If You Want to Go Visit the Gorillas
By Regina Yando
First, I’d say go with an outfit, particularly if you haven’t been to Africa and if you don’t travel a lot. I’d recommend an organization like Volcanoes Safaris. They’re a very good organization to go with, and they’re very careful. If you like to do things on your own, then I would say get online and contact lodgings and work through them. I would not recommend that someone just shows up unless you have a lot of time and can just sit and wait until you can get a permit. The organized groups have priority.
And if you go alone, not with a group, a good place to stay is the Virunga Lodge. That’s an eco-lodge, really a nice one. There are no plumbing toilets or anything like that. But it’s up on the mountain. You look out, it’s just one of the more gorgeous places on God’s green earth. It was where Diana Fossey’s home was when she was there. In fact, her grave at Kurosaki is not that far.
If you’re going to Uganda, I’d advise you to go to the Wildlife Authority website. (Please ignore the information about hunting!)
The one thing I would say that really does make a difference – and I would highly recommend this – is to sit and watch, and not be taken up with shooting pictures. The first time you see the group, it’s like you’re so taken aback by what you’re seeing that it takes you about 15 minutes to pull yourself together. And then, of course, you go crazy taking photos. But I think you really need to check that. It’s nice to have the memories of the pictures, but it’s also nice to have the memories in your mind. If you’re so busy taking photos, you would never have the experience I was talking about with the big silverback. I took a couple of pictures of him, but then we just sat and looked at each other, which was wonderful.
And be sure to watch your clock because you only have an hour. Make sure you have quiet time.
How You Can Help The Gorillas:
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. They promote continued research on the gorillas and their threatened ecosystems, and work with government agencies and other international partners to provide assistance to local communities through education, health, training and development initiatives.