I was told that if I traveled to Rwanda, I simply had to do a 1 Day Rwanda Gorilla Safari . It was “not optional!” (One couldn’t travel half-way around the world and not see these incredible creatures.) It was an expensive adventure: it required me to purchase a costly gorilla permit weeks in advance with Rwanda Car Rental, it required me to spend two nights in a nearby hotel, and it required me to hire a driver. But it proved to be a trip highlight and one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

A self-confessed hugger of all things beautiful, but not necessarily a “nature freak,” I was a bit hesitant. Could I do the trek? (I have a meniscus tear in one of my legs.) What if our gorillas were five or six hours away? (They can be!) What if it rained the whole time? (Rwanda has a rainy and a dry season, you know!) All of these worries were unnecessary. The guides are wonderfully kind and considerate of everyone’s physical limitations, and the porters, a non-optional treasure, will likely serve as your literal lifelines. While I had not been forewarned about the steep climb, nor the difficulty at times of the ascent, way into the mountain, common-sense should have told me that they aren’t called “mountain gorillas” for nothing! Yes: we climbed for more than two-and-a-half hours to get to the Agasha (but a couple I met on our trek had only climbed for 40 minutes the day before on another trek, seeing a different mountain gorilla “family”); yes, we slipped and slid on the mud, because mountains are generally full of this stuff; and yes: most of spent us some time on our backsides sliding down the mountain on our descent, where areas were too deeply filled with mud or rocks or depths simply too difficult to scale otherwise.

But wow! The exhilaration of finally reaching the gorillas is beyond words! Watching the babies romp around in the heavily-bamboo forest, munching leaves, rolling around with their playmates, and running around, so close I could almost touch them, left me with a memory which will certainly last a lifetime. We did keep our distance from them, as required; however, at one point, a mama woke up from her nap and literally walked about eighteen inches in front of my toes, in order to join daddy and babies. It was a moment of unimaginable joy. Everyone was right: gorillas trekking is a “must-do,” “not optional” thing if traveling to Rwanda. Very highly recommended!