Gorillas in the Sunshine

Post image for Gorillas in the Sunshine

by Rich Hoyer on December 27, 2011 · 2 comments

in Birding Africa

I’m currently in Rwanda without a lengthy, prepared blog for today, so here are just a couple photos from yesterday’s outing with friends in the Virunga Mountains of the Northwest, right on the border with The Congo and Uganda.

The highly regulated trek in to see habituated Mountain Gorillas (above) was an amazing experience. I highly recommend it. It’s only a 2-hour, 10-minute drive from the capital of Kigali on smooth paved highways to the village and national park entrance. Permit in hand ($500 in advance), you then meet up with tourists from all over the world who have reserved the limited number of spaces on this day. Then everyone is divided into groups of eight, assigned a guide, and then drive to the trailhead for your particular group of gorillas. For my group of eight, it was then a 2-hour hike uphill to our family group, consisting of 14 individuals, including two silverbacks and a mother with a 2-month old baby. The approximately 6 other groups of eight tourists hiked to other habituated family groups.

The birding was lackluster given the constraints of the hike and purpose of the visit. But the spectacular Stuhlmann’s Sunbird (Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird in the field guide, thank goodness I won’t ever have to type that nonsense again) was abundant and easy to pish in. But it made a better photo to have one fly in naturally and feed from one of the giant lobelias that give these African highland forests such a unique character. Update: We’ve been informed that these are Northern Double-collared Sunbirds, the maps in the field guide misleading us to thinking that that species doesn’t occur in Rwanda.

After a 7 1/2-hour drive last night, sixteen of us arrived at the Nyungwe National Forest and are excited about all the birds and monkeys found here. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to blog on it next week, or check my birdernaturalist.blogspot.com blog for additional updates.

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