Destinations · Things to Do · Africa · Rwanda
May 17, 2023 Words: Steve Futterman

Gorillas in Your Midst

Get close to humankind’s close cousin in Rwanda.


Gorillas never seem to lose their fascination and appeal for humans. They are so like us in their oddly familiar expressiveness and developed intelligence, yet in their strength, agility, and adaptability to their surroundings they embody the very mysteries of nature. And they can be found on one continent alone. If you want to encounter gorillas in the wild you must go to Africa. And Rwanda, is one of the very few African countries that offers visitors the rare chance to encounter these incredible creatures in the wild.

The largest living primates, gorillas have been entrancing us at least since the worldwide success of the 1933 film “King Kong” (albeit with its exaggerated ape and dramatically heightened violence), as well as the many cinematic remakes and simian spinoffs that have followed. It was the 1988 film “Gorillas in the Mist” though that gave us a more realistic and revealing glimpse of the lives and behaviors of these amazing primates. Centering on the story of Dian Fossey, the pioneering primatologist, conservationist, and champion of gorilla rights (who made Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park her home base), the film displayed how, with mutual respect, gorillas and humankind could successfully relate to each other. What animal lover among us hasn’t wanted to get close to these astonishingly clever, emotive, and affectionate beings?

Gorillas evolved in Africa’s central region in an equatorial climate that ensured favorable weather conditions and abundant food. Mankind’s closest cousins (after chimpanzees), gorillas share over 98% of the same genetic code as humans. While no King Kongs, mountain gorillas are indeed imposing animals who can reach over five feet in height, with a girth of over sixty inches, an arm span of over eight feet (the arms of all great apes are longer than their height), and a weight of over four hundred pounds.

While the physical attributes of these incredible apes are obviously spectacular, it’s their remarkable intelligence and social interaction that continues to captivate us. Gorillas are social animals that function in a group. Dominated by a male silverback gorilla (so named for the silver-grey hair that grows on his back when he reaches maturity) and his subordinates, the females, and their young, the group engage in roving, feeding, grooming, relaxing, and general horsing around in a genial but highly organized manner. The obvious bond between the mothers and their offspring, and the males and their growing brood is nothing less than breathtaking to observe and heartwarming to see.

And although their strength and physiques are intimidating, gorillas — when not provoked, of course — are actually quite gentle and approving of humans. They can be viewed from a fairly intimate distance. In lush native forests, an experienced gorilla tracker is able to bring you within feet of a gorilla community where you can get a privileged view of how these fascinating and endearing animals live. There are few, if any, comparable experiences that clearly illustrate the evolutionary process. In the big picture, gorillas are so near to humankind — viewing them in the wild is a unique reminder of our own place in the chain of existence.

Exceptional beings charged with advanced physical, mental, and emotional qualities, mountain gorillas have been classified as endangered since 2018.

An up-close-and personal glimpse into the world of the gorillas is an unforgettable adventure that is simultaneously thrilling, enchanting, humbling, informative, and profoundly moving — a true bucket list experience. Guests on Seabourn Sojourn’s 90-day Grand Africa Voyage will have the opportunity to see gorillas up-close and personal on a Rwandan Gorilla Trek. The three-night Seabourn Journey will take travelers from Mombasa, Kenya, to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital and largest city, before venturing out to Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site, dotted by several dormant volcanoes that are part of the Virunga Mountains and, most thrilling of all, spending a full day observing, close-up, the gorillas on a trek in the wild.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience is just one of the exciting and memorable of many promised highlights to look forward to on this incredible voyage.

Ready to set sail?

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A gorilla baby
Tropical rainforest of Nyungwe National Park,Rwanda
Family of mountain gorillas with a baby gorilla and a silverback in Rwanda.
Rwanda volcanoes national park



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