Gusuhuza! Greetings from Sabyinyo!
What a great start to the year! Bright and sunny mornings only clouding over for short periods in the afternoon and clearing in the evenings for some brilliant starry nights … What more could we ask for ? Guests – we have been running close to full for the entire month! Its been fantastic – and interesting!
Sunny Rwandan weather – photo credit Dave Richards
In a nutshell, it has been super pleasant for all our guests: easy dry trails, (though some might argue this opinion) and perfect trekking weather, in fact, everyone has come back beaming and smiling, and otherwise demonstrating total euphoria as a result of both the trek and the gorilla experience!
However, not all the treks have have been easy though. We have had some guests request easy or moderate treks only to find that the gorilla family they are visiting, is climbing away from them further up the mountain. The gorillas only have to ascend 500 feet through ‘thick and steep’ undergrowth, which they can do with ease, which can sometimes add over an hour and a half up, and an hour down on to the trekker’s route. The rangers are always in contact with each other though, receiving reports of where the gorillas are situated in order to find them.
This said, all the gorilla families have been rather obliging – the mothers are being great mums to the babies, the adolescents playful and imitating the adults, the teens showing off and the Silverbacks are being everything from relaxed to grumpy! But, always in charge!
Baby gorilla – photo credit Alisa Bowen
One of our guests was lucky enough to have a young female gorilla wrap herself around her leg and cling on, not letting go of her for over two minutes!! Gloriana, from Merida in Mexico, was thrilled – and a little frightened!
We have had some adventurous guests too: Sean from Dubai must be a sucker for punishment – he did two gorilla treks, a hike to Dian Fossey’s grave site and another hike up Mount Bisoke. He must have walked a good 80 kms in total – all of it on steep and difficult terrain. Although he came back quite sunburnt, he did say it was a great time for him and that he had slept exceptionally well each night!
We celebrated two birthdays here in January which gave us the opportunity to bring in the cultural drummers and dancers from our neighbouring SACOLA community. All our guests were very impressed by how great these dancers are – extremely well choreographed and it’s amazing how much music they can make simply by beating drums, singing, clapping and foot stamping with ankle bells. It also gave the kitchen an opportunity to demonstrate their cake making talents and the staff an opportunity to show off their own entertainment abilities: on both celebrations, Clement from our room service brigade, supplied an array of musical instruments – a guitar, a Rwandan bow guitar, and maracas made from coffee beans and our drinking water bottles! For the last birthday, Phocas from the laundry added a flute that he made himself – a Sabyinyo version of the tin whistle – he made in just ten minutes!! Both Linda from Juneau, and Nadia from Marrakesh said that their celebrations were ‘Tres, tres magnifique – never to be forgotten’.
SACOLA dancers performing at the lodge – photo credit Dave Richards
January sunset view from the lodge – photo credit Michael Hughes
Additionally, we enjoyed the company of a party organised by National Geographic Expeditions for three days this month. During their stay we had a very interesting talk and discussion with Gorilla Doctor, Dr. Gaspard, of the Virunga Mountain Wildlife Veterinary Project. The ‘Gorilla Doctors’ only intervene when the life of a Gorilla is threatened, and it was fascinating to hear about all the work that they do. It’s not just traps and snares – gorillas are also very susceptible to diseases carried by people – common colds and influenza, which left untreated can lead to Pneumonia in these already endangered animals.
In all interventions the ailing gorilla needs to be anaesthetised – you can imagine the distress these interventions cause the rest of the gorilla family. The Silverbacks can get very aggressive causing great anxiety and peril to the doctors! Needles to say, the ‘Doctors’ stories were very captivating and awe-inspiring.
On the home front we are making good headway with all of our ongoing projects. Our new staff accommodation is not too far from completion and should be occupied in February. Exciting for those to be housed in there as everyone will have considerably more living space.
The new staff housing block – photo credit Michael Hughes
Together with SACOLA (the governing body who ‘own’ Sabyinyo on behalf of the local community), we have installed all the sewing machines in rooms allocated for the ‘Turengerubuzima Sewing Centre Project’. The project aims to give young ladies who have had children out of wedlock, a living and an opportunity. Seventy-five ladies from the community have been selected for dressmaking training. On this subject, an opportunity to help – if anyone knows of any organisation that requires uniforms or bulk garments we would be grateful to hear and the ladies pleased to pitch for the work!
In other news, we have named the two resident ravens who visit the lodge terrace each morning: they are (officially christened) Sebastian and Yolanda or Seb ’n Yo for short! Both Seb and Yo are getting increasingly more cheeky knocking on the dining room windows for food. Our lodge manager is trying to train them by feeding them only at a certain time and in a distant place in the gardens. Not satisfied with this they come and peck at the verandah cushions and flower displays – at which point the manager takes food way down the garden. One has to question here – who is training who?!
Seb the raven – photo credit Michael Hughes
Our two resident male Golden Monkeys have been making daily appearances in the bamboo of our gardens much to the enjoyment of all our guests. Both came to the bamboo right beside our verandah over lunchtime one day – ironically the guests who had the pleasure of their company, the Culmo family, had just returned from a Golden Monkey trek! Sadly though one of the monkeys has an injured rear leg, so we are monitoring it to see if it gets better. Hopefully we won’t have to ask the assistance of our friends, ‘the Gorilla Doctors’, but we will keep an eye on it. In case any one is interested – we are looking for names for these two monkeys . All suggestions are welcome!
Murakoze! Thank you
By Michael Hughes, our new manager at the lodge since January this year.