Gorilla trekking is a unique and thrilling wildlife experience, a lifetime adventure that allows you to get up close and personal with the family of habituated mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
There are only three countries where mountain gorillas are found; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Of the three countries, Rwanda is the most accessible destination for gorilla trekking. This remote landlocked country provides a safe haven to almost a third of the world’s remaining population of the mountain gorillas.
You can easily visit the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, a conservation area that is jealously protected to preserve the great apes for not only the present but also future generations. This is the same place where Dian Fossey, the eminent American primatologist spent 18 years studying and protecting the rare mountain gorillas. Her works that were featured in the popular film “Gorillas in the Mist” have led to serious recoveries and the mountain gorillas are off the IUCN list of Critically Endangered Species.
If you are planning to travel to Africa for gorilla trekking, it is important to make your travel arrangements well in advance most especially if this is your first-time journey to the continent. Like other safari experiences, planning a gorilla trekking expedition requires serious travel planning. Most travel guides recommend planning this kind of adventure well in advance and here are the most important things to know to get started with planning your next gorilla safari;
The Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is located in the far north western part of Rwanda. The park is part of the larger Virunga Region, a conservation area that runs through Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The park was part of the Albert National Park, Africa’s oldest national park that was created by the Belgians to protect the mountain gorillas.
The Volcanoes National Park is the most accessible destination for gorilla trekking. The park can be accessed by road and it is located within just 2-3 hours driving distance from the Kigali International Airport, the main gateway to Rwanda.
The park can be accessed by public transport though it is important to have your own rental car or book your trip through a local tour operator.
For one to visit the mountain gorillas, you must possess gorilla permits. The obtained permit allows to visit a habituated gorilla family in the Volcanoes National Park and you will be permitted to watch the great apes for a period of one hour.
Gorilla permits can be booked through a local tour operator in Rwanda at USD 1500 per person and this applies to all holidaymakers with interest to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park.
Why is gorilla tracking expensive in Rwanda?
As of 2017, Rwanda through Rwanda Development Board (RDB) hiked the cost of a gorilla permit from the US$750 to now US$1500 per person. The main aim was to boost conservation efforts and enhance visitor experience in the destination.
The cost of tracking mountain gorillas is generally high given the high cost of conservation and protecting mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking plays a significant part in gorilla conservation as it is the main source of revenue for park authorities to facilitate different activities aimed at achieving conservation goals.
When is the Best Time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda
The most ideal time to travel to Rwanda to see mountain gorillas is during the dry season. There are two phases of dry season that Volcanoes National Park experiences; the long dry season which runs from June through October and another shorter season through December till February.
Tracking gorillas in Rwanda is also possible during the wet/rainy season; March, April, May or October, and November. Although these are low/off months of the year, travelers who make use of the low season secure discounts on accommodation and seasonal offers from tour operators.
These are perfect for budget travelers because it is when some accommodation cut down on their rates in order to attract more visitors.
Tips for a successful gorilla trekking safari
Here are some more useful tips and information to make your Rwanda gorilla safari a success;
- Consider buying your gorilla permit early at least 2 to 6 months before the actual date of tracking mountain gorillas.
- It is quite important to always observe the park guide’s instructions while on gorilla trek so that you can stay safe during the hike.
- During a gorilla trek, you will be put in a group comprising of up to a maximum of 8 travelers.
- It is important to pack light for the gorilla visit. If you are planning to have heavy luggage, consider hiring a porter to assist you with the carry.
- It is crucial to dress well for the gorilla trek. The recommended clothing for the trek includes long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Sturdy walking shoes are needed for the hike and the pathways can be slippery. Some guidebooks recommend waterproof hiking boots due to the fact that the forest is moist.
- A good camera is needed for photography. You should strictly do not use flashlight while taking photos.
- Other items to pack: waterproof daypack, anti-malarial tablets, insect repellent, rain jacket, a sweater.
Visiting the mountain gorillas requires a visit to tropical Africa and it is advisable to get started with planning your African safari well in time. This is crucial for your safety and health. It is advisable to find and consult your tour operator not only for formalities, such as visas, but also for information how to order a gorilla permit, which may need to be obtained well before you fly to Africa.
Due to the Covid 19 Outbreak, you should also consult a local tour operator for certain vaccinations or healthy precautions that may be necessary to have smooth travel plans.