Virunga National Park
100% OF OUR PROFITS GO TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK FOR THE CONSERVATION OF GORILLAS
Virunga National Park is Africa’s most biodiverse protected area, home to over one thousand species of mammal, bird, reptile, and amphibian as well as 1/3 of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. Located on the eastern edge of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, Virunga has become known as the park of fire and ice for its diverse habitats ranging from the Rwenzori peaks to savanna and volcanic plains. Despite being a UNESCO world heritage site, Virunga is constantly threatened by war, poaching and illegal activities as well as unpreventable natural disasters.
Waking at 5:30am it is another clear beautiful day, we drive the 2 hours from the lake to Volcano park to the foot of Mt Muhabura and meet the rangers and guilds.
There are always 8 people on the trek but today no one showed up and it is just me and the rangers.
Trackers are already in the jungle locating the gorillas and we communicate with them by walkie talkie as we make our way through the triple canopy rain forest.
After two hours of trekking we walking and my guild whispers "there" and just ahead is a baby gorilla is playing carefree with its mother just nearby. I sit down and the baby pays me no attention as it climbs and falls all over the place just 8 feet from me.
An adult male is nearby powerfully yanking vines and branches down and eating the leaves. I am reminded how easily he could rip my arms from my body like a doll.
We sit with them for over an hour, I am in amazement that I am just with them in the wild.
We get up and leave and as we are walking through a clearing nearby my ranger stops me again and says to your right, I look and there is a huge silver back, It's Mafia the 220kg silverback, they say his name mafia cause he always make trouble trying to flex. I sit down to take out my camera and as I do the silverback punches the ground with both hands and a thump, my ranger looks at me and says "Don't run" I know how to act and I look down avoiding his eyes as he charges me full pace and brushes past me to sit next to me on the far side of where he came from.
His forearms are bigger than my legs and he relaxes to his side spreading himself out and looking around casually ignoring me letting me know this is his place and he's the boss. I am living my dream. After a few minutes chilling out, some low grunting and submissive behaviour by us we slowly get up and leave him with his family and trek out.
I spend the next 3 days in a hammock by the lake trying to comprehend that I have lived my absolute dream.