There are around one thousand mountain gorillas in the deep and misty mountains of Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. And these apes are the most endangered ones all around the globe because of human threats and habitat loss. However, the Gorillas in Rwanda have been the most buzz-making topic in the world of adrenaline junkies. Along with the ever-increasing numbers of these only primate species in the world, Rwanda has been focusing on the industry regarding gorilla encounters.
Park rangers are trooped to take care of these gorillas fiercely as the community development, local employment and conservation have been improved by a portion of revenues from gorilla trekking activities. That implies your gorilla trekking tour to Rwanda has a great impact on the protection of these beautiful wildlife creatures and the communities as well.
Nothing can be as incredible as experiencing gorilla treks in Rwanda. It is one of the best jaw-dropping wildlife encounters you will ever have in your life. It feels very surviving to push the way hours after hours through slippery, dense jungle, but when you reach the destination, when you see those baby gorillas playing here and there or when a silverback sizes you up, you will experience the fun at that moment. Invigorating and mind-boggling, numerous individuals wind up moved by an uncommon experience with a gorilla in nature.
Where can I get to see Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda?
Half of those 1,000 mountain gorillas remaining in the world, tend to live in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa. Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) is considered the best place to experience adventures with these beautiful rare creatures in northwest Rwanda.
Alternatively, the Eastern Lowland gorillas are also available for trekking in the Kahuzi Biega National Park of the Congo. This is a different species, and also the largest. Read my detailed trip report about my trek to the lowland gorillas as well!
The Direction to Volcanoes National Park
Kigali, the capital, is the best way to fly into Rwanda. You are likely to get a month of single-entry tourist visa after arriving at Kigali International Airport. Within $30, you will be able to get this tourist visa as of now. However, it is optimal to keep in touch with Rwanda’s immigration updates. The moment you clear all the immigration requirements at the airport, you are likely to have a meeting with a travel representative to have you shifted to your hotel.
If you are a clever one, you would like to stay at Kigali for a couple of days in the end or the start of your trip. Otherwise, you can directly visit Volcanoes National Park. the distance between there Kigali and the Volcanoes National Park is 105 kilometers and it takes two hours to reach Volcanoes National Park from Kigali.
If you are traveling for wildlife safaris under a travel agency, it’s good to mix up Rwanda with a Big 5 safari holiday in Tanzania or Kenya. Moreover, Zanzibar is also a great place to have a beach holiday.
Volcanoes National Park
It is assumed that there are around 12 habituated families of mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans. Trekking groups that come in just 8 members, usually track a specific gorilla family within the Park.
What is the Optimal Time to visit Rwanda?
It is possible to have contact with the gorillas in Rwanda all year. But, June to September, the dry period, is the best time to visit Rwanda as there is less mud in the jungle and the paths don’t happen to be much slippery like other times. However; the rain might come down to the earth any time of the year, so you need to be aware of that fact.
April and May happen to be the wettest months throughout the whole year. If you are visiting during these months, you are likely to fall in the trap of tricky muddy trails. However, it doesn’t matter if you are aimed to track gorillas. During the dry season, the gorillas tend to climb up to higher mountains and come down when it’s the rainy season.
The dry period is likewise the optimal period to track chimpanzees because it’s the time when the fruits ripen, and it attracts the chimps to come down lower of the forest canopy.
March to May and October to November, are the rainy season, can be the best time to have an amazing photography session in gorilla country. The air seems to be clean as it rains beforehand, you have the top-notch atmosphere with regards to gorilla photography.
Expectations on a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda
You must begin your journey early in the morning. You should be present at Kinigi Park headquarters at 7:00 am in Volcanoes National Park so that you attend the briefing held by the park rangers.
At 8:30 am, you should be on your way to searching a gorilla. By 1:00 pm, you have to return to the campground, though a few treks may require less time.
The difficulty and the duration of the trek that you are undertaking will help you determine which gorilla family you are supposed to trek. The duration depends on the location of the gorilla family that you are going to track, however, it may take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours for you to accomplish the trekking.
It doesn’t require you to be a CrossFit athlete, senior travelers manage it too, but it’s a lot more effective if you are reasonably fit so that you can be able to enhance your enjoyment of the trek.
The park ranger, a professional guide, and tracker will likely be directing you to the forest treks so that you can easily find your preferred gorilla family. It can be slippery and muddy even when there is a dry season, be aware of that fact as well. The journey might feel very daunting to you as you will be going through the dense undergrowth. The slippery trails and the high altitude will likewise seem exhausting, however, the time that you are going to enjoy with the mountain gorillas worth the effort.
Finally, when you get the reach of those beautiful and gentle giants, you are likely to have one hour to spend time with them before you need to return to the lodge to keep yourself moving.
Meeting the gorillas
You need to observe the gorillas in their natural habitat within one hour that you are supposed to spend time with them. The distance between you and the gorillas would be just a few meters away and they will do their normal deeds such as interacting with one another, feeding, etc., and the silverback would be watching them over as usual. This is something that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
While you are near to the gorillas, you cannot speak out loud. You must keep your voice low and avoid making any sudden movements. Yes, you would be very much excited, but you cannot express that wide and loudly. The guide will inform you to keep a five-meter distance from the gorillas and you cannot touch them at any point. Despite being habituated with human beings, they are still wild animals. They can go wild sometimes unexpectedly.
The hour that you spend with the gorillas is a magical one. It goes too quickly that it doesn’t let you go off the gorillas, so it’s ideal to have two treks. The two treks will be different because you are never tracking the same family.
Trekking Prices in Rwanda
The permits cost US$1500 per head. People who go for tailor-made or group tours won’t need to pay the gorilla permit separately as it is included in the package. Not a single penny of extras is charged. Within the price, you will have the park entrances, trackers and expert guides, top-notch security with the park rangers and one magical hour to spend with the gorillas. You don’t need to tip your trackers and guides, it’s optional.
Why Trekking in Rwanda is so Special
Usually, you need to keep a good distance from gorillas once you get in contact with them, but the gorillas know no rules. They may come out of nowhere and sit beside you and play with you. Once you study each other, you both can become such good friends that it would make you feel like spending a few more hours with them. One hour would feel so little time to have such a good time with them. It seems so joyful that you will have such experience a once in a lifetime.
Essential Things to Keep in the Backpack
Tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda takes pre-plan so that you can have an amazing experience, but it doesn’t mean that you overpack it. Ahold all or a soft case is the best option. Let’s know what those essential things are:
- Waterproof hiking boots. Wear your shoes well so that you don’t have any nasty blisters.
- Waterproof jackets and trousers.
- Warm layers
- Woolen socks
- Garden gloves
- Carrier for food and water
- A camera along with extra batteries and lenses
- Reusable water bottle
Now you know the nuts and bolts of the whole gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The journey is so mesmerizing that I still can’t forget any single moment of my three treks. If the gorilla family happens to be the friendly one, you are the luckiest person in the world alive. Now, get your backpack ready as per the things mentioned above and get on your way to Rwanda for a beautiful experience. Thanks for reading.
Augustin Ndikuriyo is a tourism entrepreneur and the founder of Augustine Tours, a travel company offering tailor-made tours in East Africa for families, small groups and solo travelers; travel experiences benefiting visitors and local employment while preserving the cultural heritage, wildlife, and nature. Inspired by a quote from St. Augustine,” The World is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page”, he believes that tourism can be a great channel for both educational, cultural socio-economic and exchange.
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