Located on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park is part of the Virunga region—a home to world’s mountain gorillas. The other gorilla population is found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga national parks in Uganda as well as the Virunga national park in Congo.
Tourists visiting Rwanda, a country with a thousand hills, one should not miss out the magnificent opportunity of visiting the Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans which consists of 125 kilometers of mountain forest and a home to six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas.
Ten gorilla groups are now habituated for gorilla tourism and many travelers visit Rwanda and take gorilla safaris to volcanoes national park Rwanda, to see these endangered giants.
It is very easy to meet the gorillas in the wild in Rwanda more than anywhere else in the world. Look into the eyes of a large silverback gorilla and he’ll look back with a thinking, intelligent gaze, mindful that you’re another individual. Any apprehensions or nerves you might have had during your trek will melt away the minute you see your gorilla family. Gorilla trekking safaris offer a magical encounter that transcends any other ‘wildlife’ experience we know.
Planning Your Gorilla Trekking Safari
When to go gorilla trekking
In Rwanda, Gorilla trekking safaris can be done all the year around however hiking can be tougher in the rainy seasons from April – May and in November, but at an altitude of 2000m and more, it can of course rain here at any time of the year. The most popular times for gorilla tracking are during the drier months, between December and February, and from June to mid-September.
Permits for gorilla trekking
During the peak seasons of June-August and December—February, securing permits for trekking gorillas can be difficult at short notice, so you should plan well ahead. We will make all the arrangements for buying your permits. Each day, a maximum number of 80 gorilla tracking permits are obtainable. Permits cost US$750 per person per visit, which may seem a lot but don’t begrudge it; this money provides Rwanda with a compelling economic reason to conserve the park and, amongst other things, pays for a 24-hour guard for each gorilla group. (Armed teams constantly track each habituated group – like royal bodyguards in the UK!).
How fit do I need to be to track gorillas?
For the best gorilla tracking experience, you need a general level of fitness though you don’t have to be super-fit.
Walk at your own pace if you cannot catch up with the rest of the group and you can as well have time for breaks if needed. Depending on which group you track, and the time of year you go (gorillas tend to move down the mountains in the rains), you might find yourself walking on some pretty steep slopes for several hours. On the other hand, you could reach your group after a 30-minute stroll. It’s best to prepare for the most active option however, and if nothing else, a few hill walks before you leave would be beneficial.
What kit should you take for a gorilla trekking safari?
Walking boots are necessary as tracks/paths on gorilla treks can be slippery, muddy and steep. Due to brambles and nettles en route, thick gardening gloves are recommendable and you should wear long trousers rather than shorts. A waterproof jacket may come in handy and take some water and a snack in case it’s a long trek. You might also find a walking stick or pole helpful.
For a small fee, porters are available at the trailheads to carry your backpacks and offer a hand during tricky parts of the hike. Even if you don’t really need them, hiring a porter is a helpful way to contribute directly to the local economy and chatting to them en route can enhance your experience both of local life and of your gorilla trek.
Mountain Gorilla fees and Gorilla permits
The Mountain gorilla fees in Rwanda cost US$1500 per person for the non nationals. This day of gorilla trekking, you will be required to present yourself for briefing at the offices which are situated in Musanze at 7:00 Am and if you are also planning to do gorilla tracking safari in Uganda the same information should be presented as given by the Uganda Wildlife Authority Gorilla Rules.
What you should observe before departing on your gorilla tracking expedition
The following should be noted for your adventurous safari for Gorilla tracking in Rwanda;
- A maximum number of 8 visitors are allowed to visit the habituated mountain gorillas
- You should wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas
What you should do on your way to the gorillas.
- Your voices should be kept low
- Do not leave rubbish in the park therefore, whatever you bring into the forest you should be carried back out with you
- A long side with your guide, you will be taken where the gorillas observed the gorillas the day before and from there you will follow the gorilla trail
- You will look for gorilla’s nesting sites along the way
- After you have approached the mountain gorillas, the guides will inform you to get ready
What you should do when you are with the gorillas
- You are required to stay about 7 meter which is 21 feet distance and this should be observed all the time
- Always stay in tight group when you are near the gorillas
- Your voices should always be down at all times though it is okay to ask your guide questions
- You should not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas because this will inevitably increase the risk of transmission of diseases.
- Mountains gorillas charge therefore you should follow the guides rule and you should not look at the gorillas directly in the eyes and never run away because this will increase risk.
- Photographing with a flash is not allowed thus, when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully
- Do not touch the gorillas since they are also wild animals
- The guide may not tell you this. You should note that the maximum time you can spend while with the mountain gorillas is strictly one hour. In case the gorillas become agitated or nervous , the guide will finish very early
- Your voices should be kept low until and you should keep away about 200 meters away from the gorillas.