Girl Power! Travelling Solo in Africa

Girl Power! Travelling Solo in Africa

by Julia Nitti.

Whenever someone asks me about my trip to Africa I find it surprisingly difficult to express how much this trip has impacted me. Travelling to Africa had been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and I was determined to get there even if it meant going alone. I wanted to experience the rustic and wild Africa that I had always seen on Animal Planet or read about in books. But what could I do in Africa that I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else in the world? I automatically thought of gorillas. If I was going to travel half way around the world, then I knew I had to to go gorilla trekking. I would never get another opportunity like this again. Due to their critically endangered status, it is only in certain regions of Africa that wild gorillas can be found.

As a solo traveller with the bank account of a college student at times, it felt like I was chasing a pipe dream. I wasn’t sure if I could afford the treks or if I would even be allowed to trek since I was going alone. I researched company after company but it wasn’t until I found The Gorilla Safari Company and was put in touch with Donna Robbins that I began to see gorilla trekking as a possibility. Donna and her crew at The Gorilla Safari Company worked with me to plan out the perfect trip that would best suit me. Knowing that I was going to be on my own, Donna helped me plan activities outside of gorilla trekking so that I could make the most out of my trip. I was able to visit an orphanage where I spent a whole day playing with the kids and assisting in their chores. I also had the opportunity to visit the Rwanda Genocide Memorial which was very informative and eye opening. From there I took a guided tour of a local village in Rwanda where I got to become fully immersed in the culture of the Rwandan people. To extend the fun, Donna also arranged a Golden Monkey trek where I was able to watch these cheeky little creatures frolic about in a bamboo forest.

  Then came the day I had been dreaming about. The gorilla trek! The trek was an exhilarating four hours of up hill trekking through stinging nettles, tangled underbrush, and mud so thick my feet were sinking at times. But, every step brought me one moment closer to seeing the animals that I had been dreaming about since I had arrived in Africa. When we finally got word that the gorillas were close, it was music to my ears! My group and I stopped and a quiet fell over us all. No one spoke and I’m pretty sure that I stopped breathing all together! It was like no one wanted to risk scaring off the approaching family. I heard them coming before I saw them. Bushes were rustled and pushed aside and then seemingly out of nowhere there were gorillas! I couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped from me or the tears that followed. In the distance I could see these black puffs of fur and the feeling I felt when I first saw them was truly magical. One after the other, each member of the family walked closer. I stood frozen in place as I watched them pass me to settle amongst the brush to rest. It was then we were allowed to approach and I had to remind myself to remain calm and to move slowly because I was so excited. We had one hour to stay and observe the gorillas but I could have sat there and watched them all day.

   Again it is difficult to put into words what this trip meant to me. So many emotions wash over me when I think of the trip that Donna arranged for me. I never once felt uncomfortable or unsafe while I travelled in Africa. Instead I felt a sense of belonging and acceptance that followed me wherever I went. This was truly a trip of a lifetime and surpassed even my wildest dreams.