Deep within the bamboo forest of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park live half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas, a place where visitors can view these majestic primates once studied by world renowned primatologist Dian Fossey.
All gorilla treks begin at Volcanoes National Park headquarters. Spanning ninety-nine miles in the northern part of Rwanda, it is the oldest national park in Africa. As a part of the great volcanic chain of the Virunga Mountains that straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC, it encompasses six dormant and two active volcanoes. Most famously it is home to around half of the world’s precious mountain gorillas – some 400 of them. Moreover, it’s also the site of groundbreaking gorilla conservation efforts conducted by primatologist, Dian Fossey, the inspiration for the book and film, Gorillas in the Mist. Guests can visit her grave and research center. The park’s altitude ranges from about 8,202 feet to the peak of Karisimbi, at 14,763 feet resulting in extensive bamboo forests and some of the last remaining afro-montane forest habitat on the planet.
The mountain gorillas are up to three times the size of the average man and males can weigh around 430 pounds. A fully erect males may reach six foot three inches in height with an arm span of eight feet six inches long. Their thick fur enables them to live in colder climates. Adult males are called silverbacks because a saddle of gray or silver-colored hair develops on their backs with age. They primarily stay on the ground unless a tempting fruit tree can bear their weight. In addition, they are diurnal and most active between six a.m. and six p.m.