Victoria Falls

A look at Victoria Falls from our helicopter flight.

A look at Victoria Falls from our helicopter flight.

We took a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls and I had made an effort to have a side word with the person leading the passengers to the chopper. I tipped him to give me the front corner seat for the best view. The flight was enjoyable and was a great introduction for Leanne to see the falls. It also allowed us to see them from Zimbabwe airspace without having to cross the border. This was my second visit here and while last time I did the bungee jump and white water rafting, this time we took it easy.

We spent a large part of the day wandering around the Zambian side of the park. The falls are at a beautiful water level, enough flow to make them spectacular, but low enough that the mist isn’t overwhelming and you can see them nicely. We did get drenched though as each time the wind would gust it essentially rained upwards with torrential pours against the falls edge. We were packed a simple lunch in a plastic bag from the lodge we are staying at. We had just passed a sign that said Baboon Sanctuary and Leanne decided it was a good location to sit and eat as there was a small log on the ground to sit on. I questioned the logic of eating in a baboon sanctuary, but we went ahead and started. About a minute in with hardly any food touched a massive alpha male baboon charged Leanne grabbing towards her banana. She threw it at his chest and jumped back. He took it and the plastic bag full of food and meticulously went through it peeling and eating the fruit and unwrapping sandwiches from their plastic wrap. It was a funny event but Leanne was very shaken up. We saw a park ranger shortly after that and he chased it off with a slingshot (you don’t want to get too close to baboon claws). It became a huge entertaining spectacle for the other tourists as they all gathered around to take photos of it eating our food in a very human like way. Another tourist said the same thing happened to him not long before that. The baboons recognize the bags to have food and if the baboon is big enough and hungry enough it will be aggressive to get it. This was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, probably because it has found a great source to feed itself.

Later on we wandered down a path called “Best photography path”. It sounded perfect for me and we followed it for ten minutes. The path went beyond the Zambian border and along the road to Zimbabwe. Although there was a fence with barbed wire, it had clearly been compromised in a number of areas and people must use it to get over the border illegally. I was taking photos and Leanne had wandered ahead. There had been no one else on this path. Leanne had almost reached the end of it when she was approached and surrounded by three men in their early twenties. They quickly moved to block her from being able to get away. They started talking to her and were moving in closer to her. It was calculated for them to trap Leanne and there were being intentionally intimidating. It was almost a minute before I showed up around the corner. I was alarmed with the positioning of them. When they saw me they backed off and one wandered over to try to have a friendly, nothing-going-on-here, chat. I wanted nothing to do with it as we were isolated a long way from safety. At this point the guys decided to pull out some hidden jewellery to sell to us. I told the person talking to me I had no interest and we were going, thanks and goodbye. Leanne was more subtle and told another person separately that we had no cash on us but would probably come back tomorrow, which was a lie. We quickly departed and warned a lone person we passed on the way back about the people at the end of the trail.

We finished off the day in style by boating over to Livingstone Island to literally stand on the edge of the falls and to be served high tea. They bundle the island trip with the food and drink to make it more expensive. This time of year there is no other way to get there. It was a beautiful afternoon and the views were stunning. It is certainly the best place to admire the falls and we were both really happy we went. Leanne was a bit nervous as we were escorted to the cliff edges for photos. She particularly doesn’t like my interest in getting as close to the edge as possible for the best views. We returned to the mainland to find a rare albino monkey and a herd of zebra on the lawn of the hotel grounds where the boat departs from. We were picked up and I was given complimentary beer to drink in the vehicle on the trip back.

The falls are beautiful and Leanne prefers them to Iguazu falls, although I think Victoria Falls comes in a close second. Despite a couple of uncomfortable situations, we still had a phenomenal time here. We are leaving with some amazing memories.

Photos for Vic Falls and the Okavango Delta are posted here:

Okavango Delta

A lion devouring its prey in the Okavango

A lion devouring its prey in the Okavango

We have just completed a fly-in safari to a private reserve on the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Our trip there has set the bar for safari trips so high, it will be difficult for any others to compare. The camp we stayed at sits on the edge of the delta and the Moremi National Park and there is no fencing around the property. There are only eight tents there for guests. From our luxury tent we would see and hear elephants, hippos, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, and numerous birds. In the distance we could occasionally hear hyenas and lions. Lions and Leopards have also been spotted in the camp and the people working there have some great stories.

We were driven in fully exposed URI vehicles for the safaris. These vehicles are like tanks. We could drive through soft sand, mud, lakes, rivers, and plough through small trees and bushes with little difficulty. It sounds terribly destructive but we would only knock down plants on rare occasions. It was frightening how close we would get to the animals as we felt exposed and vulnerable. We always had a guide who would drive and a tracker that would sit on a special seat at the front of the vehicle. The tracker scans for wildlife and identifies paw prints and droppings and also mans the spotlight on night drives. The benefit of being in a private reserve is the usual safari restrictions do not apply and you can drive anywhere while tracking animals and you can drive at any time. Some of our night sightings were our best.

Our schedule was to wake up at 6AM have a quick breakfast snack with tea or coffee before heading out on safari. We would stop in the wilderness to stretch and have more snacks before returning four or five hours later to have a big brunch. We would then have a siesta before having a late lunch at 3:30PM. This was followed by another outing stopping again in the wilderness to have drinks while watching the sun set. We would then have a long night drive back before having a late dinner followed by stories around a camp fire and retiring for the night.

Our highlights here included watching a pack of hyenas try to chase two young male lions away from an animal they had killed. Having a massive male lion pass on a hill beside me within petting distance. Tracking a leopard through bushes after it had killed a baboon and all the monkeys and baboons had climbed to the tops of the trees and were going crazy and yelling out warning calls. We could figure out where the leopard was by seeing where animals up the trees were all looking. We drove through bushes and happened upon it just meters ahead of us. This caught us both by surprise and it bolted away not to be seen by us again. We also saw a male lion devouring a Kudu one night and a hyena the next day chewing through the remainder of the skull with vultures waiting for anything that would be left. One evening we took a motorized boat through canals around the delta. The boat was two levels and I was sitting on the top with another fellow taking photos when we came across a couple of elephants and the guide turned off the engine. The boat drifted to shore at the same edge the elephant had walked to. I was eye level with it only a few meters away and it stood there with one leg half raised. The guides below were whisper yelling, “don’t move a muscle” and it was the only time we saw them genuinely worried. They used a pole to edge the boat away from the land. Shorty after that the elephant walked right into the water and crossed to an island on the other side. The smaller one followed and had to swim to get there. It was about 8PM when we returned and we were going to sit down for dinner when we were told another vehicle had found a group of seven male lions that hunt together. We were asked if we wanted to see them and we said yes. We got into the vehicle and were told to buckle-up as we rushed to drive the hour or so to their location. We arrived and had plenty of time looking at them. Leanne and I were sitting in the last row of the vehicle and with the spotlight on two lions in front we could see one of the others approaching us directly from behind. We actually ducked as it got close only to pass a foot away from the vehicle to join his friends. While driving between the lions we drove over a tree stump that snapped the connection to the steering column. One of the nearby vehicles was filled with camp staff looking at the lions and they came to our rescue quickly switching out and letting us take their vehicle. They were all standing outside as two large male lions passed us by, but the lions were disinterested. We left them in the dark a long way from camp after their temporary fix of the vehicle failed. A rescue vehicle was then sent to get them.

On our last day we did a mokoro (a little flat canoe) trip past a group of hippos. Leanne was scared, but it was great fun. When we were returning we were radioed that others had found a female cheetah with four six-month old cubs. We drove out to admire them and track them for a while. We even saw the mother give chase to a group of impala and we thought she might have caught one so we sped after her to check, but the target had managed to escape and she went to a nearby mound to rest as her cubs followed.

The Okavango is very beautiful and this has certainly been another trip highlight. We loved the camp we stayed at and very much hope to come back one day to stay at the same camp or another one run by the same company in Botswana. Everything is included once you arrive including all premium drinks, all meals, snacks, activities and even laundry. They will bend over backward to make your trip incredible including sacrificing meals and sleep to give you the best viewings whenever they are found. The vehicles always start in different directions during the safaris so you only see other tourists when there is a great find and even then there are not more than two or three vehicles congregating in one spot. We have had an unbelievable experience in an incredible place.

Unique Zanzibar

A couple of wild Red Colobus Monkeys. A species unique to Zanzibar.

A couple of wild Red Colobus Monkeys. A species unique to Zanzibar.

We had a lazy morning around the pool before going to visit the Jozani Forest in Zanzibar. We were treated to some up close encounters with the unique red colobus monkeys, a species only found in Zanzibar. We also wandered (and climbed) through the mangroves. There are some great areas on Zanzibar and it would be nice to lounge here for a while, but we are on the move again. We will be in Johanessburg tomorrow for a night before heading to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. We will likely be out of touch for the next week, but will try to update whenever possible.

Paradise Found!

Leanne dipping her feet in the pool at the resort in Zanzibar.

Leanne dipping her feet in the pool at the resort in Zanzibar.

We had a rather unpleasant start to our visit to Zanzibar. Five of the people from our previous trip carried on with us on a pre-organized trip extension to Zanzibar. Unfortunately, when we made the booking it did not detail what places we would be staying in, only the general location. After taking the ferry in the morning to this spice island we were met by a local representative and delivered to our first hotel. After checking in, the local representative started to hassle us to do an expensive city tour and spice tour with him. He was offering prices well above what was quoted in our trip dossier and was offering to include less at the same time. He also didn’t know where we were supposed to be staying the following nights when I asked despite needing to transfer us to there on the next day. He made a guess and told us a place which turned out to be wrong. He had sat us down in a restaurant with exorbitant prices and we didn’t want to eat there. We were so unimpressed with the situation that we left the table without ordering.

Later that day he tracked down the entire group of us in another restaurant and told us there was no accommodation booked for our subsequent nights and suggested we organize our own transportation to wherever we were planning on staying. Having paid for everything upfront this left us particularly upset. We lost an entire afternoon in Stone Town as we scrambled to track down numbers to make international calls to figure out what to do next. After a lot of effort and a number of calls we finally were given a name for where we were to stay on the North of Zanzibar. A representative was to come and meet us to explain the situation. Finally someone showed up and it turned out to be the same person we had the problem with before. He told us the hotels in the North are booked-up and they made other arrangements for us to stay off of Zanzibar on a different island towards the mainland. I talked to a representative of the tour company in South Africa and explained this is not what I had paid for, I wanted the remainder of my money back and would go it alone without the services of the tour company there forwards. I had wanted to stay on the beautiful Zanzibar beaches either on the North or East side of the island with easy access to explore the mainland. I managed to find a recommended place on the East coast and made a direct booking.

The following morning the seven of us did a spice tour, which actually turned out to be very informative. It was to be our last group activity since Leanne and I were not carrying on to the other island.

In Stone Town Leanne and I wandered through the maze of winding streets and had a really great lunch at a place we stumbled across in the middle of it all. One of the ATMs I withdrew money from rebooted a few minutes later with the Windows XP load screen showing on the display. I got my money and it was at a bank, but I’m still a bit worried. It was certainly funny to see. We later went to the local market before going to sort out our transportation off the island and running a few more errands. We took a private transfer across the island to the place we would spend our next three afternoons.

Paradise! We booked into a large beautiful suite with a huge private patio at a gorgeous five star beach resort on the always sunny East coast of the island. The pool was clean, large and inviting and the beach here is stunning with squeaky white sand and coral filled turquoise waters. The place is very romantic and perfect for couples. We were so happy when we saw it that we were giddy. That evening we celebrated. The following day we relaxed by the beach and pool side. I had an assortment of tasty adult beverages and Leanne had a nice visit to the spa. It has become another of our favourite stays and is giving us a little holiday from our travelling.

We will be off for another safari in a couple days, but will certainly be looking forward to some more beach time and especially meeting up with family when my mother-in-law, Maureen, comes to join us in Mauritius. Thank you Maureen for keeping us connected with home so often throughout our journey.

Photos from Zanzibar are posted with at the same location as the other East Africa photos.

Kilimanjaro and the Usambara Mountains

Leanne at a local Tanzanian Market

Leanne at a local Tanzanian Market

Leaving Lake Manyara we stopped in Arusha before making our way past Moshi to the base of Kilimanjaro (Kili). Leanne and I were joined by Greg and Lyndall (an Australian couple from our group) and a guide for an all day hike on the most popular ascent route for climbing Kilimanjaro. I previously had little desire to complete a full hike to the top, but after being on it I wished we had the flexibility to stay and complete the journey. It takes about five to six days to be able to climb while allowing acclimatization to make it all the way to the top. The peak is just under 5900 meters and we only made it to around 3000 meters in elevation. It was surprising how quickly the climate changed from jungle to alpine forest. We visited Maundi Crater in the Moorland region of the climb before having to return down. We were thrilled when we came across the Colobus Monkeys in the alpine trees. They are so different from the other monkeys we had seen with their ridiculously long hair. They are certainly my favourite and we loved spending time around them.

red caterpillarOn our second night in the cottages at the base of Kili, we had a scary red caterpillar crawling up the wall immediately beside the toilet. After being told back in the Amazon that bright coloured bugs are often poisonous we were particularly fearful of it when using the washroom. It was probably harmless, but we still don’t know.

We left Kili for a long drive to the Usambara Mountains. It is quite a nice area off the regular tourist track. We stopped by a village called Soni and had a nice walk through a very diverse hilled area planted with all sorts of vegetation. It felt like one of the more remote spots we had been to, yet it had what may be the best wifi Internet connection in Tanzania at the place we had lunch. I was finally able to download our email. We are posting a few updates at the same time since getting online with the laptop has been a challenge. It is surprising how many lodges say they have Internet but it is coincidentally broken for the time we are there.

We carried on past the town of Lushoto and spent two nights in a German Guesthouse with exceptionally friendly service. It was cold in the evenings and we would huddle by the fire in the living area. On our second day there five of us did a walk through a forest trail on our own. It was a little overgrown and there were moments where we wondered whether it was a bad decision, but it all worked out and we returned back to the lodge just in time for a scheduled leave to a nearby village for their local market. This visit was certainly a cultural highlight. It likely receives few tourists, and our itinerary did not have a stop there. We went by request when we learned of it. Instead of the usual children extending their hands and saying give-me, give-me, we were just followed around by the young people as they stared at us and wanted to get a close look at us and hear how we spoke. Leanne bought some fabric in the market and sadly my haggling skills either were very poor or we were given a fair price right at the start. We walked away from the first place only to discover that each other vendor had an escalating price for the same size of material. I think someone was following and signalling prices to them over my shoulder. We eventually bought it after haggled back down to the first price we were quoted (under $4 CAD).
In the afternoon we went to a beautiful look out over the Masai plains. It was stunning and I was able to sit on the unprotected cliff edge to take photos, much to Leanne’s great discomfort. The cliff has a sheer drop of hundreds of meters to the valley below and despite having no fear of heights it was dizzying when I let my feet dangle and I stared down below. It was a beautiful spot. We stopped in the town of Lushoto on the way back from the lookout to explore it. Overall we had a great day.

The next morning was the last day of our tour and we had a long days drive to get from the mountains to Dar Es Salaam. We left at 7AM not to arrive in Dar until after 2PM. Leanne’s bag was packed in our truck and my bag was packed on the roof of the other truck. We were happy we weren’t with the other half of the group today. In the morning they decided to give their driver his tip for the trip. At the first pit stop along the way he counted it and was not pleased. He confronted the group saying it is not enough money and drove angry and dangerously for the rest of the way. I have no idea why they did not think to wait until the tour was over to give the tip especially if it was going to be small. When we finally arrived in Dar he was refusing to unload the truck and wanted to know if they had more money for him. I got our driver to get my bag off his truck. Everyone got their bags eventually and the other driver received no more money, but the whole situation was very awkward. That day we had to say goodbye to our favourite travellers from the group. Thanks Louise for the update, we are glad to know you made it home ok despite travelling with little money, no credit cards and no bank card, and we hope Greg and Lyndall had a safe journey as well.

We posted photos on Facebook at the same time as our last blog entries, but the Internet stopped working immediately after that so we couldn’t make this post or add any comments to the photos. The link to see the photos is here:

The Big Five

Leopard in the Serengeti

Leopard in the Serengeti

We had a remarkably easy crossing into Tanzania. We didn’t have the opportunity to get tourist visas in advance, but it didn’t make a difference. We filled the same entry form as everyone else and simply had to hand over the visa fee with the passports. They were stamped quickly and on we went with no delay. We spent our first night in a small town on Lake Victoria and went to the beach for sunset.

On our next day we drove through the Serengeti to our lodge which is in the middle of the park. That evening on our safari drive we were lucky to see our first leopard up in a tree. With that we completed our Big Five sightings and everything to follow would just be a bonus. The famous Big Five that everyone tries to see on safari are: Leopard, Black Rhinoceros, Lion, African Buffalo, and the African Elephant. We enjoyed an early drive the next morning to watch the sunrise and saw a family of hyenas wandering around their den. Later that day we saw a couple more leopards sleeping in treetops, more lions and we saw a couple of cheetahs from a distance. Around the lodge we were able to get up close to Zebra, some Mongoose and the numerous Rock Hyraxes which were everywhere. That night we were shocked to discover a loud munching Hippopotamus outside our bedroom window. They are massive and it was great fun to watch and listen to it graze on the lawn. It was in an area that guests can walk through and one of our companions was on her way to the lawn to look at the stars before learning of our big visitor. I should also mention that during the early evening monkeys would run along the railing of our window looking to see if anyone left it open so they could get inside.

On our second evening I ordered water at dinner. They brought me a 1.5 litre bottle that was half frozen. It was the first time I’d had really cold water in a long time and immediately drank a lot of it. Unfortunately I was becoming complacent about checking what I was served and I did not see if the container was sealed before it was opened for me. We think they refilled the bottle and put it in the freezer to hide the taste. My digestive system was in disarray for the next few days, I even made a visit to a local nurse to discuss it, and took some medicine before returning to full health. Fortunately it did not impact what we accomplished with our days.

We left the Serengeti on the third day and had a phenomenal up close view of a cheetah and many more lions. We carried on to Oluduvei Gorge, often referred to as the cradle of civilization since it is where the oldest human footprints and skeleton were discovered. We also visited a Maasai village before getting to our lodge on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater. The lodge has an amazing view and that afternoon we went for a hike up to Olmoti Crater to enjoy the scenery.

The following day was spent in the crater, watching all the animals including more cheetahs, lions fresh after a kill and much more. We stopped briefly to open the top of the land cruiser and Leanne and I foolishly got out to have our photo taken. Fortunately no predators were close to us. At one point we had a lion walking between our vehicles. It passed so close to where I sat I could have pet it out of my open window. We also spent a while watching the stinky and noisy hippos in some shallow water. They kept doing rolls to keep their backs wet, putting their stubby legs in the air. It was quite amusing. Our new animal sighting for the day was the Serval, which is a small cousin of the Cheetah. We had lunch at a resting area within the crater and took a photo of Topo with some animal bones. Yes Sharon, he is still with us and getting lots of photos despite the lack of posts. ?

The following day we went to Lake Manyara and shortly after leaving the lodge we passed a massive male lion approaching the road in the morning mist. Including this day we saw lions every day since starting the safari, but it would be our last sighting for this trip. Lake Manyara didn’t have much new to offer us from a safari perspective, but it was very different scenery and we did get to see Blue Monkeys for the first time. We also did a village walk in the area.

The Great Migration

part of the Wildebeest Migration as seen from our hot air balloon flight

part of the Wildebeest Migration as seen from our hot air balloon flight

We are travelling in a diverse group of 15. The ages range from a 19 year old Brazilian and his older brother to an 80 year old Australian, and a 70 year old Jamaican now living in the UK. It is never too late to travel. The group is divided for the drives between two newish eight passenger Land Cruisers, with both the youngest and oldest passengers in one vehicle and the rest of us in another. I like the Land Cruisers and the tops remove in three sections so you can look out the top while on safari.

We left Nairobi for our first stop at Lake Nakuru. The lake currently has over 2 million flamingos in it. We saw this from lake side, but could also see them scattered across the lake from the cottages we were staying in. On our first safari drive of the trip we were rewarded with being only a couple meters away from a couple of white rhinos. There were also numerous African Buffalos and we saw our first lion. Beyond the usual gazelles, impalas, and other members of the antelope family we saw the Dik Dik, which is the smallest of the family and not much bigger than about double the size of a rabbit. We also saw Zebra and Baboons, both of which we would see continuously whenever we were in or near a national park. It was a great start to the trip.

Our next destination was the Masai Mara, which is simply the part of the Serengeti that is on the Kenyan side of the border. On our trip notes this was the only place we would be camping on this trip. This is certainly Leanne’s style of camping. Beautiful tents on fixed structures with large beds, electricity and private washrooms with hot water showers and flushing toilets. It disappointed those wanting an actual camping experience, but we were happy. Sadly our stay in this beautiful spot was marred by mosquito problems. In the rooms they have a mosquito killing device that heats a scented disk. As a mosquito would get close you could hear the sound change and it would fall dead shortly after that. The electricity is run off a generator which is turned off from midnight until early morning. We were woken repeatedly on our first night from the sound of mosquitoes by our ears and when we finally got up in the morning we both had close to a dozen bites on our faces. That day I complained about the problem (as did the majority of guests there) and pleaded for a mosquito net for the bed. Turns out they were aware of the mosquito issue. The outbreak had started two months ago, but since this was the first year they’ve had problems they were taking a hope-it-goes-away approach. The tents aren’t sealed properly due to how they are connected with the washrooms. They did not have any nets for use or purchase. They fumigated our tents the following night. This helped reduce the number of additional bites to just a couple more each. The fact that they hadn’t responded to a changing environment to protect their customers from bites in a malaria zone is unacceptable and I look forward to writing a scathing review of the place on Trip Advisor.

Despite the bad sleeps all was forgotten during the day thanks some incredible animal sightings. Our first morning in the Mara we celebrated our second wedding anniversary with an early morning hot air balloon flight over the park followed by a champagne breakfast. The highlight of the flight was going over part of a heard of the migrating wildebeest. While an enjoyable experience, ballooning here simply does not compare to what we had done in the past at Cappadocia in Turkey. If you are only going to try ballooning once, and I highly recommend the experience, save some money and do it in Turkey. Later in the morning during a rest stop at another lodge someone had left the door to our vehicle open and unattended for half a minute and a vervet monkey quickly took advantage of the situation and went inside to rummage for food. We had to chase it out.

We were very lucky to be rewarded with seeing the endless stretch of migration wildebeest and zebras on our anniversary. The great migration was one of the most important things I hoped to see while in East Africa and it came early this year and we managed to be in the right place at the right time. We were so close to the animals that we temporarily split the herd as we drove along the rode as it bisected their path. We even stopped for a picnic lunch on a rock area in the middle of the park not far from the herd. Another incredible sighting we had while in the Masai Mara was of the rare Black Rhino. We also saw numerous lions, elephants, giraffes, and many of the other usual game and birdlife this area is known for. Our drivers were great and would drive way off the road to get us the best views of the animals.
After two nights and safari drives over three days we went across the park on our way to the Tanzanian border. We highly recommend visiting the Masai Mara. We were spoiled here with so many animal sightings so frequently and freedom to move around the park however we wanted.

Genocide and Crime

Human remains at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial

Human remains at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial

This morning we visited the Nyamata Genocide Memorial where horrific atrocities took place in 1994. Thousands of Tutsi’s fled to the church we visited and had crowded inside thinking they would find safety there. They were massacred in many unfathomably brutal ways. The stories we were told of the methods of killing were haunting. All of the clothing of those killed has been left in stacks in the church and the bones of many have been organized and shelved in the church basement. Of the thousands who sought refuge here only 3 people survived. It was a sobering experience. You can read more about it here:


This evening we arrived in Nairobi, the city notorious for its excessive crime rate. We have just joined a group tour that will take us through Kenya and Tanzania. We are travelling with 15 others and had dinner with six of them. At dinner one of the ladies had placed her bag under the table. While we were chatting and eating, two people sat at the table behind us, refused to order when a waitress approached them and quickly disappeared after that. At the end of dinner the lady discovered her bag with her passport, credit cards and other personal effects was gone. The hotel we are in has six floors with security guards on every floor and gated security before reaching the building. Still it is not enough to stop the crime that occurs here all the time. Although there are some great attractions in Nairobi we are looking forward to getting out of this crime ridden city.

Gorillas in Rwanda

spending the afternoon with the gorillas

spending the afternoon with the gorillas

We have just had the most incredible experience of a lifetime, visiting a family of mountain gorillas in the wild on the slopes of a volcano in Rwanda. We woke up early and were joined by six other tourists (including two from Vancouver) for our trek into the forest. For the entire last year there were only around 1000 Canadians to visit here. The trek to find them in their natural habitat was difficult. The rangers that work here are talented at their job and it is impressive how they are able to track them as they wander freely in the wild. We had to tuck our pant legs into our socks to protect from the fire ants, and were constantly getting scraped by stinging nettles all the while dodging animal droppings on the paths. When we started to get close we could no longer use any established trails and a path was cut as we went through thick growth on very steep terrain. It was quite a challenge to climb this and we had to go a very long way. The reward for the effort though was so beyond our expectations and was quite a moving experience. We were positioned slightly above the gorilla family which came right up to us, including one massive 200kg silverback, seven females and a baby. Park regulations require visitors stay seven meters away from the gorillas. Our positioning on the hill at times put us from less than one meter away to only a few meters away from these beautiful animals.

It is fascinating to see these creatures go about their lives. Their DNA is 96% human and the similarities between us are interesting to observe. We were able to see them eating, occasionally pounding their chests, knocking down trees, and the big silverback even mounted one of his mates and proceeded to copulate for a number of minutes with us just a few meters away. She wandered off when he was done and he lay down with his hands propping his face to rest. The baby was particularly entertaining and was swinging on the trees. At one point one of the older females ran and knocked the tree down that the baby was in.

We watched in awe and relished this unbelievable encounter with the gorillas. I cannot imagine I will have a better wildlife experience for the rest of my life. What an amazing day.

Photos from our encounter can be found here:

We head south to Kigali tomorrow.