx. 45 mins.

We had told our guide, Mike, that we were interested in trying ‘real’ Rwandan food. So that night, Mike took us over to another lodge, run by widows of the genocide. He’d arranged for a special dinner of typical Rwandan stew (takes a long time to make apparently) for us. SO good!!

Next day, we went on our second hike. We were assigned the Amohoro group and had just one guide today. This trek was completely different from the previous day. We went through bamboo forests. Two different types of nettles, one which, when you were stung, hurt for about 10 minutes each time. Youch! Then we clambered up and over and through mountains of vines. Amazingly beautiful! Much more difficult hike than yesterday, and the altitude did affect some of us. But so worth it when we found our gorillas! At first, where we found them, we almost had to hang off the side of the mountain by holding onto vines. But then our guided managed to find us some other less precarious perches (still on more vines). Again, no rain! Yippee!

So sad to leave the gorillas at last. But we had a wonderful time! I’d also mentioned to our guide that I’d just read Rosamond Halsey Carr’s ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’. He’d known her and brought us to visit the orphanage she’d created (she recently died). We were able to tour the orphanage and meet the children. It was a wonderful experience. Looking around, it was easy to see that Rosamond Carr was an amazing woman, well loved and respected by all.

We stayed at the Kivu Sun that night. Walking into the hotel, we had very high expectations. It is a beautiful property with a gorgeous view of the lake. I hate to give negative reviews to anything, so will keep it brief. But I would never stay there again, simply because of the horrible service we encountered. Note to others – if you stay here, do not under any circumstance give them your laundry (three shirts and both of our hiking boots ruined). And if you have dinner, expect a loooong wait.

We left (and will not go back) after breakfast to head back to Kigali for our flight out. On the way, our guide brought us over to the Mountain Gorilla Vet Project headquarters (I’d mentioned someone on Fodors had just been – thanks MyDogKyle!), and lucky for us, Dr. Spelman was there! We had a nice, short talk with her, and even got a signed copy of her new book, ‘The Rhino with the Glue-On Shoes’!

What a fantastic way to end our time in Rwanda!!! Next – Tanzania for our Safari!!! =D

Misc. general impressions: Despite initial trepidations, Rwanda turned out to be quite safe – from troubles over in the Congo as well as in general. People walked everywhere in the dark, and we were assured by our guide that it was safe to walk around. The children all seemed excited to see us when we drove by. Most waved to us happily, just to say hi. Those who gave us a thumbs-up sign would get a HUGE grin on their faces whenever we returned the sign. =) Only a few asked for empty bottles or money. Some more enterprising youngsters would run alongside our car, trying to sell pictures they’d drawn. The roads… wow. bUmPy! Overall, a wonderful country!
demitademi is offline  
Old Dec 5th, 2008, 07:15 PM
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Great information! Your two different treks shows how the experience can never be summed up. Glad they both turned out so well.
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 10:37 AM
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Thanks for the great report, and so glad you guys had a wonderful experience after the initial worries. I'm especially glad you got to meet Dr. Lucy! Vsiting the Mountain Gorilla Vets was such an inspiration to me, and her book about zoo vets is a great read. I'm hoping someday she will write specifically about her experiences in Rwanda with the gorillas.

Your comments about the places you stayed should be helpful to others in the future, so thanks for posting impressions both good and not-so-good. At least you had your hiking boots when you needed them!
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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Oh, and... those birds you heard might have been hadada ibis. My husband calls them "Rwandan alarm clocks," because they woke us every morning we were there. I'm not much of a birder, but I was able to identify them because we volunteer with elephants at our local zoo, and there is an aviary right near the eles with some very VOCAL hadada ibis.
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Old Dec 8th, 2008, 09:56 PM
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Sounds like the trip was a success and Amohoro came through for you. I'm very glad you went and had a good time. Thanks for the report--any photos to share?
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 05:37 AM
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Nice report. Looking forward to meet the gorillas and travel Rwanda in less then two weeks.
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 11:49 AM
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Thanks for sharing...sounds like you had a great time. Although I'm jealous of your treks...45 minutes? Ours were 5-6 hours!
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Old Dec 11th, 2008, 10:07 PM
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Hadada ibis... ahhhhhhhh.... thanks, MDK!!! Wish we had some around here. I'd wake up every morning laughing. I think. =D

Loru100... 5-6hrs?!!? Wow!! You must be in much better shape than me! Was that round trip? I really hope not each way! But that's a note to others - bring some power bars and extra water with you!! You never know how long you'll be out there for.

And have a great time, hdboss! =)
demitademi is offline  
Old Dec 12th, 2008, 06:40 AM
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loru100: Our trek in Uganda was similar to yours, 5 hrs in the pouring rain. Our fellow travellers had the 0 minute trek with no rain...they drove for an hour and the gorillas were by the side of the road! But we claimed to have had the "real" gorilla experience! Yes, extra water and food is a good idea...our friends' trek several years ago took 8 hrs. We hope to see the gorillas in Rwanda hopefully in the next few years.
ovenbird is offline  
Old Dec 12th, 2008, 01:36 PM
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Yes, that was one way! It was the Susa group, which is the hardest to locate. Although on the way down it takes half that time. Our guide told us the Susa group is the "real" gorilla experience!

The trek to Dian Fossey's camp was six hours (one way!) and it poured rain on the way back.

I'd give anything to go back!
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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 05:00 PM
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Wow, loru100!
I know the gorillas move around... but can you describe the terrain you had to go thru to get to the Susa group? The two hikes I went on were quite different from each other, in terms of terrain as well as difficulty level.
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Old Dec 12th, 2008, 07:25 PM
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We trekked to the Umubano group and the Susa group last October. While there were more gorillas in the Susa group, they were spread out. The Umubano group was smaller and they were easier to watch as they hung out closer to us and to each other. Our hike to Susa was short compared to the Umubano group (on that day).
Both worth every stinging nettle and hour spent getting to them. Have Fun.
We are heading to Uganda next August/September.
Enjoy
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Old Dec 14th, 2008, 06:11 PM
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We saw the Susa and Umubano groups too. The Susa group trek was half hiking in the open until we reached the buffalo wall and half hacking our way through the vegetation until we reached the gorillas.

Like the last post said, the Susa group was more spread out than the Umubano group.
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Old Dec 16th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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To be woken by Hadeda Ibis and Baboon's, only five weeks away!
napamatt_2 is offline  
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