Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park is a popular activity for many visitors to Rwanda, as it is widely considered to be one of the best places in Africa to see gorillas. The park is home to the endangered mountain gorilla, which is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. These gorillas are found in only three countries in the world: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Volcanoes National Park spans an area of approximately 16,000 hectares and is located in the northwestern region of Rwanda. The park is home to a diverse range of landscapes, including afro-montane forests, bamboo forests, savanna grasslands, vast swamps, and five volcanoes: Bisoke, Gahinga, Muhabura, Sabyinyo, and Karisimbi. Mount Karisimbi is one of the four tallest mountains in Africa.
In addition to gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park is also home to a wide variety of other mammals, including the spotted hyena, buffaloes, elephants, bush bucks, duikers, and golden monkeys. The park is also a great place for bird watching, with over 178 species of birds that can be found here. The park offers visitors the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the region, as well as the chance to learn about the gorillas and other wildlife that call the park home.
Gorilla trekking is the most sought-after activity in the Volcanoes National Park, and it offers visitors a high chance of encountering mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The trek involves hiking through dense bamboo forests and steep mountain slopes in search of one of the many gorilla families that call the park home. The final encounter with these primates is considered to be one of the most exciting and memorable wildlife experiences in Africa.
To enhance the experience, visitors can choose to cross the border and take part in double gorilla trekking in Uganda or even triple gorilla trekking, where they also visit the gorillas in Virunga National Park in Congo or Kahuzi Biega National Park in Congo. The latter is particularly exciting as it offers a chance to see both the mountain gorillas and Eastern Lowland gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is a challenging activity, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is an experience that will stay with visitors for a lifetime. The Volcanoes National Park and neighboring countries offer a great opportunity to see gorillas and other wildlife in Africa.
Securing a permit for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a crucial step in planning a successful trip. It is important to book in advance, as gorilla permits can be highly sought after during peak seasons, such as June to September and December to March. These permits currently cost $1500, but it’s important to note that this is just a small part of the overall cost of a gorilla trekking trip. The money collected from gorilla permit sales goes towards supporting conservation efforts and community programs, making it a worthwhile investment. Booking a permit can be done through a tour operator or directly through the Rwanda Development Board. When booking, passport details must be provided to the Rwanda Development Board. There are 10 habituated gorilla families available for trekking in the park, and only 8 people are allowed to visit each group per day. This means there are only 80 permits available per day for all the habituated gorilla groups.
Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park is a unique and unforgettable experience that requires proper planning and preparation. The trek starts with a briefing from the park authorities and rangers at around 7:30 am. During the briefing, participants are divided into groups and assigned to a particular gorilla family. The less fit hikers are assigned groups which are closer to the park offices. The park rangers lead the group out at 8:00 am to search for the gorillas. The park offers 10 habituated groups/families to choose from. Regardless of which group you eventually get, you will find that watching the mountain gorillas is breathtaking experience. You can spend hours just watching the little ones roll around and play. Mountain gorillas are always playful and quite curious. Some may walk right up to you but with no harm intended. It is important to listen to instructions from your guides and to always stay calm, never make sudden movements. Gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park can take between one to six hours depending on the gorilla group you are assigned and their specific location on the day of the trek. It’s important to note that the gorillas live in their natural habitat, so the trek can be challenging, but the experience of being in the presence of these gentle giants is worth the effort.
When planning your gorilla trekking trip in the Volcanoes National Park, it’s important to consider hiring a porter or two if you have extra heavy luggage or equipment. Porters are readily available at the starting point, and many of these porters have previously been poachers but have now embraced gorilla conservation programs. The income earned from offering their services keeps them from returning to their former vices. If you’re planning to travel with older adults, it’s important to research the specific requirements and recommendations for gorilla trekking for older people. The cost for the services of a porter ranges between $10 and $15. Additionally, it’s important to have suitable hiking boots, thick cotton gloves, and a raincoat. Your tour company should be able to provide you with a comprehensive packing list and guidelines for gorilla trekking.
When preparing for a gorilla trekking adventure in Volcanoes National Park, it is important to not only consider the necessary physical preparation, but also the mental preparation. One way to do this is by taking long walks in nearby forests, in order to acclimate your body to the physical demands of the trek and to get a sense of the type of terrain you will be navigating.
Another important aspect of preparation is having suitable footwear. The terrain in the park can be challenging, with steep inclines and slippery mud, so it is essential to have a pair of sturdy, waterproof boots that will provide good traction and support for your feet.
Additionally, it is important to come prepared for the possibility of heavy rain. The park can be quite wet and muddy, so it’s important to pack a waterproof jacket and pants, and to have a plan for keeping your gear dry.
It’s also important to bring enough drinking water and a light snack to keep you energized during the trek. The gorillas can be hard to find and it may take some time before you spot them, so it’s best to come prepared.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that the park rangers and guides do a lot to make your gorilla tracking adventure worthwhile. They are the ones who will lead you to the gorillas and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience. Tipping them is a great way to show your appreciation and the recommended tipping rate is between $10 and $15 or its equivalent in the local currency.
Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park is a unique and exciting experience, but it is important to understand the rules and regulations that are in place to protect both the tourists and the gorillas. One of the key regulations is that only individuals who are 15 years of age or older are allowed to go near the primates. The reason for this is that children are more susceptible to carrying transmittable diseases such as the flu and cough, which can easily be transmitted to the gorillas. This is why tourists are required to provide their passport details before booking a trip, in order to ensure that they are not carrying any communicable diseases.
It’s also important to note that mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with only 1,000 remaining in the wild. All measures are taken to protect them from diseases and other risks, as they are not immune to some of the infections that humans carry.
Other rules and regulations for gorilla trekking include, but not limited to, the duration of the visit, the number of visitors allowed per group, the distance you should maintain from the gorillas and such. However, these can be found in another article and it is recommended to read them before planning your trek.
It’s worth noting that many tourists visiting Rwanda choose to combine their gorilla trekking experience with other activities such as golden monkey tracking, cultural visits, and hiking to one of the volcanoes within the Volcanoes National Park, particularly Mount Karisimbi and Bisoke. Combining a hike up Mount Karisimbi with gorilla trekking requires a significant level of determination and physical fitness. It’s important to keep in mind that the best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the months of June, July and August, as the weather is generally more favorable during this time.
When planning a gorilla trekking trip to the Volcanoes National Park, it is important to consider the various lodging options available to tourists. There are several high-quality lodges located close to the park that offer a range of facilities and amenities to suit different budgets.
For those seeking luxury accommodations, there are several options to choose from, including Bisate Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, One and Only Gorilla Nest Lodge, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge and Virunga Volcanoes Lodge. The Five Volcanoes Lodge is a popular choice among budget-conscious luxury travelers, and they even offer a VIP room as a surprise during certain months of the year. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge offers excellent views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Bisate or One and Only Gorilla Nest are the ultimate luxury lodges.
Mid-range lodging options include Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge and Lebambou Gorilla Lodge. The Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge is particularly noteworthy for its five spacious cottages and delicious international dishes. Meanwhile, the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is a great choice for those looking for the best views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the park.
For budget travelers, there are several options to choose from such as Virunga Hotel, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Villa Gorilla, Hotel Muhabura, La Palme Hotel or Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel. Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel is a great choice for larger groups as it has 31 comfortable rooms. The Villa Gorilla Lodge is a great option for travelers looking to stay close to the park offices while La Palme Hotel is known for its excellent restaurant and delicious local Rwandan dishes. In case most budget hotels are booked during peak season, it is worth consulting Kinigi Guesthouse as they have many self-contained rooms of good quality.