A silverback gorilla seen in the wild must rank as one of the greatest animal experiences available in the world. People who have had the privilege of encountering the largest primate in his natural habitat all agree on that.
This awe inspiring animal can weight up to 180 kilograms (396 pounds) and be up to 1.8m (5.9 feet) tall in rare cases. Their life expectancy averages between 29 and 51 years if they manage to survive that long because poaching and habitat destruction are a real threat to them.
The silverback protects the rest of the group with his life so if there is a threat he is that one that will try to deal with it, which means that he is directly in the firing line if poachers approach.
So where does the name come from? Take a close look at gorilla pictures of adult males and you might see one with silver hair on its back. Literally taken from there.
The colour change from black normally occurs around the age of 13 when the adult males reach maturity sexually.
There are a number of places left in Africa where you can see them in the flesh: The mountain species is found in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC (Congo).
The western lowland species is located in Congo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The eastern lowland species live in eastern DRC.
All of them are endangered and the mountain gorillas in particular are teetering on the brink of extinction with only about 800 of them left. The finances raised from travellers going to see them helps in their preservation and if it wasn't for that income they would probably have disappeared forever by now.
What if you don't want to use a safari operator and are willing to manage the logistics yourself? It is possible to go on your own steam and it will be lighter on the pocket but it will take a lot more work on your part. Here's some guidelines on how to it independently.