The green mountain forests of Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo are home to approximatively one thousand mountain gorilla population. Those wonderful creatures draw all year long thousands of visitors looking for a life-changing experience. Yes, you got it correct, guided tours organized all year round for all visitors around this planet.
They used to be the most endangered species but thankfully the mountain gorillas status has moved from critically endangered to endangered due to collaborative conservation efforts from both involved private and governmental parties, according to a report published by IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature)
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda has become the pillar of the tourism sector and is making the top list activity for adventure travelers visiting Africa. Due to its importance in the country tourism sector, Rwanda has massively worked on the conservation of these apes which has contributed to an increase in their numbers.
Gorilla trekking activities in Rwanda play an important role in community development and job creation for both locals living around Volcanoes National Park and tourism professionals. It’s worth mentioning that a portion from the gorilla trekking revenues goes to the conservation efforts. This means booking a gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda won’t only benefiting your travel wishes but also the local community and the conservation efforts of these wildlife creatures.
Gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda is often described by most visitors as a life-changing one after a face to face encounter in their natural habitat. You may the feeling of surviving when you are climbing and hiking through slippery mountains. But when you reach them and you start beholding a baby gorilla playing around here and there as if they are welcoming you, you are overwhelming by the fun of the experience.
Since you are reading this, you love climbing mountains and nature it will be such a great experience for you to experience this uncommon encounter with the gorillas in the mist.
Where can I experience Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?
The Virunga mountains of the African great lakes’ region namely Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo are home to around half of those 1,000 mountains remaining in the world. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, located in northwest, the main tourist destination of the country remains the best destination for a gorilla trekking experience.
How to Get to Volcanoes National Park
Book your flight and land into Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Upon arrival at Kigali International Airport, you are given a one-month tourist visa at just $30 without any paper working hassle. Payment can be made in Euros or dollar either cash or with all major credit cards.
With a short amount of time, you can start your Rwanda adventure. However, it is important to always check updates about Rwanda immigration information. After clearing with the immigration services at the airport, it is time to meet your Rwanda tour guide waiting for you at the arrivals with a clear sign displaying your name and the tour company he works for.
A couple of days’ accommodation is recommended in Kigali before or the end of your Rwanda vacation. Depending on your arrival time, you can directly drive to Volcanoes National Park, in the province of Musanze located 105 kilometers. The trip duration between Kigali and Volcanoes National Park is two hours on a smooth tarmac road.
Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has around ten families of habituated mountain gorillas. A trekking group is composed of eight members allocated to visit a specify gorilla family. The gorilla families include Sabyinyo, Susa, Karisimbi, Umubano, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Titus, Bwenge, Agashya, and Ugenda.
Best Time to Trek Rwanda Mountain Gorillas
Gorilla trekking trips in Rwanda are possible all year round. However, May to September, the dry season, is the best time to visit Rwanda as there is no rain and paths through the hike are not slippery like during the rainy season. However, it is worth knowing that rain in Rwanda can come down any time of the year. March and April are likely the wettest months of the year and if you are plan a trip during this period, you might experience muddy trails.
It doesn’t matter at all and some tourists enjoy trekking gorillas under the rain. The aim for them is to find gorillas. The mountain gorillas climb higher during the dry season while they tend to come down during the rainy season. The dry season is also the fortunate period to track chimpanzees when the fruits ripen. Ripe fruits attract chimpanzees to come down offering an amazing photography experience.
What to Expect from Gorilla Trekking Trips in Rwanda?
The trip begins with a brief held by the park rangers at Kinigi Park Headquarters at 7:00 am. It is here where you are placed in groups and allocated gorilla families. Your way to searching the gorillas starts at 8:30 am ad you have to come back to the campground around 1:00 pm, but some treks usually take less time than others. It all depends on the location where your allocated group is. The trek takes between two to four hours, and you are allowed a one-hour encounter with the gorillas once you reach them.
How Difficult is the Mountain Gorilla Trekking?
You don’t need to be a CrossFit athlete to hike through Volcanoes National Park in search of Rwanda mountain of gorillas. Senior travelers usually between 50-75 find it doable and not challenging as they thought. However, it is more agreeable if you are reasonably physically fit so you can enhance your enjoyment. The park rangers, well-trained guides, and trackers direct visitors so you can much easier find your gorilla family. The paths can be slippery and muddy during the rainy season and dry season as well. The high altitude and slippery trails may be relatively exhausting, but by the time you reach the spot, you simply realize the gorilla trekking was worth the effort.
The Mountain Gorilla Encounter Experience & Duration
The optimal time to spend with the gorillas in their natural habitat is one hour. The distance between you and the gorilla is limited to a few meters away and you have the possibility to observe their regular deeds such as young and baby gorillas interacting with one another, feeding, etc. The silverback, an adult gorilla, usually stands around watching them over. This is by far something you will cherish and share as part of your adventure traveling experience.
As you are around the gorillas, you are advised not to speak out loud. Your voice lowering will prevent gorillas from making sudden movements. For sure, you are likely to be overwhelmed and taken aback by the excitement. The park ranger will keep you informed about the five-meter distance rule. Yes, they are habituated gorillas, but they remain wild animals. They may go wild unexpectedly. The one-hour time spent with the habituated mountain gorillas in their natural habitat seems short and ends quickly. Some visitors prefer to do two treks. If you want to do another trek the following day, you will visit another family.
Gorilla Trekking Price in Rwanda
All gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda include a gorilla permit charged US$1500 per person. The tour operator you book your tour with will need to secure your permit before all travel arrangements. The paid price allows you to have access to the gorilla trekking activity facilities, trackers, expert guides, park rangers for a magical hour experience.
Why is Gorilla Trekking Worth my Time and Money?
As recommended by the park rangers, you must keep a good distance between you and the gorillas. Despite being habituated to human visits, gorillas know no rules. Rules are only by you. Gorillas can move around, appear of nowhere and sit beside you and possibly play with you. During your encounter, you study each other, and you are likely to become friendly buddies. More time would be needed to stay with them. The one hour feels so little for such a great experience. And this is one of the reasons many call a gorilla trekking activity a life-changing experience.
What to pack during the Gorilla Trek
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:
All worthwhile things to do, Rwanda gorilla trekking being one of them, require pre-arrangements. This doesn’t mean you have to overpack, but essential things are required.
1. Waterproof hiking boots. Wear your shoes well so that you don’t have any nasty blisters.
2. Waterproof jackets and trousers.
3. Warm layers
4. Woolen socks
6. Garden gloves
7. Carrier for food and water
8. A camera along with extra batteries and lenses
10. Reusable water bottle
Now that you know all it takes to start this mesmerizing life-changing journey, let me pass this final piece of my experience about gorilla trekking in 2014. First, I loved it and second so will you. Since I enjoy climbing mountains and love nature it was such a great experience for me. I cannot wait to see you guys in the next days sharing your personal stories as you pursue the gorilla trek.
Rwanda’s gorilla permit might seem more expensive compared to her neighbors, but the wildlife experience is worth your time and money. Beside your wildlife trip, a visit to the genocide museum, palaces, and ethnographic museums are excellent so it is worth another two to three days. Whether you fly from Europe, USA, Asia, it is so easier to get here.
Your driver/guide in Rwanda is an integral part of the journey to provide a terrific vacation experience. In fact, they can make the trip very special and their local expertise is an added value. Rwanda tour companies can, besides online tours, help tailor a trip for families, individuals or small groups by including other cultural and historical spots. So amazing and a fabulous encounter, the whole trip will be terrific and a great mix of activities and adventures.