It has been a very busy month at the Lodge – the weather perfect for trekking – with mostly sunny mornings and afternoons, and temperatures varying between 6C -18C.
Golden Monkeys are paying occasional visits to the Lodge grounds and birdlife has been good with lots of young birds; the most exciting are a pair of Great Sparrowhawks which nested successfully above cottage S2. Their one youngster is flying around and seems to spend most of the day near the lodge crying out to be fed by its parents. Unfortunately the Great Sparrowhawks have forced the smaller Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks that used to breed here regularly to move away. We have a small booklet illustrating the common birds seen around the lodge available free to our guests.
Most gorilla families have moved higher up the mountains but some are remaining in the low bamboo zone. A group of our guests were very lucky as the gorillas were out of the forest and in open ground just above the lodge. All the gorilla groups visited by our guests appear to have very small babies; the youngest seen was only 2 days old.
I am used to guests returning to camp all excited because they have seen their first cheetah or leopard but meeting guests returning after their experience with the Mountain Gorillas easily surpasses anything I have heard before. The look on their faces and their description of their experience when asked varies from amazing to exhilarating and every descriptive word you can think of in between. Most have been overwhelmed by the experience and feel they have had a connection with the gorillas, something they will never forget.
To be in close contact with a family of Mountain Gorillas is something extra special and is something not easily described. You are not in a Safari vehicle – you are either standing or sitting among the gorilla family. For a brief moment you may feel afraid that you are perhaps less than 2 meters from a huge Silverback. The Silverback male (weigh 136 to 195 kg (300 to 430 lb) stays aloof, he carries on eating or sleeping giving you only the occasional look. The babies are very inquisitive and often want to touch you but the guide will warn it away from you using gorilla sounds. Guests tell of adult gorillas brushing past them and even touching them as they walk by. Potbellied young gorillas play around you, climbing vines or rolling around on the forest floor like miniature sumo wrestlers. Male Silverback Gorillas are very tolerant with the babies, letting them climb onto their backs where they play, wrestle and try to groom him.
Most of our guests do 2 gorilla treks, each trek will be with a different gorilla group which will be a different experience again. Some of our guests also trek to see the habituated Golden Monkeys, this trek is usually much easier than the treks to the Mountain Gorillas. A few of our guest also visited the site of Dian Fossey’s research centre and her grave. The trek to the centre is the most beautiful trek in the National Park. What is left of the centre is set in a small clearing surrounded by Hagenia and Hypericum trees covered in moses, lichens and orchids. It is not unusual to see tree squirrels, bushbuck and duikers here. Next to Dian’s grave is the grave of Digit and other gorillas that Dian knew so well. It’s a very moving and very emotional place to be and one which I urge you to do on your next visit.
Dave Richards Relief Manager Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge