Today, I am following a virtual tour, courtesy of Luxury Travel Expert. In this tour, I am joining a group of tourists visiting Volcanoes National Park. Through this post, I am bringing you on board as well.
Our expedition begins in Kinigi, outside the boundary line of the park. We stroll across farms belonging to members of the local community and ascend to the foothill of Sabyinyo mountain. There are no clear trails inside the jungle. Rangers are guiding us along creepy paths. At some point, they use machetes to clear the way. In most parts, we maneuver around thick shrubs and bamboo trees.
Farther ahead, the gradient gets steeper and a little muddier. Guides use their walkie talkies to communicate with trackers, who in turn, keep updating them on the whereabouts of the nearest gorillas. One of the rangers is carrying a rifle. He is prepared to use it to scare away elephants and buffaloes if necessary.
After a strenuous 90-minute hike, we find Sabyinyo family. Sabyinyo is led by a giant silverback namely Guhonda. At 49, Guhonda is the oldest gorilla in the area. The sight of these great apes stirs excitement in the group.
We spend an hour observing the gorillas, taking pictures and recording videos. The guides ensure required distance is kept between us and the gorillas. This is done in order to avoid the possibility of transmitting diseases to them. At Volcanoes National Park, social distancing guidelines were put in place long before the outbreak of COVID- 19.
Our presence doesn’t seem to bother the gorillas. They look quite comfortable in the company of human beings. This is not surprising because we are cousins. At some point, one gorilla moves closer and grabs somebody’s arm. The said gorilla starts pulling him playfully until one of the rangers separates the two and instructs us to step backwards. Minutes later, another gorilla grabs someone else’s shoe in another demonstration of friendliness.
Before embarking on a journey back to Kinigi, we find a nice spot for lunch but as soon as we sit down to eat our packed snacks, another big silverback appears out of nowhere and charges towards us, scattering the group.
Tourism is currently suspended until further notice. This tour happened about a year ago and for the record, I wasn’t part of the featured group physically. In case you are confused, I have just watched the video and revived the experience through the power of imagination. During this lockdown, you too can experience virtual tours from the comfort of your couch.