Quick Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park

If there is that one unique wildlife experience you shouldn’t miss to take part while in Africa is a gorilla trekking in Rwanda. This special primate adventure is rated as one of the lifetime wildlife safari experience. Rwanda has positioned itself as the best destination where travelers can go for the popular gorilla safaris. Also known as the land of a thousand hills, this mountainous country offers remarkable experiences to its visitors.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda - Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park

Why Visit Rwanda

  • Rwanda protects a third of the world’s population of the mountain gorillas.
  • Rwanda has positioned itself as one of the best luxury destinations in Africa.
  • Rwanda is one of the only three countries that protect the mountain gorillas. it is only conducted in Volcanoes National Park northwest.
  • Rwanda’s hills make it one of the most scenic places in Africa. The journey to the gorillas takes you through rolling hills to Musanze, the third-largest town of Rwanda.
  • Hospitable People: You will be welcomed by joyous and welcoming people. From the locals you will come across to the porters who will escort you on a gorilla trek, you will encounter lovely people!

What to expect on the Gorilla trek

When you think of gorilla trek in Africa then think of how you can obtain a gorilla permit. In Rwanda, it is equally a must to have one if you are to be allowed to track one of the habituated families.

You can obtain a Rwanda gorilla trekking permit at $1500 per person through a trustworthy and registered tour operator and for this case; we are that one recognized Tour Company you can deal with and at the end of the day, you have your dreams achieved. Alternatively, you can deal with the reservation office at Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Due to high demand, you are expected to book for a permit early enough before you embark on the actual trip. In addition to permits, you are required to have a valid passport which you will be asked to present at the headquarters for verification.

Besides carrying a gorilla permit, in your packing list, you also need to consider key items like waterproof hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts/t-shirt, rain jackets, energy-giving snacks, bottled water, gardening gloves, waterproof day pack, insect repellents, first aid kit and walking stick which you can get at the park headquarters or at a lodge and others. In case you have heavy luggage, you will need to hire a porter to help you carry and this will allow you to concentrate on your adventure.

Gorilla treks in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda start with early morning briefing on dos and don’ts that you have to observe at all times while in search for these amazing creatures. These are mainly safety measures that are aimed at safeguarding not only for mountain gorillas but also to visitors. The briefing is always done by one of the park officials and some of the rules and regulations you will be briefed on include;

  • Only 8 visitors are allowed to track 1 habituated group,
  • Only an hour is given to you to have a face to face encounter with these creatures,
  • No flashlight camera is allowed when taking photos of gorillas and if your camera has, you are advised to turn it off before taking photos.
  • Only persons above 15 years are allowed to track mountain gorillas,
  • A distance of 8 meters must be observed at all times away from gorillas,
  • Cover your mouth when coughing and nose when sneezing and others.

It is during briefing day that you will be put in groups of 8 visitors to trek only 1 habituated gorilla group and Volcanoes National Park has 10 habituated groups. They include Sabyinyo, Susa A and Susa B (Karisimbi), Hirwa, Umubano, Amahoro, Bwenge, Ugenda, Agashya, and Kwitonda.

Group allocation all depends on your level of physical wellness and age. Those above 45 years and those with physical problems in most cases are allocated to the easy to find a group. And those of you who are physically fit, you can embark on challenging groups to track especially the Susa A family. Each group is assigned to park ranger guide.

In case you are not sure of your physical fitness, there are porters for hire at the park headquarters whom you can go with to carry your backpack. You can hire one at $15 or $20 but this depends on what he is to carry.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda - Volcanoes National Park

The hike to visit mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park is not easy to ascertain and can last you about 1 to 6 hours less or more depending on your level of physical wellness, location of gorillas and nature of the habitat. Gorilla trekking isn’t like game drive where you spend your time in a car while viewing the big game, with a trek to view mountain gorillas; you have to hike through the dense vegetation, steep slopes in search for these remarkable creatures. Because it is a strenuous adventure, we always advise our clients to come with packed lunch/energy giving snacks and adequate drinking water.

Once you meet a group of mountain gorillas, you have only an hour to strike your imaginations with these rare creatures. It is during this time that you have opportunity to take as many photos as possible, explore more about their behaviors and body gestures.

Best time to trek gorillas in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla treks in Volcanoes National Park can be done at any time of year. Regardless of this fact, when you think of trekking gorillas in this park, two seasons must be put into consideration and that is the dry and wet season. Each of these seasons comes with advantages and disadvantages.

The dry season usually kick starts from June to September and December to February. The advantage with this season is that the habitat remains relatively drier making it easier for one to hike through the dense vegetation and steep slopes while in search for the rare creatures.

The wet season is equally good and usually starts from March to May and October to November. This season is characterized by heavy rainfall and the habitat becomes muddy and slippery making it challenging for one to hike through the steep slopes. However, it is a season that comes with plenty of forage for gorillas to depend on and they don’t move to far distance compared to the dry season when there is a shortage of food supply.

Essentials for the Gorilla Trek

Regardless of the current global warming that has severely affected the world, gorilla tracking or gorilla trekking is an activity that you can enjoy or year-round however there are distinctive seasons what we refer to as the peak season and low season in the beautiful destinations.

The best gorilla tracking time in Uganda and Rwanda would be in the dry season where you expect little rains in the forest and this would the months of January to March and June to October.

Please do not forget that these are tropical countries whereby rains are received unpredictably so travelers are recommended to take note of the weather changing factor amidst, not forgetting to talk about the wet season or the season that we receive much rains especially areas around the tropical rainfall zones whereby it may rain cuts and dogs and this my hinder the activity although it’s not that instance if you have a 4×4 car as one of the essentials to access the gorilla tracking routes in the red rocky roads of Uganda, in actual sense even if it rains in the tropics in will not rain for the whole day so the jungle is still accessible even if it’s a rainy season because some times it rains in the night and by the time its day the rain has stopped and we are ready to go gorilla trekking in the jungle.

The strategic essentials needed in the tracking activity are not different from those that we are used to;

Physical Fitness

Your fitness level will determine your ability as you go trailing for the gentle giants in the highlands. For a fascinating experience so you need extra preparations before you hit the trails of the Virunga.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda - Volcanoes National Park

Hiking Shoes

Good hiking shoes are essential for a successful gorilla trek You are required to pack tracking boots with you given that the trails are muddy slopes. When it rains the trails may become slippery. Besides the jungle has water streams that may require waterproofed boots.

Clothing

Long-Sleeved Shirts and tops are essential for the gorilla hike. Long pants are also essential given that walking through the jungle requires you to having covered legs and arms to protect you from the underground thicket that will keep scratching you if you have open body parts.

Rain Jackets or ponchos should not miss in your backpack. Most of the gorilla tracking areas are located in tropical rain forests so the weather keeps changing unpredictably and to avoid being wet you need a raincoat.

Insect repellents are also still a must-pack if you are moving inside the tropics you are required to curry the repellents because the forests harbor tropical insects.

Waterproof gadgets such as camera bags and backpacks were given that it may rain while in the jungle. These will protect the valuables. It is advisable to carry your gadgets in such bags.

Extra rechargeable batteries. You may need extra batteries to maintain your camera. In the process of jungle excitement, you don’t need any distraction.  Having taken multiple pictures from the previous trips you may need stronger batteries. Remember you may stay in eco-lodges that use solar energy.

Often forgotten, packed lunch is a must-pack! The time spent on a mountain gorilla trek is unpredictable and the activity itself is a challenging activity that requires vital calories. After the gorilla watching session, you will have some time to take your packed lunch.

Take a look at this article to learn all about where to go for an African Safari.

About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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