Amid the Gorillas of the Albertine Rift

Our travel correspondent recounts his expedition through East Africa,  which you can replicate, where he  sought out our great ape cousins

By Jake Emen

A guide who goes by the name Mister D. is leading myself and five other travelers to the Muhoza group of gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. It’s first thing in the morning, and we’re embarking on a gorilla trek into the Virunga Mountains.

A mother holds her infant to her chest  and smiles into the distance as the  curious baby peers up, a moment of incredible tenderness.

As the gorillas move about, we shadow them around the trees, maximizing our allotted one hour of time with the gentle beasts, our evolutionary cousins. “When you see these animals who share more than 98% of your DNA, you can interpret their emotions and behaviors and strategies,” says Yassin Maridadi, one of our guides with Volcanoes Safaris.

It’s easy to see the intellect and emotion behind their bright amber-mahogany eyes, and recognize a bit of yourself in there, too. How anyone can see that for themselves and still want to poach or hunt them is a riddle I have yet to solve.

We also ventured into Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for golden monkey trekking, with the park sporting the tagline “Where gold meets silver” due to the presence of both endangered species.

You’ll observe the monkeys climbing to the top of towering bamboo shoots and nimbly jumping between them, as little ones, still more tail than body, follow closely behind their elders and do their best to keep up.

We had two jaw-dropping, foundation-shaking, core-memory enhancing treks with the gorillas, learning about them (and also ourselves) along the way.

Our goal here is simple:  to help you live a more adventurous,  eventful and engaging life.