Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes Africa Safari
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes Africa Safari
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is by far one of the greatest wildlife encounters in Africa ,“In the heart of Central Africa, so high up that you shiver more than you sweat,” wrote the eminent primatologist Dian Fossey, “are great, old volcanoes towering almost 15,000 feet, and nearly covered with rich, green rain forest – the Virungas. The unique opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat is unforgettable, some even say life-changing. Encounters with gorillas as they go about their daily lives are carefully managed, with expert trackers and guides leading small groups of tourists up bamboo-covered slopes to spend a precious and awe-inspiring hour just a few feet away from the gentle creatures.
The largest living primate, gorillas are spread across much of the equatorial African rainforest. Broadly speaking, the species is split into lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas.
The volcanic range which spans Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the endangered mountain gorilla. Tracking gorillas in Rwanda is safe and relatively accessible.
Where to find mountain gorillas in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is a national park in north-western Rwanda. It covers 160 km² of rainforest and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains, namely Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo.
Situated far northwest of Rwandan Capital Kigali, lies Volcanoes National Park which protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range – home of the endangered mountain gorilla and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp, and heath.
Volcanoes National Park is named after the chain of dormant volcanoes making up the Virunga Massif: Karisimbi – the highest at 4,507m, Bisoke with its verdant Crater Lake, Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura.
Tracking endangered mountain gorillas through the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest, alive with the calls of 200 species of colorful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, is only one of the truly unique experiences in the area.
Within the boundaries of Volcanoes National Park is Buhanga Eco-Park, an ancient forest holding Rwanda’s most intriguing folklore and Musanze caves formed 62 million years ago after the last estimated volcanic eruption.
Hiking, Canoeing, Mountain Biking, and village experiences offer something for everyone to enjoy.
See our popular Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris
How many Mountain gorillas are there in the wild?
At the latest count, there are approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virunga Massif. The population is slowly increasing, thanks to concerted efforts between our governments, communities, and NGOs like Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park
There are twelve gorilla families living in the Volcanoes National Park, which are fully habituated, with a few others habituated solely for scientific research. The groups, or troops, consisting of at least one silverback along with several females and youngsters the groups for tourism include Agashya gorilla family, sabyinyo gorilla family, Titus gorilla family, Amahoro gorilla family, Susa A gorilla family, Umubano gorilla family, Karisimbi gorilla family, Hirwa gorilla family, Kwitonda gorilla family, Bwenge gorilla family and Ugenda gorilla family
The troops are somewhat fluid in composition but tend to stick to a preferred area. They are constantly monitored and protected by park rangers, with each group coming into contact with tourists for a strict maximum of one hour per day.
Six tracking permits are issued per troop per day, meaning the encounter is as intimate and as unobtrusive as possible. With only 96 permits available each day in Rwanda, it is highly recommended to book in advance, either online or via a reputable tour operator.
How to get to Volcanoes National Park
Unlike many safari destinations in Africa the easiest way of accessing Rwanda’s volcanoes national park is by road from the main capital Kigali, the park is located 105 km via tarmac road to the park headquarters in Kinigi and the drive can take 2-3 hours.
Those who may want to travel to Volcanoes national park is by chartering a Helicopter from Kigali via Akagera aviation which can land in one of the Helicopter fields owned by the Lodges and this flight can take 30 minutes from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.
What to expect on a gorilla trek in Rwanda
One second you are bushwhacking through thickets of bamboo in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, pulling yourself up a steep lava slope, toehold to toehold. The next, you turn a corner, and sunlight streams through the canopy to illuminate a matted clump of black against a curtain of rain forest green. You’ve known this was coming and still you gasp, Seated perhaps 30 feet away from one of the roughly 900 mountain gorillas remaining on earth.
Impact of Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
20% of the revenue from the permits is channelled towards local communities, to build schools and health centres, as well as roads. There is a compensation fund for local farmers should any gorillas damage their crops, which helps to ensure peaceful co-existence.
Gorilla tracking also provides employment for many locals, from rangers and trackers to porters, drivers, and staff at tourist lodges.
For those interested in tracing the footsteps of Dian Fossey, her tomb is a 30-minute drive from the park headquarters and then a two or three hours hike through the forest, to above 3,000 m altitude.
Why you should not miss the experience with mountain Gorillas
A trek to see mountain gorillas requires you to be physically well and most importantly, maintain your physical fitness before embarking on the actual trek. A gorilla trek in Rwanda can last you about 2-8 hours and it involves hiking through the dense vegetation and steep slopes while in search of mountain gorillas.
Please be in the know that mountain gorillas live in high elevation and because of this; you need adequate drinking water and some energy-giving snacks as energy boosters and do not forget a hiking stick to help you while on a hike. Walking sticks can be got at the park headquarters or safari lodge. Besides, hiring a porter is not bad if you do have heavy luggage. They can help carry luggage and let you enjoy your adventure. Porters are around at the park headquarters and can be hired.
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The actual encounter with mountain gorillas of Rwanda
Visitors gather at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi at 7 am, and are allocated a family group on the day according to fitness levels, as well as being briefed on protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas.
After you will be transferred by your Guide to the trailhead where you will start hiking into the rain forest as the ranger guide will keep in touch with the trackers who leave earlier and start trekking for the previous nests, broken shrub beside the guide you will have armed personnel accompany you as their elephants and buffaloes in the forest, after you find the gorillas you will view them for one hour and then make your way back.
How long is the mountain gorilla tracking in Rwanda?
Hikes up to their various locations can last anything from 30 minutes to four or more hours, reaching an altitude of between 2,500m and 4,000m. Porters are available to carry backpacks and cameras, as well as to offer a helping hand along the route.
Mountain Gorilla Permits in Volcanoes national park Rwanda
A gorilla permit costs $1500 obtainable from the Rwanda Tourism Board offices in Kigali or Ruhengeri which is near the park. Your tour operator can also help you get the permits especially if you are using them to organize all aspects of your tour.
Photography of the Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park
Being immersed within a group of mountain gorillas is one of the most wholesome wildlife photography experiences.
The photographic challenge of harsh lighting is often spoken about as a problem on African Savannah safaris. People may think that being in a forest would prevent this, but that is not the case. The gorillas are often found feeding or relaxing in open valleys and on clear mountain tops. The harsh light is caused due to the fact that the gorilla’s habitat is so close to the equator, but there are ways around it or to avoid it!
Harsh direct sunlight can cause the gorillas’ faces to become very shiny, resulting in the highlights being blown out in the images.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Prices
The safari prices in volcanoes national park are largely dependent on the choice of accommodation in Volcanoes national park; there are four ranges of accommodation around the park from Super Luxury, Luxury, Mid-range, and budget so your tour price will largely be determined by the lodge option
Refunds/ Cancellations of Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Permits
Unless if a guest is found ill and is a threat to the Mountain Gorilla, the game rangers may stop him or her from visiting the gorillas and RDB will refund 50% of the Gorilla permit fees but other reasons may result in no refund by Rwanda development board.
Rescheduling of the Rwanda gorilla permits is also possible at a fee.
Age Restrictions for Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
Rwanda’s gorilla trekking age limit is currently at 15 years and above meaning that children below the age of 15 years are not allowed to trek gorillas in the volcanoes National Park Rwanda.
What to pack for a gorilla tracking in Rwanda
When packing for gorilla trekking in Uganda, consider essential items first. What shouldn’t miss out in your packing list are; waterproof hiking boots, a waterproof day pack, insect repellents, rain jacket/poncho, a camera with no flashlight and should be good to help you capture clear pictures, binoculars, a long-sleeved shirt/t-shirt, trousers, sweaters, sunglasses, hat, bottled water, energy-giving snacks, first aid kit, and many others.
Where to stay in Volcanoes National Park
Where to stay in Volcanoes national park is not an issue as its one of Rwanda’s most visited national park some of the lodges to consider staying in are
- One&only gorilla nest
- Bisate lodge
- Singita Kwitonda
- Governor’s silverback lodge
- Virunga Lodge
- 5 Volcanoes Lodges
For other cheaper options please contact Wilderness Explorers Africa
Best time to visit Rwanda
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be done all year round but the peak to visit Rwanda is from mid-May to mid-September, this is the long dry season and has perfect conditions for tracking gorillas.
See our East African safaris Featuring Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
THINGS TO DO
WHERE TO STAY
|One & Only Gorilla Nest|
|Singita Kwitonda Lodge|
|Governor’s Silverback Lodge|
|5 Volcanoes Lodge|
WHEN TO GO
|Best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda|
|5 Day Gorilla & Diana Fossey Hike|
|5 Day Gorilla & Golden Monkey Safari|
|6 Day Gorilla & Lake Kivu Safari|