If you’ve done some research on gorilla trekking, you know that gorillas are peaceful creatures, despite being sometimes portrayed as menacing beasts in Hollywood films. They are in fact, tranquil beings, as I learned in a recent visit to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park to encounter them first hand. And I can report that gorilla trekking is an awesome experience that I would highly recommend to anyone. Unlike “big five” safaris where you observe animals from the safety of a vehicle, gorilla trekking is a far more intimate experience with members of the animal kingdom — ones so closely related to humans for that matter — since you are surrounded by them in such a close proximity that you can smell their stench and even hear them eat when they chew branches with their mouths open.
(The experience is also great for posing like you’re watching the Dian Fossey biographical movie Gorillas In The Mist amidst… gorillas in the mist.)
I trekked through the rainforest to visit the Kuryama group, a mountain gorilla tribe consisting of 14 gorillas, including 2 silverback males, 5 females, 1 black back, and 6 young ones — the youngest at 6 months. Kirahuri, the dominant silverback male, made his brawn very clear without many words — without any words for that matter — not only to the rest of the gorillas, including the other silverback with a sort of inferiority complex, but to the eight of us human visitors. I was quickly humbled by his presence when he unexpectedly got up and approached me.
There are certain rules you are told when going gorilla trekking, the most important being: If you are approached by a gorilla, don’t run; it can potentially see your weakness and really hurt you. Of course, when you’re put in the actual situation, you never think of what you’ve learned because human instinct immediately tells you to retreat. Thankfully my guide Oliver grabbed my jacket by the back and held me in place to simply take a step back and let the 300+ lb. gorilla pass — two feet in front of me.
The experience was a pretty tense moment, not only for me but for my fellow gorilla trekkers — although the tension was not really portrayed on video, unless you put it in slow motion:
Take that, King Kong. I can only imagine what it would be like to watch you in slo-mo.
Check out another encounter with gorillas caught on video. You can also read about the whole gorilla trekking experience at The Global Trip.