Born in 1932, Dian Fossey was an American primatologist and conservationist known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups from 1966 until her untimely death in 1985. Found murdered in the bedroom of her cabin in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda in 1985, Dian Fossey was and still remains the most widely known researcher on the endangered mountain gorilla, of which only about 250 are believed to still live in the wild. The plaque on her grave sums up Dian and her passion perfectly – it reads ‘No one loved Gorillas more’.
The last entry in Fossey’s diary, which was found in her cabin, read: “When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.”
In September 1963, it took Dian Fossey’s entire life savings plus a bank loan, to make her dream to travel to Africa a reality with Dian arriving in Kenya to start her journey. Her trip included visits to Kenya, Tanzania (then Tanganyika), Congo (then Zaire), and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). John Alexander, a British hunter, served as her guide.
During her trip, Dian visited the Travellers Rest, a small hotel in Uganda, close to the Virunga Mountains and their mountain gorillas. The hotel was owned by Walter Baumgartel, an advocate for gorilla conservation and among the first to see the benefits that tourism could bring to the area.
Baumgartel recommended that Dian meet with Joan and Alan Root, wildlife photographers from Kenya, who were collecting footage of the mountain gorillas for a photographic documentary. The Roots allowed Dian to camp behind their cabin and, after a few days, took her into the forest to search for gorillas. When they did come upon a group of gorillas and Dian was able to observe and photograph them, she developed a firm resolve to come back and study these beautiful creatures.
Dian’s passion is evident as she describes these beautiful creatures in her now famous book “Gorillas in the Mist” – “It was their individuality combined with the shyness of their behaviour that remained the most captivating impression of this first encounter with the greatest of the great apes. I left Kabara with reluctance but with never a doubt that I would, somehow, return to learn more about the gorillas of the misted mountains.” Published in 1983, the book is an account of her years in the rainforest with the mountain gorillas. Most importantly, it underscores the need for concerted conservation efforts. The book was well received and, like the movie of the same name, remains popular to this day.
It is with great sadness that the world lost such a remarkable woman and pioneer conservationist like Dian. She had not been back in Rwanda long when, a few weeks before her 54th birthday, she was murdered. Her body was found in her cabin on the morning of 27th December 1985. She was struck twice on the head and face with a machete. There was evidence of forced entry but no signs that robbery had been the motive. Fossey is buried next to her deceased gorilla friends, many of which had been killed by the very poachers that likely hunted her.
What lives on, is her memory and the amazing work that she was a part of and helped instigate. Today, the Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species, one gorilla patient at a time. The international veterinary team provides hands-on medical care to ill and injured mountain gorillas living in the national parks of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With only small numbers of mountain gorillas left in the world today, the health and well being of every individual gorilla is vital to the species survival. The veterinary team regularly monitors the health of the mountain gorillas and intervenes to treat individuals with life-threatening illness or injury whenever possible. The Gorilla Doctors also help rescue and treat mountain gorillas orphaned by poachers.
Our Gorillas and Rainforests tour takes you for a very interesting educational behind the scenes interaction with the Gorilla Doctors and there is also a special trek to visit the grave site of the courageous Dian Fossey as well as a full day of Gorilla tracking.
Make this experience yours so we can help you secure your spot on this amazing adventure of a lifetime – places and gorilla permits are limited. We look forward to welcoming you on our Gorillas and Rainforests small group tour.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.