Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund board member Joanne Truffleman, reflects on trekking to see the gorillas.
I had already been on the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Board of Trustees for 15 years when I took my first trip to Rwanda. The experience was a long time coming and it was indeed life-changing, so much so that, like a kid in a candy shop, you only want to go back and get more again and again. And so I have.
Rwanda is beautiful and the people are as well, with their warm smiles and appreciation of everything they have accomplished since the genocide, although there is still so much need and poverty. The majestic Virunga mountains, which are home to the mountain gorilla population, are captivating.
Taking a trek to visit the gorillas is something I wish everyone could experience in a lifetime, and going with the Fossey Fund is, of course, the best way! The Rwandan guides and trackers give you such confidence that there really is nothing to worry about as you climb thousands of feet high for several hours. Once you find the gorilla groups, you feel as if they already know you and welcome you, as long as you follow the rules of visitation, such as keeping a fixed distance from them.
I’ve always had a fascination for these creatures that share so much of our DNA, and seeing them and how they interact is captivating. There is so much to learn from them and since Dian Fossey started this work, the Fossey Fund has continued and enormously expanded her successful studies, and added much-needed daily protection for the gorillas..
I made great friends on the that first trip, meeting others who have a common interest, and feel like I made friends with the gorillas as well!
When you travel with a group, it actually becomes a kind of competition to see who can trek the longest and see the most gorillas. You even get a certificate when you return from your trek and can purchase a beautiful gorilla walking stick to take home as your favorite souvenir.