Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

gorilla-trekking-in-rwandaGorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place inside Volcanoes National Park/Parc Nationale Des Volcans(PNV). Volcanoes National Park is one of the only four parks sheltering the surviving Mountain Gorillas worldwide. The other three are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda and Virunga National Park in Congo. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be done through out the year though the best time is during the dry months.

Rwanda Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park boasts of 10 Gorilla families that are habituated and available for tracking or viewing by visitors. There are some other 2 families on top of the 10 but which are strictly for research. The habituated Gorilla families in Rwanda are; Titus Family, Amahoro family, Umubano, Susa A, Susa B, Karisimbi group, Sabyinyo group, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Uganda, Agasha group – group 13 and Bwenge group.

Gorilla families in Rwanda were/are named following the stories or circumstances for their formation and their life styles or behaviors. Some of these families are as old as Dian Fossey’s days. Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who put an intense resistance against the poaching of the Gorillas alongside an extensive research into their behaviors. Unfortunately, she was mysteriously murdered by unknown assailants in 1985.

Gorilla Naming Ceremony/Kwita Izina

Some of the recent and not the old Gorilla families in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park together with the individual members, have been named through the famous Kwita Izina Ceremony or the Gorilla naming ceremony. It is an event organised every year in Rwanda to give names to the baby Mountain Gorillas that may have been born in a year or two.

Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Permit Price

A Gorilla permit for Rwanda goes for US$1,500 which is per individual and not a group of tourists. The US$1,500 permit price comes with park guides but excludes other expenses like transport to the park, accommodation, the porters and others. The hiked price was one of the conservation strategies to check/regulate the visits to the Gorillas that have such a fragile habitat. Note that Gorillas are still listed as endangered by the IUCN.

With the high cost of the Gorilla permit in Rwanda, cheaper options have been sought in Uganda at Bwindi  and Mgahinga Gorilla Parks where the permit costs US$700, far less than the US$1,500 price for Rwanda. This has greatly made the From Rwanda to Uganda Gorilla Trekking tours popular.

Gorilla Trekking Rwanda inside Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking is a wildlife experience of trolling into the Gorillas’ habitat for a face to face encounter. It is an act of following Gorilla movements in the forest which enables the tracker to know more about their behavior and daily interactions in the wilderness. Just like the Mountain Gorillas, all primates including Chimpanzees and Golden monkeys are tracked on foot. By virtue of their habitats and behavior traits, primates can adjust to human presence before them. This is however in sharp contrast with lion trekking; a carnivorous lion can not let its prey go scot free and that’s why it (lion tracking) has to be done in a vehicle. Considering that Rhino tracking too, is done on foot much as Rhinos are aggressive animals, but at least it is always safe when the tracking rules are adhered to during the activity.

Registration and briefing for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

It is a requirement to report at the Kinigi park offices early morning at 7.am to register for the Gorilla trekking activity. It’s here that you will have to present your passport plus the Gorilla permit. All visitors that book Gorilla trekking tours through Jungle Escape Africa, the registration and presentation of the permits is done by the driver guide on their behalf.

Gorilla trekking starts in the morning with a comprehensive briefing about the established guidelines for tourists’ visits with in the park. These guidelines are encapsulated into what is termed as the Gorilla trekking etiquette or a list of the dos and don’ts while with the Gorillas. The briefing and registration takes place at the Kinigi park offices/headquarters at 7.am. It involves some simple entertainment by the locals, a TV presentation and some coffee for the visitors.

It’s at Kinigi park headquarters that all trekkers for the day are divided into groups of 8 people (maximum) and assigned a Gorilla family to track. Gorilla family allocation takes into consideration people with special cases/needs like the elderly, physically impaired due to past injuries or any other causes, and those who may find themselves in a poor health state that day.

After briefing, all trackers get into their cars to drive to the trek starting point away from Kinigi. It is at the base of  Mount Bisoke from where all groups start the trek and separate along the way for real treks in the respective directions of their allocated families.

NoteWhen you make certain to choose an easy, moderate or difficult hike, please let your driver know about it so that he presents it for a consideration and confirmation upon registration.

Hiring and using porters for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Hiring a porter(s) is optional (to seasoned trekkers/hikers) unlike a walking stick which is a must, regardless. A walking stick is provided (free) at the starting point where you shall also find the porters for hiring. Much as hiring porters is an option, trackers are highly encouraged to have at least one (porter) who shall not only carry their small backpacks but also/even offer a push or pull in the difficult parts of the trek. Remember this is a hilly terrain which can be quite hard going so support or any assistance is needed by all means.

Also be informed that the trails, particularly at the initial ascent of the trek, have always proven difficult due to the mud and many rocks despite being more or less on a lower altitude. As you advance with the trek, steepness sets in alongside the dense vegetation that has thorny leaves. All these turn the supposedly delightful/exciting trek into a challenging one and so walking sticks and porters become very helpful.

Still with porters, apart from helping through the hard to navigate areas of the trek, hiring them is one way through which Gorilla conservation and local community needs are harmonized. When communities benefit from Gorilla tourism, they will certainly advocate for their (Gorillas) survival in their respective capacities. Porters are from communities surrounding the park.

The time taken to find the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

Trekking time is one element of the Gorilla tracking activity that can never be predetermined. Drawing from past experiences, it has always been between 30 minutes and several hours. The level of difficulty or ease encountered during the trekking activity also varies depending on the location of the Gorilla family. Remember Gorillas keep wandering in the forest following no time table and neither a designated path. Searching for them therefore, can be from a simple walk in the forest to a very strenuous and exhausting one. However, it is well worth the work and misery getting there. The tranquility and magic given off by the Gorillas upon finding them barely lets one notice how the anxiety fades.

Gorilla Tracking Rules in Volcanoes National Park

A 7 meter distance away from the Gorillas was considered as safe before Covid-19 but it is now 10 meters. Keeping a safe distance between people and the Mountain Gorillas is one of the mandatory precautions to avoid possible disease transmission, including Covid-19.

Mountain Gorillas share 98.4% DNA as humans and so diseases from humans can easily attack them. The Gorillas however are unaware of this fact; of humans-to-Gorillas disease transfer, so it remains entirely upon us to keep off their habitat incase of any communicable sickness. Much as there is a 10 meter rule between visitors and the Gorillas, a sick person should ideally postpone his/her visit to the Gorillas. See some of the Gorilla trekking rules and regulations below:

  • All persons of below 15 years are not allowed to track Mountain Gorillas but there is no maximum age limit.
  • Each family has to be visited by a maximum of 8 people once a day.
  • The maximum time to spend with the Gorillas after finding them is 1 hour.
  • Carry a pair of masks with you, one to be worn before and the other after finding the Gorillas.
  • Keep noise and movements at the minimum when with the Gorillas.
  • Littering the park is strictly prohibited.
  • No flash photography.

Tracking Mountain Gorillas more than once in Rwanda

Tracking Mountain Gorillas more than once is accepted in Rwanda though has to be on different and not the same day. Acquire a separate permit for each day/date you are to track and remember to secure them in advance. When double trekking or tracking more than once is the plan, you are free to track one particular family for all the times or track different ones. For the best experience however, you are encouraged to track different families. You can check our 3 Days Rwanda Double Gorilla Trekking Safari and the 4 Days Bwindi double Gorilla Trekking Tour for more information.

Best time to visit for Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

The ease or difficulty with which the Gorilla trekking activity is done has always been a matter of great concern to all potential visitors. Much as it is good to know that Gorilla Trekking Tours are conducted and are available all through the year, it is equally important to be aware that the trails are more navigable during the dry than the wet season. They tend to be so muddy and slippery with vegetation overgrowth during the wet or rainy months than the drier ones. The muddy and slippery tracks may create dull moments in the supposedly delightful and exciting adventure of Gorilla trekking.

If flexible with the travel plans, it is therefore advisable to visit during the months of December to February and June to mid-September that are anticipated to be dry. However, you are free to visit any time of the year after all there are porters who will in one way or the other help you to realise your dream of reaching the Gorillas with ease. Also be informed that the nature of the terrain(mountainous) and the tropical forests are rain stimulators and therefore rains occur at any time of the year regardless of the season.

The safety and security during Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

The safety and security concern during Gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes us direct to the common question from travelers intending to book a Gorilla trekking Safari in Rwanda. Is it safe to track Gorillas in Rwanda? The answer is yes. Well knowing that Gorillas in Rwanda share a porous border with those in Congo, the Rwanda Defense Forces effectively patrol the areas to ensure that no enemy takes advantage of the open borders.

The whole park, just like all other tourist destinations in Rwanda, is heavily guarded to ensure that tourists activities move on with out any interferences. Tourists are the major partners in the conservation of the Gorillas from whose tourism Rwanda reaps alot of revenue. It’s therefore logical that the government of Rwanda has stringent measures in place to ensure the security and well being of the tourists.

Other tours or things to do after Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

There are many other interesting tours to engage in or combine with Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. When planning a visit to this land of a thousand hills, get in touch with Jungle Escape Africa’s reservations team for an expert advice on the best trip suggestions. Briefly, Gorilla trekking can be combined with Golden Monkey trekking, hiking the Virunga Volcanoes, Cultural visits to the communities and Ib’yacwu Cultural Village, Dian Fossey grave site tour and  bird watching, There is  Chimpanzee trackingand the Canopy walk experience, in Nyungwe National Park, game viewing in Akagera National Park, boat rides, Genocide Memorial sites visit and others.

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