Gorilla trekking is remarkably one of the best wildlife experiences visitors on Rwanda safari should consider a must to take part. Hiking through the magical tropical rain forest of Rwanda in search for these creatures in their natural habitat, rewards travel endeavors with life changing experiences. Ideally, it is that one most inspirational wildlife experience that is worth including in your travel plan. Spare a day or two and wind through Rwanda’s undulating landscape, bamboo forest and get the best of magical encounters with a group of massive mountain gorillas.
Where to go for gorilla trekking in Rwanda
A Rwanda gorilla trek takes you to only Volcanoes National Park which is set suitably within the northwestern side of the country. It is situated about 2 to 3 hours’ drive from Kigali International Airport. This national park also makes up part of the Virunga Volcanoes-a chain of both active and inactive volcanoes that are shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All the 5 out of 8 Virunga Mountains are all confined within this park.
There are 10 gorilla groups that have been habituated and readily available for visitors to get up close with these creatures in Volcanoes National Park of Northern Rwanda. They include Susa A, Susa B-Karisimbi group, Amahoro family, Umubano, Sabyinyo, Agashya-Group 13, Hirwa, Kwitonda, Ugenda and Bwenge. Each of the habituated families rewards travelers with unique experiences and only 8 visitors are allowed to track with only 1 hour of magical encounter. That said, before your actual trek, make sure that you have carried out adequate research on gorilla families and where possible make a request to track a specific family. This is possible and you can do so depending on your physical fitness level. It is important to research more on gorilla families as the fact that their numbers keep changing, perhaps one might have just had new born gorillas and you have always desired to catch a glimpse at these magnificent creatures’ infants in the wild.
Book gorilla permit early enough
To take part in gorilla trekking in Rwanda, you need $1500 to secure a permit in Rwanda and you can obtain one from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or through a local/ground tour operator/tour company. Note, one permit allows you to track only one habituated gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park and only one hour is given to you to strike your imaginations with these rare creatures, explore their daily behavior, witness them as they express their gestures, emotions just like humans, take as many photos as you can. Make sure that your camera has no flashlight and additional battery should be available in case the original battery runs short of power.
Be honest to yourself
A trek to see mountain gorillas is all about hiking through the tropical rainforest and steep slopes of Volcanoes National Park. It takes you through three levels-light, medium and strenuous trekking which means that you have to be realistic about your physical fitness level. Rwanda lies at altitude of about 2500-4500 meters and the hikes may last you about 3-8 or more hours depending on your physical wellness, location of the gorilla family and the nature of the habitat. To be on a safer side, adequate exercise is worth doing before embarking on actual trek.
Hire a porter
If you have heavy luggage, it is a good idea that you hire a porter to help you carry and this will relieve you from heavy load. You can hire one at the park headquarters and besides carrying your luggage, they can also help you will walking stick, in areas that are slippery, muddy, steep slopes and others. Hiring a porter allows you to concentrate on the adventure without any stress of heavy luggage.
Observe the set rules and regulations
When it comes to gorilla trekking, a number of set rules and regulations have to be put into consideration. They will be briefed to you before you embark on actual trek and they include among others;
- Once you approach gorillas and while you are around them, keep a distance of 7 meters all times away from them,
- Only 1 habituated family is assigned to you to track
- Persons above 15 years are eligible to take part in gorilla trekking
- Avoid direct eye contact with them otherwise they can become aggressive
- Only one hour is given to you to strike your imaginations with these rare apes
- Only 8 visitors are to track one habituated family
- No tracking gorillas if you are sick, if you have cough, cover your mouth while coughing and noise while sneezing, no flash light cameras are allowed, do not eat, drink, smoke while in the jungles tracking these critically endangered apes and others.
What to pack for gorilla trek
How you pack for a gorilla trip matters a lot. This adventure is never like the ordinary experiences you have perhaps taken part. Most importantly, you need good waterproof hiking boots that are light weight, rain jacket or poncho, long sleeved shirt or t-shirt, long pants, camera, insect repellent, first aid kit, bottled water, energy giving snacks, socks, gardening gloves, day pack, gorilla permit, valid passport, sweater and many others.
Get the right time to trek gorillas
Gorilla trekking is regarded as an all year round primate adventure but most importantly, you need to know which season is perfect to visit Rwanda for gorilla trekking. That said, the dry and wet season are the 2 significant season every visitors must put into consideration when planning for gorilla tour to Rwanda. The dry season starts from June to September and December to February. The dry season is more preferable when it comes to gorilla adventures as the ground tend to be drier compared to wet season which is characterized by heavy rainfall. The wet season starts from March to May and October to November. The advantage with this season is that it comes with plenty of forage for gorillas to feed on.