Mr HumbaI’ve been on two Mountain Gorilla treks in the last week, one in DR Congo and one in Rwanda. I got to see two family groups and watch a lot of relaxed interaction and play, which was extremely cool.

In the Virunga National Park in DR Congo, I visited the Humba family. By chance I was the only tourist visiting that family that day, so I lucked into a private tour. After a fairly short hike, I saw a large tree trunk blocking the trail ahead. Oh wait, that’s Mr Humba, the boss silverback himself.

Important safety tip: A silverback in the forest, 20 feet away, looks MUCH bigger than a silverback in a zoo enclosure.

Over the course of the hour, I think I saw everyone in the family group. They were foraging, so the group was frequently moving and a couple of times either the boss silverback or a large female passed quite close to us. A junior silverback seemed to be staying a little bit away from the main family group. He seemed to dislike human presence and would typically move away quickly if we got close. Several times I heard him doing chest-drumming offstage, which was very cool.

In the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, I visited the Pablo family. This is a very large group, with 35 members, but we only saw one part of it. They were having a midday rest and were pretty relaxed about their visitors, including a lot of loud shutter clicking, which they are probably well accustomed to by now.  We got clear views of the boss silverback and about ten others.

SAM_2180Unfortunately on the way back down I managed to slip on a steep section and fall badly on my left wrist. At the hospital the following day the X-ray showed a small simple fracture, so I’m going to be doing the rest of my African trip with a fine Rwandan cast on my wrist and arm. Drat.

Practicalities: I organized my DR Congo trek though the Virunga National Park and my Rwanda trip though Umubano Tours, who also successfully navigated me through the Ruhengeri Hospital. I recommend both of them.