Volcanoes National Park

In my final weeks staying in Rwanda, I traveled to Volcanoes National Park in the northern province of Rwanda. My camping site had a brilliant view of the volcanoes, which mark the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

jungleThe best part of camping was the view at night. The stars in VNP are the most beautiful stars I’ve seen in Rwanda thus far, maybe in the entire world. Lightning flashed from behind the volcanoes, accentuated the dark night sky. If the ground was drier and the mosquitos weren’t lurking, I would have slept under the stars rather than in my tent.

On Sunday, all the gorilla trekkers meet at the Rwanda Development Board for a welcome ceremony. Local people performed traditional dancing and drumming, and there was complimentary tea and coffee. Our guides then separated us into our trekking groups. Mine included myself, three of my traveling companions, two missionary doctors, and a Spanish couple. The couple only spoke Spanish and were traveling East Africa to see the gorillas. I was impressed that they managed to travel in Africa without speaking English or French. Although most Rwandans aren’t exactly English experts, it is helpful to have some means of communication. Fortunately, one of the doctors was fluent in Spanish and was able to translate.p1000419

Although our goal of trekking was to see the gorillas, the walk there was half the fun. In order to reach the gorillas, we hiked through a village, farmland, and the jungle. The views of the volcanoes and the sights of the jungle were glorious. There was a waterfall there even more gorgeous than the one in Nyungwe Rainforest, and through the thickets of jungle trees I caught a glimpse of a buffalo – my first sighting of one of the Big Five in the wild.

mommyEach family of gorillas has a name. I visited the Mafunzo group, which means something cool in Kinyarwanda. Their family consisted of mother gorillas, their babies (one was pair of twins), and, of course, the silverback. Gorillas often only have one infant at a given time, so seeing twins is rare. These babies were only three months old, but they were big enough to roll around in the grass and play. Watching the mother carry her babies on her back was absolutely adorable. The silverback was the boss and observed his family from a nearby tree.

The journey was remarkable, and one of my favorite memories in Rwanda. However, my favorite part is that by participating in gorilla trekking, I contributed to the conservation of a critically endangered species and its environment. These are truly majestic creatures, and only 900 remain in their natural habitat. I strongly encourage anyone to visit the gorillas themselves, or make a donation to this rly cool place that will help them.

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