Gorilla expeditions in Volcano National Park offer close encounters with endangered gorillas thanks to effective community work. What a wonderful gorilla adventure, Pushing aside a big branch, I step into a clearing and stand face to face with Muninya, a 440-pound mountain gorilla.
He stares at me intently. We are about 15 feet apart, but it looks like he could easily grab me with one of his long arms.
“Huhh huhh huhh!” grunts Muninya, and our Rwandan guide responds, saying the loud grunting is a friendly call. I follow our guide and move off to the side of the clearing.
Soon all eight members of our group are perched on the edge of the jungle glade. In addition to Muninya, we see 15 other gorillas — five adult females and nine adolescents and youngsters.
A pack of muscle covered in blue-black fur, Muninya has the distinctive silver back of an adult male. He has succeeded in attracting the females from other groups in the park and is the chief of his growing family.
Most of the gorillas lie on their backs and doze in the sun. They have been busy eating a breakfast of bamboo shoots and other vegetation since early in the day, and now they are have a mid-morning snooze.
Except for Kabatwa, the mother of eight-month-old twins. She is trying to nap, but the two toddlers climb on her chest and wrestle with each other by her head and step on her face.
Visibly irritated, she pulls them to her side and pats them down, as if to say, “Settle down and rest a bit.”
Quickly the two little rascals are scrambling about again. They head for another sleeping gorilla, but their mother, more forcefully this time, grabs the troublemakers. She separates them, holding one with her hand and another with her very dextrous foot.
The gorilla group continues lazing in the jungle opening, idly scratching their armpits.
Through the clearing is a view of the valley below and, amazingly, some houses are visible. It is a Sunday and we can hear faint strains of church music.
Then Muninya crashes through the bush and sits right by the twins. Soon the gorilla family wakes. Young mother Kabatwa flips her twins on her back and, giving us a passing glance, clambers past us and goes into the bamboo.
The entire family follows and they nimbly break off the shoots, strip off the hard outer shell and chomp on the juicy core. Gorillas are vegetarians. An adult eats about 66 pounds of plants per day. They rarely drink water because they get so much liquid from the plants, our guide tells us. After spending an hour with Muninya and his family, we hike away through the forest. It was a wonderful Gorilla Expedition in Volcano National Park.