Gorilla Trekking

Silverback Mountain Gorilla and Baby, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda, 2016

My good friend Trina Pate is an extraordinary photographer. She and her husband Bud have photographed animals all over the world.

One of her dream trips was to visit the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains where she was able to photograph them at a very close range.

Trina shared her story with me. Visiting Mountain Gorillas is carefully regulated. At the time we visited Rwanda, there were 10 groups of gorillas that were habituated to humans. You are assigned a group to visit. Visits last exactly one hour from the time you first encounter your assigned group. Trackers and porters, as well as a guide, accompany tour groups of no more than 8 people.

Our assigned gorilla group was the Kwitonda Group. It took us over 2 hours trekking uphill to find them. There are no “trails” — you’re trekking through steep forest with often difficult footing. Once you see the gorillas, all fatigue is suddenly forgotten, replaced by pure joy and wonder.

Each gorilla group receives only one group of humans daily. The groups also receive veterinary care from a wonderful organization called “Gorilla Doctors”. Normally, wild animals don’t receive veterinary care but these gorillas receive care because they are so endangered.

My photo shows the dominant Silverback of the Kwitonda Group. He and several females were napping, as the younger gorillas played in the trees. The tiniest gorilla was swinging on a branch that suddenly broke, and the baby fell into the sleeping adults. He landed with a thud on top of the Silverback. The looks on the Silverback’s face and the baby’s face say it all! The Silverback looked like he was thinking “This kid is driving me crazy!” The baby appears to be thinking “Oops!”

Throughout the years, Trina has given me several of her photographs and they are displayed in my house. I vicariously get to share in her travels. And now, I’m sharing a few favorites with you.

All photos were shot with a Nikon D750 with a Nikor 80-400mm Zoom lens. Trina and Bud have increased their photography acumen with the help of National Geographic photographers on many of their Lindblad/NatGeo trips.

Thank you Trina for this close up glimpse into the Mountain Gorillas. They are our closest cousins, displaying so many human-like emotions and behaviors.





9 thoughts on “Gorilla Trekking

  1. Gorillas are my absolute favorite!!! I am so grateful for your friendship with this amazing adventurer photographer. I love these photos.

  2. I love this! When I was a docent at LA Zoo, I spent hours watching Cesar, the silverback in his enclosure. The intelligence of these beautiful creatures is incredible to behold. Thanks for sharing your friend’s wonderful photos and story.
    Sure miss our Bagdad neighbors!

  3. Such an interesting story.! Makes me want to take a similar trip, but a visit to our local zoo seems more realistic currently. Thanks Trina and Susan.

  4. These two wonderful Mountain Gorilla reminded of a favorite past TV program “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with many of the shows were filmed in the animals’ natural habitat (frequently Africa), though some clips originated from zoos (I remember Cesar!). Thanks for sharing your special friendship with Trina and her Mountain Gorilla adventure photos!
    Abel Martinez

  5. Susan, I am so glad you shared these wonderful photographs of Trina’s trip. The image of the
    baby falling unexpectedly onto the mother was priceless. Good to know these lovely Mountain
    Gorillas are being well cared for.

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