In November 2013, Claire, one of our ticketing agents here at Old Mill went on a gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda with Audley.
On her return, and knowing that she’d like to help with gorilla conservation in some way, Claire recently completed the Gorilla Run in London. Along with nearly 1,000 other people, all dressed in gorilla suits naturally, she completed the eight kilometer course to raise money.
As if this wasn’t enough, prior to this she also organised a cake sale here at Audley – always a favourite with staff. This, together with the run means she has managed to raise over £1,000 to date, a great achievement.
The proceeds of her efforts will go to The Gorilla Organisation, a UK based charity at the forefront of gorilla conservation.
Well done Claire.
Claire describes her encounter with a troop of wild gorillas in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains
The weather was perfect: it wasn’t raining or too hot so the gorillas were quite active. After maybe an hour and a half of hiking up the mountain we had our first glimpse of the group.
First, we saw a few females and adolescents, then a mother and maybe a three year old infant. Finally, the huge silverback male turned up. It’s very hard to describe quite how amazing it was to see them all and so close as well.
They seemed very relaxed and quite accepting of us. Some people have asked me if I felt scared or anxious but I can honestly say no, not at all. In fact, I felt truly exhilarated and in awe that I was getting to spend an hour with these wonderful wild animals in their nature habitat.
The group sat around grooming each other and eating bamboo and other vegetation. A few times the adolescents got quite close to us and we were told to step aside so there would be no contact with us (gorillas are susceptible to human viruses such as colds).
At one point two of them got quite playful and whilst running by us one of them grabbed my leg as if to steady himself on the uneven ground. I couldn’t believe this had really happened. I was filming them at the time and you can hear the surprise and elation in my voice.
After the group dispersed into the jungle slowly, and with the guides showing us the way, we followed them into another clearing where they had settled again.
This time the young ones were up in the trees above, climbing and swinging happily. I had my back to them whilst filming when one of them suddenly released the branch he had just climbed down on, instantly catapulting all the leaves into the air and then back down onto our heads. We really were in among them all and it felt incredible.
In this clearing there was a mother and tiny baby, who we could just about see poking his head out of his mother’s arms: he was adorable.
When our hour was up the guides told us we had to leave them. I can freely admit at this point I had tears in my eyes as I was totally overwhelmed with emotion and sadness that I had to go.
It truly was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
If you would like to find out more about an Audley tailor-made trip to see wild gorillas in Rwanda, please ring one of our specialists on 01993 838 580 or contact us online.
Alternatively, browse our Rwanda or Uganda gorilla trekking guide, which also includes itinerary ideas, all of which can be tailored to suit your individual preferences.