Silverbacks
Other adult gorillas
Baby gorillas
In September 2015 I went on a trip of a lifetime to see the endangered mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The difficulty of the gorilla treks varies enormously but, on the assumption that if I was ever able to return to Rwanda I would no longer be fit enough to do the high-altitude walking and climbing, I decided to pay for two gorilla trek permits and hope that the first climb didn't completely exhaust me!

All of the gorilla families are named, and visitors get one hour with the group from first encounter. On my first trek I visited the Amahoro family (meaning 'peace' or 'serenity'). This was quite a challenging trek because it took a while to locate the group and then the gorillas were feeding on the move for the first 50 minutes, so we had to move with them. When we eventually arrived at a site beneath some trees where most of the family had settled down to rest, I was unfortunately attacked by red ants (quite painful!) which was a bit of a distraction, but the gorilla encounters were still amazing.

The next day I visited the Hirwa group (meaning 'lucky one'). This 'trek' was much easier - we found the gorillas sooner and all of the animals were already gathered in one place in the forest, so we had a full hour of just observing them. It was quite dark beneath the trees, so more difficult to get photographs than when we were following the Amahoro gorillas out in the open, but I was more than content to just watch - the antics of the babies were especially 'entertaining'.
Silverbacks
The Hirwa family had one silverback male and the Amahoro group had two (sometimes there is more than one - the dominant male and one or more subordinates). Considering their size and strength (or probably because of the confidence these gave them), the silverbacks were extremely relaxed - eating, sleeping, being groomed by other members of the family, or sometimes just looking rather thoughtful!
Other adult gorillas
The Amahoro family included two younger (blackback) males and several adult females, who were busy feeding for most of the time we were with them. They would move from one tempting patch of vegetation to another, sitting in the middle of it and munching for a while, before moving off again until they eventually reached the rest of the group.

                 
Baby gorillas
Since 2005, the Rwandan government has staged an annual Kwita Izina celebration - an official baby-naming ceremony for all of the gorillas born in the previous 12 to 15 months, which is based on the centuries-old Rwandan tradition for naming human babies.
Purely by coincidence, the 2015 Kwita Izina had taken place the day before I arrived in the National Park. The babies named included two in the Hirwa family and three in Amahoro - one of which was just four months old. It was great to know that the groups I'd seen included youngsters who had just been officially welcomed to the world, each one of them a precious addition to the mountain gorilla population.
 


As it was a bit dark in the forest for photographs, I attempted to take some video of the Hirwa family. The wobbly camera and sniggering is me laughing at the antics of the babies.

It was amazing to see how tolerant the adult gorillas were of the babies' games, and some of the older juveniles even joined in.

Rwanda gorillas

                  
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Last updated 10 February 2016