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Hiking Dian Fossey Tomb - Rwanda Cultural Safaris

About Dian Fossey and her Work

The famous and great American primatologist and anthropologist of the time was Dian Fossey. She worked tirelessly in promoting conservation of the rare Mountain Gorillas. She pioneered a 20 year gorilla research. Dian grew up with her step father after the divorce of her parents. She however, missed that parental love a biological father and mother offers to a child; Dian then decided to join the animals where she experienced love for animals. She worked on animal farm and she had graduated with bachelor degree in Occupational Therapy at San Jose State College in 1954

Dian Fossey was funded by Louis and Mary Leakey who operated anthropological research in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. She then moved to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and established a camp at Kabara for her mountain gorilla research in 1967. While at her camp, Dian and her research workmates were escorted and locked up at Rumangabo for at least two weeks though she escaped to Walter Baumgartel’s Travelers Rest Hotel in Kisoro
She started her research from the Virunga Rwanda where she established a camp between Mt. Karisimbi and Visoke hence the evolution of Karisoke Research Center on September 24, 1967.
Because of the habituated mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Dian found it easy to study the gorillas at close distance compared to the mountain gorillas in DRC that were shy to human presence due to rampant poaching. Dian then pioneered a campaign against poaching together with her research team by conducting patrols with an aim to rescue the orphaned mountain gorillas.

Dian Fossey became familiar to the locals as Nyirmachabelli or Nyirmacibiri that directly meant the woman who lives alone on the mountain. She became friendly to the mountain gorillas hence her research work became simple to the extent that she became a friend to a silverback known as digit. This exposed her to close study on the mountain gorilla behavior. However the death of Digit in 1978 was a big blow in Dian’s life when digit was shot as he tried to protect a baby gorilla-a Kweli from poachers.

Digit was buried at the camp at the Karisoke Research center but Dian’s patrol efforts were strengthened as she attracted public sympathy and started getting support from international society through international bodies like African Wildlife foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, Fauna Preservation Society and the Mountain Gorilla Project, which Dian blamed for not actively engaging in conservation through anti-poaching patrols.
Dian Fossey is credited for fighting against poaching and due to this; many poachers were apprehended. Dian Fossey was murdered in 1985 in the Volcanoes.

One of the famous hikes in Rwanda that tourists visit is that of the famous primatologist Dian Fossey’s grave and the nearby mountain gorilla cemetery in the previous Karisoke Research camp. Dian Fossey had established the Karisoke as science based camp that was situated between Mount Visoke and Mount Karisimbi from which the Karisoke derived its name from.

Today in Rwanda Dian Fossey’s site is one of the visited places for dark tourism and represents the great conservationist heroism in Rwanda. The site is a remote pilgrimage site that is reached by tourists on a strenuous but full of scenic hike. The Karisoke camp is situated around 3000m and it was left out at the time of insecurity in the 1990’s and the Rwandan genocide in the 1994’s. Tourists can trek the Dian Fossey’s grave that takes about a 30 minute drive from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters to the trailhead. While hiking via the forest the tourists can spend about 3 hours that depends on the physical fitness of the clients and the times of stopovers to view the scenic beauty of the area. To slope down from the site, takes the clients about 1-2 hours as most of the interest is covered while hiking.

However, Dian’s previous living quarters that were nicknamed the Mausoleum are in ruins but many landmarks in the camp are sign pointed for easy identification. While in the hike, tourists have higher chances to bird watching and other the typical creatures of the Virungas.

The tourist will also see the house from which Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in the 1985 however; the most peaceful place is where she was buried just next to her favorite mountain gorilla grave, Digit. There are also more 20 graves of the mountain gorillas that were either killed by poachers or suffered death from natural causes.
In addition, Dian Fossey loved gorillas more than anything in her life and went ahead to write a journal “when you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future”
The legacy that Dian Fossey left is incredible, as she helped to protect the mountain gorillas that have gained great value in the tourism sector today. The life of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda is worth than death and cases of poaching in the country have reduced drastically and the numbers of mountain gorillas have kept increasing.

Currently there are 10 mountain gorilla groups that are monitored by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund with several projects that are intended to promote conservation of the mountain gorillas together with other wild animals in the region

Hiking to the Dian’s grave is such an incredible experience that rewards tourists physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is an inspiration to learn from the great personality who was so much dedicated and whose legacy still remains up to date. While in Rwanda, it is important that you don’t miss to hike to Dian Fossey’s grave!

To hike to the Karisoke site, the Volcanoes National Park charges the clients $ 75 per person for the trek. This includes the guiding fee to the site. It is important to be at the park headquarters, Kinigi early enough as the hike begins at 7:00 am local time and there after clients are driven to the start point for the trek. Tourists can access the permits at the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters and clients who need porters, are readily available for hire at $ 10.

In conclusion, Dian Fossey is the most credited primatologist whose tireless efforts saved the mountain gorillas whose value has continuously caught travel interest in mountain gorilla tracking and hence their conservation is highly observed today. For tourist who is interested in dark tourism, the preferable activity in Rwanda is the hike to the Dian Fossey’s grave. Hiking to the grave is tiresome but rewards the tourists physically, emotionally and intellectually and while in Rwanda, please visit the Dian Fossey’s grave to explore more about instrumental person who has boosted the mountain gorilla tracking today. However, tourists are advised to be physically fit as the hike is exhausting.