We decided to pay a preparatory visit to the park HQ where we were very courteously received by the staff, including the gentleman who actually does the group allocations. We had a long conversation with him and he was most interested in the self-drive nature of our trip. I was unashamedly currying favor and he seemed to like us. He agreed that the private guides arriving with their tour groups could be very pushy but that he would look out for us and that he would allocate us a good group, involving a shortish hike but providing entertainment in the form of entertaining gorilla family interactions. He advised that he would suggest choosing a group with lots of females and therefore youngsters. Each group has a silverback and these individuals should not be a significant factor in choosing the most suitable group. At present quite a number of the groups being viewed needed only a relatively short and non-taxing hike. He suggested we arrive about 15min early, before the tour groups, at 6H45, so we could discuss the pros and cons of the various group choices, balanced against the hiking distances. By then the tracker-spotters will have radioed in the positions of the various groups.
All this talk was making us both very excited, as has been talking to travelers who had just completed their gorilla hikes. Together with visiting Serengeti this has been anticipated as one of the highlights of our entire trip. We are confident we will not be disappointed. We were quite frankly looking for things to do to fill in time for the remaining waiting day. I do think we made the correct choice in spending this time at the Vurungas rather than at Lake Kivu or the Nyungwe Forest. We were really enjoying the restful atmosphere here. However one thing I do regret is not doing a boat trip on Lake Kivu, perhaps to one of the islands, either at Bethanie or Paradis.
Today we decided to take a drive in the direction of the various lodges and cultural village at the end of the tarmac, on the road where we would drive and park prior to the gorilla hike tomorrow. This was time well spent as it is very pleasant having a different angle of view of the various mountain peaks, although much of them was still obscured by cloud. One drives 3km down the road away from Kinigi towards Musanze. At the T-junction here (in the village of Kinigi) turn right instead of left towards Musanze. About 4km down this road you reach the end of the tarmac and the cultural village. This is where the vehicles carrying the gorilla hikers split as they drive to the various hike starting points for the different gorilla groups. We then back tracked slightly to the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge where we were told we would be welcome to have some refreshments. This was indeed the case at this smart establishment with its lovely gardens and mountain views. A visit here is to be recommended.
The rest of the day was spent checking camera equipment, charging batteries, deciding what to pack into the backpack for the hike and doing some vehicle and equipment chores. It is cold at this altitude and with very little sunlight it was pleasant relaxing next to a warm fireplace in our “VIP” accommodation.
Sabyinyo Peak, right in front of Kinigi, you can make out its characteristic jagged outline despite the mist. The clouds are less in the early mornings, settling in during the day.
1. Our quarters at Kinigi, divided up into about 8 rooms, all ensuite.
2. A view of the car park where one would camp with a rooftop tent, if not taking a room.
3. The entrance sign at Kinigi.
4. and 5. The grounds and garden at Kinigi, good birding.
6. Reception and restaurant area.
7. Another view of Sabyinyo Peak.
8. Gahinga Peak with its perfect volcanic shape.