Trek to see Kwitonda Gorilla Family
Being the new boys on the block, we were looking forward to our first chance to trek with the Gorillas. Monday morning gave us the chance and having been kitted out by the lodge with all the kit we needed we joined up with some fellow travellers. Park headquarters was as clean and efficient as we remembered from our first visit 5 years ago, and after a slick briefing, we were off to the foothills of Gahinga to visit the Kwitonda group. This is a group of Gorillas who are immigrants from Congo and have been seduced by the sweet Bamboo of this Rwandan volcano. We were impressed to hear that there is a carefully organised sharing system between the three countries, that host the remaining habitat of the mountain Gorilla, with a proportion of our fees going back to support their cousins remaining in DRC.
After a short walk across farmland, with lovely fields of white Pyrethrum flowers, we climbed the wall and entered into the forest. This soon made way to bamboo and thick scrub as we climbed into the mist and then to a glorious alpine sun. An hour later we dropped our packs and were guided into the Gorilla sitting room! Several Mums lay snoozing after their breakfast, while noisy babies and sub adults rolled around scrapping, grooming and generally showing off! Akarevuro the big Silverback sat well removed, until one of his offspring seemed to be too familiar with one of our group. He then, with impressive aplomb, stood up silencing all discussion with his personality and scooped up the offending child to move away to a new patch of bamboo.
Photo courtesy of Philip Mason
The younger and less dominant Silverback has been fortunate enough to pick up a new and rather foxy lady who is as yet unnamed and the interrelation behaviour of these two was fascinating. All too soon our hour was up and we started our trek back to the base of the Volcano. Our porter Jossie a lovely girl from the community who lives in the foothills was invaluable helping us down steep slopes until we were back at the cars swapping addresses with the rest of our group who had shared this extraordinary experience.
The lodge has been busy all month and we were fortunate enough to be hosting delegates from the Dian Fossey Board who were gathering in Musanze for their Annual General Meeting. Great before dinner talks by Mike Cranfield from the Gorilla Doctors explained some of the challenges encountered by these worthy veterinarians who look after the welfare of our Gorillas. A group from the Indianapolis Zoo led by their director the outspoken Michael Crowder who have all enjoyed some excellent sitings and come back happy and muddy from good encounters with the great Primates. An ongoing refurbishment of the Lodge shows steady progress and we look forward to new soft furnishings and some great new pieces of furniture to enhance the decor of the lodge.
This month we wanted to highlight one of our projects in particular that has done so well.
After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda many women were left widowed. Our community partners SACOLA decided to put in place a poultry project to help them generate some revenue to support their families and uplift their living conditions. These widows formed an association of 16 people and Sacola supported them by buying the land, building their houses and constructing the poultry house in 2014. We now have 350 chickens that produce about 190 eggs per day. These are then supplied to various hotels in the area and at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Here is one of the lovely ladies who is part of our Governors extended family with a fresh tray of eggs ready to be dispatched to the lodge. Check out the link to see more of our SACOLA projects in Rwanda.