Finding a silverback gorilla high up in the volcanoes in Rwanda in a position offering a sense of place and a wider narrative, is a tough ask. It’s effectively a numbers game in that the more times you make the trek, the greater the chance that an opportunity will arise. Until Wednesday of this week, I had not had that break and my records are proof of that after ten trips. There have been ten encounters of course - the rangers and trackers ensure that no trek goes unrewarded - but they have always been in dense forest with little or no backdrop.
Some of the guides and the lead ranger knew my frustration at the lack of depth I was finding and suggested a troop, the Umubano Gorilla Family, that was quite far west of the group of volcanoes. I agreed to give it a go but was curious when I was told that I was the only one to be making the trip this day.
When we set off from the village of Bisate with my guide and porters at 7.30 am, it quickly dawned on me why I was alone - this was going to be one hell of a climb - and we were already at 9,000 ft. Normally the wall crossing to the rainforest is about 20 minutes from a drop off point and on Wednesday it took 90 minutes - all uphill. For mountaineers this would be a piece of cake, but I would be the first to admit that I am no mountaineer.
Anyhow, it was good for me and when we reached the wall and looked up to the rainforest, I could see why the area had potential - there were plenty of ridges and look out points. It was still dense, but there seemed more room to breathe in places.
I left most of my gear with the porters and took just one camera and my trusted 58mm lens. I wanted to roll the dice a little and also be nimble. When we reached the troop, they were on the move and I focused on the lead Silverback. And so it was that I got my moment. The perspective was exactly what I was looking for.
I want to thank the team that looked after me on the way up and indeed on the way down. This certainly was a team effort - it’s “no country for old men!”