Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is major tourism activity that attracts thousands of travelers to Volcanoes national park, a home to endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park is located in the North western province of Rwanda in Musanze town at about 80km from Kigali the capital city of Rwanda. This Rwanda gorilla park is bordering Virunga national park in DR Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in South western Uganda. The park has 5 of the 8 Volcanic mountains namely Karisimbi, Muhabura, Gahinga, Bisoke and Sabinyo mountains.
Volcanoes national park is apparently the oldest park in Africa and is the setting for the famous ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ a movie about Dian Fossey’s effort in conservation of mountain Gorillas. As an epicenter of Gorilla conservation in Rwanda, Volcanoes national park is also a place where visitors hike to see the the burial place of legendary Primatologist – Dian Fossey. At the same time you can visit Dian Fossey gorilla fund, that continues her legacy of research and gorilla advocacy. Hiking through lushy slopping hills and spotting gorillas feeding with their babies while on gorilla trekking in Rwanda is unforgettable experience. Visitors on their trekking day, they hike up in the dense forest in search of mountain gorillas and spend one hour with them once found in their natural habitat.
Gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park Rwanda starts early morning with a briefing at the park headquarters about the do’s and don’ts, the expectations and allocating of visitors to gorilla groups. There are 14 habituated gorilla families open for trekking and each family is visited by 8 people only a day who spend only one hour with gorillas once found taking pictures, learning about their behaviors, life style, food and more. Few other families are habituated solely for research purposes. Some of the gorilla groups include Susa, Hirwa group, Agasha group, Sabyinyo group, Bwenge group, Ugenda, Kubyama, Amahoro group, Kwitonda group, and many others. The Gorilla group consists of a fully grown up male called a Silverback, along with several females and youngsters. It also possible that you can find a group of gorillas having more than one Silverbacks, but one of the two Silverbacks must be the Alpha male.
Visitors are required to report at the park headquarters in Kinigi at 7 am. At this time you will join other people looking forward to also do a gorilla trek. After all visitors have gathered at park office, allocation of a family group of gorilla is done to visitors based on fitness levels. Eight gorilla tracking permit are usually issued per group, this means 8 visitors will be able to trek a group of gorillas per day. Gorilla trekking activity lasts 3-8 hours depending on how far the gorilla family is feeding and this timing include trekking to and from the gorillas plus the one hour spent in the presence of gorillas.
Groups of gorillas live and feed in different locations of the Park. Some of the families groups may be close to the park office while others may require driving for a certain distance before the start of the trek. After the briefing, you will be requested to go back to your vehicle and drive for about 30 minutes. This usually depend on which group you are allocated to. Gorilla trekking takes between 3 and 5 hours or even more depending on their movement. After finding gorillas, visitors are usually allowed a maximum of one hour with gorillas before they return back to the base. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is conducted the same way as tracking gorillas in Uganda, therefore the rules and preparation may be the same.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda is very competitive and so the gorilla permits should be booked in advance at least 3 months and above. The Gorilla permits in Rwanda cost USD 1500 each which is the most expensive compared to Uganda and DR Congo where gorilla trekking is done the same way. Gorilla permits in Rwanda are sold by Rwanda Development Board and can be booked directly or through a trusted tour operator. All people above 15 years are allowed to go for gorilla trekking in Africa as they are mature to handle any situation during the trek.
Best Gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda requires one to prepare well before embarking on this adventurous activity. Remember to carry some essential items that will help during the trek and its advisable to hire a porter to help carry your luggage during the trek. Some of the items needed include back pack, hiking shoes, garden gloves, long sleeved trousers and shirt, rain jacket, camera and extra batteries, walking stick, snacks and enough drinking water.
There are other adventurous activities that are done at Volcanoes national park which include golden monkey tracking, bird watching, Volcano hiking, visiting the Musanze caves, visiting the grave of Dian Fossey, nature walking, twin lakes visit, cultural visits and more. Gorilla trekking can be done at any time of the year though during the dry season it would be dry for easy movements.
Accommodation choices in Volcanoes national park range from budget Safari lodges, midrange to luxury gorilla safari lodges and super luxury gorilla lodge. Every visitor gets a place to stay. Some of the best safari lodges in Volcanoes national park include Bisate lodge, Kwitonda Singata lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique hotel, Sabinyo silverback lodge and more.
The above gorilla tracking Rules may also apply to visitors trekking gorillas in Uganda. However, you may do the same while tracking Chimpanzee in Nyungwe forest or Kibale forest national park Uganda or any other habitat.