A Rare and Life-Changing Encounter
To minimize impact on the unspoiled environment, only eight people per day are granted permits to trek among each gorilla family, making this extraordinary opportunity available to a limited elite. A two to six hours’ guided hike at elevations of anywhere from 8,000 to 13,000 feet guarantees wildlife hikers a sighting of one of 10 habituated groups living in the park, each led by a noble male silverback.
Solid muscular builds, smooth shimmering backs and measured looks of concern characterize the legendary silverbacks—adult males who prefer being the sole leaders of their troops. Reaching heights of up to six feet and weighing up to 400 pounds, silverbacks are often thought of as intimidating chest beaters. While they will demonstrate their power when challenged by other males, those encountered daily by carefully guided tourists are nonplussed, safe and more than worthy of admiration and respect.
Putting Names to the Faces of a New Generation
Gorilla tourism has become such a vital part of conservation—not to mention the Rwandan economy—that a baby naming ceremony known as Kwita Izina is held annually for thousands of attendees at the foot of the Virunga Mountains. In 2017, some 14 baby gorillas, known as blackbacks, were given symbolic Rwandan names. Five adult females who joined groups in Volcanoes National Park from other locales were named at the event as well.
Breathtaking beauty and awe-inspiring animal encounters are worth the trip to Rwanda alone, but the knowledge that you’ve helped the mountain gorilla community is an added bonus to this transformative land extension to AmaWaterways’ Africa cruises. As Dian Fossey wrote before she passed, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”