Harriet Smith Photography


"For The Love of Africa"

AFRICAN SAFARIS - Trips Of A Lifetime

Impressive And Noble

Country: Rwanda
Location: Volcano National Park

Impressive and Noble


This is a picture of  the dominate Silverback giving a fierce "keep away" look from the dense, tropical foliage in the Virunga Volcanoes at about 11000 feet elevation. His head is large, and can be intimidating, which is why many people view gorillas as aggressive animals. They look mean due to the structure of their jaw line. Also, they seem to be frowning because the forehead protrudes out and the eyes are deeply set. Gorillas use facial expressions for communication. An open mouth with both upper and lower teeth showing means aggressions. A closed mouth with clenched teeth may signal anger as well.

The gorillas that are observed by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International have been habituated to the presence of humans. Nothing can prepare one for the impact of encountering a fully-grown silverback gorilla, up to three times the size of an average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors, and just a couple of arm's lengths away, looking right into your eyes. Hiking Rwanda's volcanoes and spending an hour with a gorilla family is without doubt a once in lifetime achievement.

This picture was taken in Volcano National Park. The Volcano National Park borders both Virunga National Park in the Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.  Typically when we think of mountain elevations of 8,000 -12,000 feet we think of the ski resorts of Utah or Colorado. Picture those same mountains hot and humid, covered with dense vegetation and vine so thick that often a machete must be used at times to hack the way through. Oh yea, no ski lift to carry the city folks and their equipment to the top. That picture is Rwanda's Park Of The Volcanoes. One 'treks' says a tour operator: An exhilarating trek through the cultivated foothills.... Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, the Volcano National Park protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range - home of the rare mountain gorilla - and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.

In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat, wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, are great, old volcanoes towering up almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rainforest - the Virungas. Home of the mountain gorilla and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, here Dian Fossey set up the Karisoke Research Center. She is buried there next to her beloved mountain gorilla Digit. Her cemetery has now become a worldwide attraction. Fossey's life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas In The Mist, named after her autobiography. The mountain gorillas are classified as a critically endangered species, whose survival is strictly dependent on daily collaboration among conservation institutions working in the region.

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