My trip to Uganda and Rwanda is coming to an end and early tomorrow (Kigali time) I’ll start the journey home with an overnight layover in Dubai. The experience has been rewarding and very different from past photographic trips to Africa. Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas are very different from each other but both rewarding. Chimps are loud, excitable, emotional, and tend to be more aggressive. Mountain Gorillas are quieter and have a more gentle quality to them. While Chimps are endangered (about 200k in the world), Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered (about 880 in the world). My favorite moment was on our second day of Gorilla trekking where we saw two baby Gorillas approach their father, jump on him and start playing. In response the Silverback hugged and caressed the babies with a gentleness you wouldn’t expect from a ~400lb creature.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was Rwanda. I didn’t do much research into Rwanda before coming here and the only knowledge I had is of the genocide in 1994. However, upon seeing the country and the people, I can one of the most beautiful African nations I’ve visited with very friendly people, good infrastructure, safe and clean.
Volcanoes National Park along with the Rwandan government seem to have struck a good balance between conservation and tourism with the Mountain Gorillas. Limiting human contact with the Gorillas to 1 hour a day keeps them from being overwhelmed and the high cost of a permit for trekking ($750/day) helps fund anti-poaching units and infrastructure for the park and local communities. The conservation seems to be working as Mountain Gorilla populations have been slowly rising from ~600 in the late 80s to 786 in 2010 to 880 in 2012. There is another survey that will happen this year and the hope is that the number tops 1000.