What should I expect on a Rwanda gorilla safari? When it comes to gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda, a lot of imagination comes to the minds of travelers.
Nevertheless, once you have finalized everything that is required to make your Rwanda safari successful, the next should be to make it come true.
Everyone has his or her own experience with gorilla trekking, and you too will have a tale to share. Tracking to view gorillas in their natural environment is demanding right from purchasing gorilla permits, booking accommodation, and transport to the trekking experience.
Where Do Gorillas Live in Rwanda?
The Volcanoes National Park is one of the least places in the world that can offer an unpretentious and enchanting gorilla trekking experience.
This is a splendid park found within the Virunga Massifs, Northwestern Rwanda only two and half hours’ drive away from Kigali city. The 160sq km forest area, established in 1925 is one of the four parks in Africa where mountain gorillas live – currently remaining not more than 1063 individuals on earth.
The other three national parks to visit to see the mountain gorillas include Virunga National Park of Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park all found in Southwestern Uganda. About half of all the 1063 mountain gorillas reside in Uganda’s two parks- Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Gorilla Permits a Must-have
A valid gorilla permit is required at the park to let visitors engage in the gorilla safari experience. Obtaining a permit for a Rwanda gorilla safari is easier through a local tour operator on the ground and you need US$1500 to have it booked. Gorilla permits in Rwanda like other destinations should be booked early at least 2 to 6 months prior to visiting mountain gorillas.
Early rise for a briefing on gorilla trekking rules
As early as 7:00 am, you should be at Kinigi to meet the park offices for a briefing on guidelines for gorilla trekking such as maintaining a 10 meters distance from mountain gorillas, no use of flashlight cameras, and maximum of visitors to track gorillas is 8 people, etc.
The gorilla family allocation is also done during the briefing. At 8:00 am led by your guide, you will set foot into the jungles to start the search for the great mountain gorillas.
On your way to see mountain gorillas
- Keep your voice low during the trekking in the forest – other than reducing disturbance on daily activities of gorillas or making them react to you, keeping low your voice allows you to observe some birds and other wildlife.
- Follow your guide and keep within your gorilla trekking group.
- Do not throw rubbish while in the park.
While with mountain gorillas;
- Do not touch gorillas – leave them to roam or move, as they want even when they approach or rub themselves on you.
- A 10m distance must be maintained at all times from gorillas.
- Smoking, drinking and eating is prohibited while with gorillas.
- Strictly, one hour is spent with gorillas as directed by your park guide or official.
Meeting the gorillas
After a long trek scaling through the uneven terrain of Volcanoes National Park, you finally meet the gorillas, which are normally in a group ranging from 10-30 individuals.
The first sight is such a nerve-racking moment due to the gigantic size and scary appearance of the gorillas. The nerves normally come down and eventually get familiar with these intriguing apes.
Observation of their social behavior and photography is done, complemented with commentaries from the guide. At the death of an hour, the trackers leave the gorilla locale to end their tracking experience.
How long will the gorilla trek take?
The time taken on a gorilla trek is unpredictable. However, the estimated is 2 to 6 hours for the entire experience. This covers 1 hour of photo taking and observing how the gorillas behave, and body gestures as your guide can be interpreting.
Treks through the Rwanda’s volcanoes involve navigating through the bamboo forest, other vegetation, and high elevation to see the massive mountain gorillas.
What to pack for actual gorilla trekking?
Carry a good camera free of flashlight, daypack- should be waterproof, long-sleeved shirts, passport, valid gorilla permit (each costs USD1500 in Rwanda), long trousers, insect repellents, snacks, bottled water, sweater, raincoat/jacket, walking stick, trekking boots-waterproof, gardening gloves, first aid kit and more.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is such a top-drawer adventure and a lot is experienced in the course but the most eye-catching moment is meeting the gorillas at close range. It is such a sweet experience because of the calmness, gentleness and the warm reception of the gorillas, which could have seemed to be hostile creatures.