Gorilla Trekking

In Rwanda gorilla trekking takes place in the Volcanoes national park, where Dian Fossey famously carried out her research. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild, half of these can be found in central Africa's Virunga Mountains.

What gorilla groups can I see in Rwanda?

There are ten habituated gorilla families, (Sabinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Susa, Kwitonda, Karisimbi, Agashya, Bwenge, Ugyenda andHirwa). Most groups are half-day walks but Susa can take all day. Tracking here is usually easier than at Bwindi as the afro-montane forest is lighter. There are eight permits available daily for each group and each permit costs U$750 per permit, per person. Every group is different, some with large numbers in the group, others smaller and given the habitat and terrain, it is unlikely you will see the groups in their entirety all at once!

How fit do I have to be for gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

This is the question we get asked the most and whilst fitness is a very subjective thing, anyone can enjoy gorilla trekking, providing they prepare for it. By its very nature, gorilla trekking in Rwanda will be challenging as  you will be walking through mountain rainforests, with thick vegetation, on steep muddy paths, so the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy it.

It is important to bear in mind however, that as this is a mountain rainforest, it is NOT humid and in fact will be quite cold and damp, although you will warm up through the trekking itself. The porters are also brilliant and you will be given the opportunity to hire them when you arrive at the park HQ on the morning of your actual trek. They will be there to help steady you as you walk and can help with camera bags. They are great company.

What should I take when I go gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

Strong legs, a small rucksack in which you can put your camera, packed lunch, jackets in etc and comfortable, sturdy boots or shoes. Given that it will start off cold early in the morning, you need lots of light layers that you can take off and put on easily. As you trek, you will warm up, shedding layers as you go, but when you reach the gorillas and stop for the hour, it can turn cold very quickly, particularly if you are in shadow or shade. Light layers and fleeces are good, walking trousers are good, but anything that you are comfortable in, that dries quickly is the best.

Strangely, you might want to consider taking gardening gloves as you will be pulling at thorny vegetation and nettles as you reach and climb so this protects you against cuts and scratches. Of course take a fully charged camera and spare memory cards. For those with different lenses, a good zoom of around 300-400 ml should be fine but you will need a steady hand or tripod if you are serious as the ground is very uneven and you may be balancing precariously on a slope to see the gorillas!

How long are the gorilla treks in Rwanda?

The gorilla treks in Rwanda vary enormously. Some groups are very close and can be reached in around an hour, whilst others are on the far side of the park and can take all day. That said, as the gorillas obviously move around they are in a different place each day so it is impossible to predict how long it will take you to reach them. They can also move as you trek towards them, even when you are there, so you need to be prepared. If you are doing more than one trek, the rangers will try and ensure you see a mixture of groups to get a range of gorilla experiences. 

On the morning of your trek, you will be allocated a group and your ranger will then go through the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking after which you head out to the park. Some groups can be accessed directly from the park with a short walk to the start of the trail, but others might require a drive to the start of the trail further away. Our guide will always be there to take you to the gorilla treks and will then meet you at the end to drive you back to your lodge.

How close to the gorillas do you get when trekking?

The official rule is 7 metres, designed to stop germs passing from humans to gorillas, but also these are wild animals and like any wildlife, you should keep your distance. The gorillas have gotten used to the presence of humans through the ongoing habituation process and the guides and rangers are there to keep an eye on things. Bear in mind that sometimes the gorillas will move around and as they have not been told about the 7 metre rule, they can get much closer. Whilst this should not be encouraged, they are inquisitive animals, particularly the younger ones. Should they approach you, follow your guide’s instructions. 

When should I go gorilla trekking?

You can visit the gorillas at any time of the year. However, you may find the walking easier outside the rainy seasons April, May and November.

TraCking Gorillas in Rwanda comparED TO Uganda

PROS

  • Spectacular setting, with easier trekking than Uganda
  • Ease of access is great for those looking for shorter, more focused trip
  • Younger, lighter forest than Uganda so easier for photographic opportunities

CONS

  • Permits more expensive at U$750 per person
  • Limited choices for other African wildlife experiences
  • Park can be busy 
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