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. 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$1500 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.