Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gorilla Trekking - Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Rwanda is known as the “land of a thousand hills” and is one of the top locations to experience the Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.  With only about 740 mountain gorillas left in their natural environment this is a rare encounter with a very special species. 

Rwanda hosts the best security in the region as well provides easy access routes to visit the Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. 

Tracking groups are limited to 8 people and your visit with the gorillas will be one hour, once you find your dedicated family group. Group sizes are limited to protect the Mountain Gorillas from the risk of exposure to human diseases. Limited number of permits to trek the gorillas are available in each park in order to reduce the behavioural impact on the gorillas.

Below is a list of the 8 habituated families found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. 

Sabyinyo Group - 13 members, with the biggest silverback (Guhonda) known in the entire jungle.

Amahoro Group - 18 members with 2 silverbacks gorillas

Group 13 - (RenamedAgashya Group) -25 members including 1 silverback gorilla

Susa Group - Divided into two groups:

  Susa Group with 30 including 3 silverbacks gorillas
  Kalisimbi Group 15 including 1 silverback gorilla

Umubano Group - 13 members with 1 silverback gorilla

Hirwa Group - 16 members with 1 silverback. gorilla 

Kwitonda Group - 21 members with 1 silverback gorilla 


Permits should be booked well in advance and are paid for at the time of booking, permits are non-refundable. Trekking with the gorillas is a very special experience with these endangered species. 

To visit the gorillas you must be in good health as reaching the families of gorillas will have you tracking through dense forest. Wet conditions are to be expected, as well, the possibility of climbing to high altitudes of up to 3000 meters. Children under the age of 15 are not able to visit the gorillas.  Any person that is sick on the day of their trek, with flu or cold or any other contagious virus will not be able to enter the park and may not be entitled to a refund.

Things to expect when trekking the Mountain Gorillas.

How long will we spend with the gorillas? Only one hour is allowed.  A distance of at least 7 metres is required.  

How will we find the gorillas? You will be accompanied by a ranger as your trek though the Virunga Mounatains searching for the gorilla families. Your guide will explain the park rules in full before taking you to the gorillas.  

Can we touch the gorillas? Movements around the gorillas must be nonthreatening. Do not point at the gorillas. No venturing behind thick shrubs. You may surprise a gorilla.

What happens if a gorilla comes towards me? If a gorilla charges or vocalizes, do not look directly at it. Stand perfectly still unless the guide asks you to crouch or move back.

Park rules that must be followed or you will be asked to leave the park. 

 No spitting in the park
 No littering in the park
 No coughing in the direction of the gorillas
 Only speak in whispers
 If a nettle stings you, do not cry out, scream, shout-out loud or make any sudden moves.

I have put below two sample itineraries that are common for a gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda. These packages also work well if you are considering a two country holiday, including a safari and beach holiday in Tanzania. Packages can be altered to suit your needs. Costs are lowered when traveling in larger groups. Contact me today to start planning your East Africa holiday.

4 day Mountain Gorilla Encounter - Rwanda 

Day 1 - Upon arrival at Kigali Airport, you will be met by a representative from Primate Safaris and transferred to Lemigo Hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 2 -  Following breakfast, depart for Ruhengeri, driving through the beautiful countryside. Upon arrival at the park you will receive a briefing and register with park guides. You will enter Volcanoes National Park and have lunch at your lodge. The rest of the day is at leisure. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 3 - After an early breakfast, meet with your representative from Primate Safaris and proceed to the gorilla trekking base for your first trekking experience. You will be led by experienced trackers who will bring you to a  family of Mountain Gorillas. These massive primates are extremely rare. You will get within metres of the family, and be privileged to spend time amongst them. Return to your hotel for a late lunch.

The trekking may be fairly strenuous; up to six hours or longer is not uncommon, at relatively high altitude. Mountain Gorillas are wild animals, as such sightings cannot be guaranteed however the success rate is well over 90%.

Return to Kigali and transfer to Lemigo Hotel.

Day 4 -  After breakfast you will be met by a representative from Primate Safaris for your city tour of Kigali including the Genocide Museum.

Transfer to Kigali Airport for your departure flight.

Safari includes: return airport transfers, accommodation for duration of stay, all meals (except for 1st day), 1 gorilla permit, Kigali city tour, all land transportation and services of experienced guides. 


5 day Rwanda Experience, Gorillas and Golden Monkeys.

Day 1 - Arrival at Kigali Airport where you will be met by a representative from Primate Safaris and transferred to Lemigo Hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Day 2 - Enjoy breakfast followed by a departure for Ruhengeri, driving through the beautiful countryside. When you arrive at the park gates, you will receive a briefing and register with park guides. The rest of the day is at leisure. Recommendation for accommodation is the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge. 



Day 3 - After an early morning breakfast you will meet with your driver and proceed to the gorilla trekking base for your first trekking experience. An early morning transfer to trek into the forest, led by experienced trackers will bring you amongst a family of Mountain Gorillas. These massive primates are extremely rare. You will get within metres of the family, and be privileged to spend time amongst them. Returning to your hotel for a late lunch.

The trekking may be fairly strenuous; up to six hours or longer is not uncommon, at relatively high altitude. Please refer to our information sheet. Mountain Gorillas are wild animals, as such sightings cannot be guaranteed, however the success rate is well over 90%. Dinner and overnight at your chosen hotel. 

Day 4 - Today you have the option of taking a second Gorilla Trek (additional
permit required). For those not doing a second trek, you have the option (additional cost) of visiting Diane Fossey's grave, take a Golden Monkey Trek (permit required) or spend the day enjoying your accommodation and the surrounding area. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Dinner and overnight at your chosen hotel.

Day 5  - After breakfast you will be met by a representative from Primate Safaris to depart for Kigali where you will enjoy a city tour of Kigali including a visit to the Genocide Museum.

Transfer to Kigali Airport for your departure flight.

Safari includes: return airport transfers, accommodation for duration of stay, all meals (except for 1st day), 1 gorilla permit, Kigali city tour, all land transportation and services of experienced guides. 


Special thanks to Primate Safaris for the use of their photos.  Contact me today for a quote or information about trekking with the gorillas.