Straight out of the gate we found a female leopard on the move, and decided to spend the rest of the afternoon with her. This is never a bad way to spend your first afternoon on safari. The leopard was showing a lot of interest in a herd of impala, zebra and wildebeest and stalked her way into a good position, giving us many great photographic opportunities. The cameras were worked all though the afternoon, and into the night, starting us off with a lot of great images.
What a shame this wonderful safari had to come to an end! We made the most of our final hours at the lodge by photographing some pretty cool birds flying around the garden, before heading back to Kigali. In the capital we had a few extra hours on our hands and visited the genocide memorial. This is a must-do if you are ever in Kigali; it is a sobering experience, but stands a great testimony to the people of Rwanda for being able to create such a peaceful community after having survived those terrible months in 1994.
Despite a similar start to the day, we had a new adventure in store. We were after a different quarry: the beautiful and exotic golden monkeys. Like the gorillas, these rare monkeys also only occur in the Virunga Mountains and can be quite difficult to find. We had great success though, and spent some quality time with a family of around 100 members – that translates to loads of monkeys to photograph! This we did with some pretty cool results. Another highlight in an already great day was the large male of the family (he is twice the size of the females) who showed himself right at the end of our time with the monkeys. The bamboo forests we were trekking through were as unique and beautiful as the animals we came to see, so we spent a bit of time photographing some different compositions. Overall, it was a fantastic day!
Beginning our day at the National Park HQ, we got assigned to a different family of gorillas for our second venture up the volcanoes. This family of gorillas live on the volcano right behind our lodge, which added a little something extra. Once again we found the gorillas after a relatively short trek up the volcano, which was lucky because we spent a rain-free hour with them; watching the youngsters play around with each other, and surprisingly, with the big silverback too. Just as we were leaving the family to go about their day, the rains came down! What an experience – the warm equatorial rains are something to see. The landscape was transformed in a matter of minutes, creating hundreds of mini waterfalls that came cascading down the edges of the volcano. The cameras were tested in the rains, and came through shining with some very unique images!
An early start got us to the National Park HQ in time to get assigned to the family of gorillas we would be trekking. A short briefing later, we were on our way to the Bisoke Volcano to begin our first trek. This is seriously exciting stuff. In trekking terms, we got quite lucky, because the family of gorillas we were looking for were quite low down on the volcano, so we found them relatively quickly. What an amazing experience! The mountain gorillas are simply brilliant. We spent a solid hour with this wonderful family, which had a little secret – a 2-month-old baby. This little fellow drew most of the cameras‘ attention, and deservedly so. He is easily one of the cutest little things I have ever seen! After lunch we made our way across to see the Twin Lakes, which is a trip well worth taking – the scenery is quite spectacular!