Close encounters with a Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda & Uganda

Silverback Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda & Uganda

Standing there on the slopes of a volcano, trekking in the verdant, humid jungle of northern Rwanda, halfway through a silverback gorilla expedition & paralyzed with fear, one statement coursed through my mind:

“Only food runs in Africa”

I hadn’t taken this comment too seriously when I’d heard it from our guide in the previous days. I’d dismissing it as mostly embellishment to entertain the safari goers, at this moment however; faced down by an angry 500LB Silverback Mountain Gorilla it couldn’t have resounded in my head more clearly.

Silverback gorilla trekking in Rwanda
After our encounter the silverback sits peacefully with his family group.

I had, in my euphoric state, inadvertently wandered between the alpha male and the rest of his family group. As the rest of my group had wandered down slope i’d been left behind, this, in his mind, was an issue and he wasn’t afraid to show it. These mountain gorillas are large animals at the best of times, nearly 5’ to their shoulders while on all fours. But from 20 feet away when he stood on his hind legs, beat his chest and vocalized at me it felt a lot like a David and Goliath kind of moment that I wasn’t sure I was going to come out of.

Don’t run, only food runs in Africa

Don’t run, only food runs in Africa… Okay, understood, but I think we forgot to discuss what to do when you’re being put in your place by a behemoth of a Gorilla. Being raised in the Pacific Northwest the next best thing in my toolkit was dealing with bears in the wilderness, not quite Gorilla grade but it would have to work.

The silverback dropped to all fours, we locked eyes and I quickly looked away. I crouched down putting on my best non-threatening, submissive look and braced for what would happen next. In what seemed like only a few energetic strides he’d closed the 20 foot distance between us and stopped just short of running me over.

I could feel his hot, moist breath on my face and shoulders. I looked up slowly, the entirety of my vision was filled with the authoritative but inquisitive face of my opponent. We shared a moment before he gently and without struggle, swept me out of his way. As he passed he stepped on one of my cameras snapping off a few frames before lumbering down the trail towards the rest of his group…

Who else do you know that has photos taken by a gorilla?!

Silverback gorilla trekking in Rwanda father & son
The alpha Silverback that i’d just been face to face with quickly regained his composure back with the family group.

Trekking the Virunga volcanoes of northern Rwanda was an experience that will stick with me forever. It’s really amazing the be able to draw so many similarities between the gorillas and humans. After spending 4 days in the mountains with these animals I have no doubt in my mind that we could be related in the evolutionary sense. The people, the landscape, the culture and the animals of Rwanda were fantastic to say the least, I will return someday!

Silverback Mountain Gorilla Trekking info

Keep your eyes open for the upcoming blog post about how to go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda, Uganda or the D.R. Congo yourself!

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Patrick Horsfield

I’m Patrick, traveller, explorer, writer and photographer in chief here at Adventographer. I grew up with a healthy appetite for adventure on the west coast of Canada, shook the mindset that I needed material things and made travel a priority in my life. I write from a wealth of travel experiences both good and bad and endeavor to create & share amazing, inspiring content from around the world as a catalyst for change. Now get out there and Explore/Create/Educate!

7 thoughts on “Close encounters with a Silverback Gorilla”

  1. I’ve been wanting to see the gorillas in central Africa forever, i swore my next trip to africa I would go but have booked botswana instead. Would you recommend rwanda over the uganda tours?

    1. Hey phototraveler, I’m sure you wont go wrong with Botswana, I’ve heard it’s amazing! As far as recommending Rwanda vs Uganda, I cant really speak to that having only been to Rwanda. I can say that my experiences in Rwanda were first rate and I’d go back anytime. I hope you get the chance to experience the mountain gorillas, its a life changer!

  2. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but how lucky for you to see one! Lucky for you to get away unharmed too! Although come to think of it, I probably will wet my pants seeing one, but how cool is that! Such memorable experience!

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