July 16, 2012
Special Gorilla Treks and Karisoke Visits Now Available, with
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund CEO Clare Richardson
Hundreds of tourists visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas each year and report that it is a life-changing experience, but the lucky ones who choose treks offered by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International guided by our president and CEO Clare Richardson also meet with the Fossey Fund's Karisoke Research Center staff and enjoy a variety of special opportunities not otherwise available.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is now organizing regular trips for those who want to see the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, as well as other animals and important sites in the area, and offering a unique opportunity to meet with those who work with the gorillas everyday, including scientists, trackers and other experts. Several trips are available each year, beginning in November of this year.
On each trip, Richardson greets the participants at Rwanda’s Kigali airport and starts their six-day visit with a tour of the city, including the market, a pottery project, handicraft shops and the genocide memorial. After lunch, guests arrive at the Volcanoes Virunga Lodge, where most meals will be provided.
The next morning is the trip’s highlight, the visit to the gorillas. It begins with a guided climb through the forest on the slopes of the Virunga volcanic mountain range where Dian Fossey began her pioneering work 45 years ago. The park authorities will assign each visitor to a gorilla group, so we can’t guarantee which gorillas you will see, but all are fascinating. Depending on the group’s location and weather conditions, trekkers may be back in time for lunch or the trek may take a whole day.
“The most common reaction I get from people who’ve gone on the trek is that they became aware that they were in the gorillas’ territory, and the gorillas allowed them the privilege of watching; they say it totally altered the way they think,” says Richardson. “In addition, they are awed by the size of the silverbacks and how the huge males let the little juvenile gorillas climb on them and play around them.”
After trekking, guests can visit community projects supported by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, such as the Bisate Village school, clinic, and clean water project. Also available are visits to the park’s Iby Iwacu Cultural Village, a model of a traditional Rwandan community where ex-poachers demonstrate the local customs and way of life.
The third day offers an opportunity for a second visit to the gorillas, or to Lake Kivu, or to the orphanage founded by Fossey’s friend Ros Carr. The array of choices continues on the fourth morning, when guests can return to the forest to see golden monkeys (two groups are habituated to human observers); visit Dian Fossey’s grave next to silverback Digit in the gorilla graveyard she established; or observe the Bisate Village projects. Another opportunity that may be offered depending on conditions is a visit to the station where Karisoke’s anti-poaching patrol is based.
The afternoon of the fourth day provides an insider’s visit with Karisoke staff, who share information about their work carrying on Dian Fossey's legacy, as well as a presentation about the gorillas and conservation efforts in the park. Guests get to tour the laboratories, the research center and the room where researchers study gorilla bones.
“A lot of people say they really enjoyed the staff’s stories about their life among the gorillas, something that is unique to our trips,” says Richardson. The fifth day offers more time with some of the staff at a farewell dinner at Kigali’s Serena hotel, and on the sixth day Richardson gives a goodbye send-off to the airport, although there are optional extensions available for trips to nearby Tanzania or Kenya.
People from all over the world, from Finland to Australia, have gone on the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund gorilla treks, and many are from the United States where the organization is best known. Most of them come especially to see the gorillas, although they may also be interested in the birds, monkeys and other species in the park.
“We offer the trip of a lifetime,” says Richardson. “And what’s more, if you join us you will also be supporting our work protecting the gorillas and their precious habitats in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
For more information about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s “Gorilla Expedition with the Experts” click here.