Warning: you’ll wanna stuff one in your man bag.
Spending time with the families of gorillas in Rwanda is an otherworldly experience. You’ll absolutely fall in love with these furry creatures as they eat and play and behave for all the world like humans who haven’t quite boned up on their social conventions. (They may remind you of certain family members.)
By day two, you’ll be ready to go all Dian Fossey on their ass.
If you’re considering a safari in Africa, a Rwandan Gorilla Trek is an easy add-on, since it’s a neighboring state to Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. And I guarantee, it will be the cherry on your safari sundae.
Here are five reasons why:
- The gorillas are heavily protected in Rwanda; there are just 22 families in the mountains, and only 12 that you can visit. And with a maximum of 8 human visitors per family, it makes the experience incredibly intimate.
- Unlike safaris, where you’re in a jeep (for a reason, of course – you really don’t want to just walk up to a pride of lions), here you can be standing literally five feet away from a Silverback.
- Watching them play – especially the babies – is charming and kind of hilarious. They eat bamboo shoots which, at certain times of year become fermented. So, babies and adults alike get a little drunk. There are few things in the world more adorable than a hammered ape.
- You can have all kinds of unexpected interactions. A mother walked up behind one guest and tapped him on the shoulder. On another day, as a guest sat on the grass shooting photos, a gorilla sat down behind him and just leaned up against him, munching happily on some bamboo.
- This is a limited and incredibly rare experience. Only 96 people a day get to visit these gorillas. You’ll be dining out on this experience for YEARS.
Add to this the fact that there are 5-star resorts in Kigali (where you’ll be based), like the Kigali Serena hotel, and the “roughing it” portion of your day ends when you return to a facial, filet mignon and a bottle of South African wine.
Ready to go? Then, here are some tips to make the most of your experience:
- Bring a light rain jacket or poncho. There’s a reason they called the movie, Gorillas in the Mist. You’re in the mountains. Weather happens.
- Know that there’s a moderate-to-heavy amount of walking/hiking involved. If you have mobility issues, this is probably not the experience for you.
- There are porters that you can hire for just $10/day who will assist you by carrying your stuff, helping you through the mud, pushing you up hills (we’re not kidding), etc. The best $10 you’ll ever spend.
- Although this isn’t a proven fact, it seems that if you dress in black (say, a black sweater), the gorillas will think of you more as one of them, which can lead to more significant interactions.
- Be prepared to bond with these animals. You’ll come away from this experience wondering if there’s an Adopt-an-Ape program.
But good luck trying to get that gorilla onto the plane as your emotional support animal.