A few years ago I left my husband and travel friends behind in London and flew to Rwanda from sea level to my lodge at 7,000 feet. The next morning I headed out to meet the gorillas, trekking for 4.5 hours up the mountain on paths that we cleared as we went to finally see the Mountain Gorillas at 10,000 feet. By that time I was so exhausted that I was afraid I wouldn’t even be able to hold my camera steady, but the sight of our first gorilla group quickly made me forget my fatigue. For four days we went out to view different family groups. Fortunately, not every excursion was so lengthy. The experience is still one of my all time favorites. Meeting these shy giants who have so many human characteristics was incredible.
During my stay there were eight gorilla families that were habituated to humans. Each day we went to the base camp and were assigned a group. Scouts had already gone ahead to determine where each group was in the mountains and guides took us up to meet with them. Good light was hard to find because of the time of day and the heavy forest and underbrush where the gorillas fed and rested. I found the backgrounds to be distracting so I approached the processing of my images from a different angle. I hope you will enjoy them.
Mountain Gorillas were put on the Endangered Species list in 2018. There are a little over 1,000 left in the world, but conservation efforts have been rewarded with their numbers increasing since then. The groups that we visited were very curious about us. Some even seemed to be posing for us. The one who looks mad about something was speaking to a young gorilla, not to us. As you will see I was very close to the gorillas.
(Click on an image to see a larger version)
The Young Ones
The average life span of a Mountain Gorilla is about 35 years. The babies spend their first three years clinging closely to mom, playing and developing their motor skills until they can forage with the adults. We kept a very respectful distance from the babies and their moms so it wasn’t easy getting shots of them, but so fun to watch them play and explore.
Each group is led by a silverback male. Generally, he will be at least twelve years old. His job isn’t an easy one. He’s responsible for the entire group. He chooses where they go to find food, when and where they rest, and protects them from any dangers. Males can be up to 6′ tall and can weigh 475 lbs or more. I wasn’t sure if the leader in the second image was trying to nap or regretting his role as leader.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of the highlights from my Mountain Gorilla adventure. It’s been fun for me to revisit one of my most memorable trips. Thanks for joining me! Cheryl