Visit Ethiopia before the rest of the world discovers it…
Say Ethiopia to most people and unfortunately images of the horrendous famine and drought of the mid 1980’s will spring to mind for most. The reality is that Ethiopia is one of the wettest, most fertile and scenic countries in Africa. Ask people wanting to visit Ethiopia for any other images or words, and people may volunteer ancient Christian churches, the scenic Ethiopian highlands, marathon runners, and interesting tribal groups to visit.
Yes it certainly offers all of this and much more. It is a country quite unlike any other in East Africa. Combining African and Arabian influences in a unique way, through its history, architecture, language, people and cuisine.
Day 5 – Rwanda Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
We arrived in the Kinigi area. The starting point for the Rwanda gorilla trekking, after a pleasant stay at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel.
The top of the nearby Sabyinyo volcano marks the border between Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda. The Virunga Mountains straddle all three countries. As do the mountain gorillas, half the world’s population of around 700 are found in this region of Rwanda. The other half of the population is in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a little further north in Uganda.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge was our base that evening and a pot of hot ginger tea greeted us on arrival. We were very well looked after, the food was fine and the location convenient. But a little bit of TLC on the bathrooms would not go amiss! The altitude in this area is about 2200 m. And I was grateful for the hot water bottle in my bed and the crackling wood fire in the bedroom.
Day 6 – Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
By 7 o’clock the next morning we were at the Volcanoes National Park (VNP) headquarters in Kinigi. Ready for our Rwanda gorilla trekking expedition. There are 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups in VNP that trekkers can visit. In all cases it’s $500 for a single permit allowing a 1 hour encounter. The maximum group size is 8, so there are only 80 permits available each day. In high season you really need to think about booking these at least 6-12 months – or even more – ahead. The VNP park authorities do their best to match the gorilla group to the fitness of the party. So no one is overstretched. That’s why it’s a good idea to be at Kinigi on time. Your guide then has the best chance of requesting an appropriate gorilla trekking group.
Although the Masai Mara in Kenya has been exerting a strong gravitational pull on me for some years this was my first visit; the attraction has always been deflected by other pressing priorities.
Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!
I love the South African Lowveld, was wowed by the stark beauty of Damaraland in Namibia and of course rate the Okavango Delta as one of the jewels in the African safari crown. But there’s something about the Masai Mara that still bowls me over. Maybe it’s the relative simplicity of the landscape (successions of rolling grasslands seeming to extend to infinity in all directions); perhaps the immensity of the sky? I don’t know. All I can say is that it didn’t disappoint at all.