François and Guhonda

While we were in Rwanda last year, we really wanted a chance to hike to the Sabyinyo group of mountain gorillas. Guhonda is the Sabyinyo silver back and he is the biggest mountain gorilla alive today. As I understand it, Guhonda translates to “one who likes to beat on his chest” (more of that in a future post).
The Parc National des Volcans draws straws for who gets to hike to each group. Only 8 hikers are allowed to visit each group, and only for one hour a day. Too much interaction with people can stress the gorillas and make them sick.
We ended up very lucky. We were given the chance to hike to the Sabyinyo group. Perhaps even luckier, François was assigned as our guide and gorilla tracker. François has worked at PNV for over three decades and was at one time a gorilla tracker for Dian Fossey. Having been there for so long, François has also developed a very personal relationship with the gorillas, in particular Guhonda. Watching the two of them actually communicate was something marvelous. The gorillas seem so human in their gestures when they are interacting with each other; but watching Guhonda recognize and interact with a person was a much more moving experience than we had expected. Guhonda let François know exactly how close he was willing to let the hikers that day and François teased him a little when Guhonda got grumpy and wanted to beat on his chest.
I’ll post a few pictures of Guhonda and his fellow mountain gorillas over the next few weeks, but I wanted to post the picture that I took of François first.

Leave a Comment