By Azure Lee
Rwanda's distinct environment and friendly, welcoming people make for one-of-a-kind experiences. The country is known for its impressive biodiversity, volcanoes, and highland rainforests, which are home to the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that allows visitors to come face-to-face with the majestic mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. As you plan this extraordinary journey, numerous questions may arise. In this article, we aim to address some of the most commonly asked questions about gorilla trekking in Rwanda, providing valuable insights for those planning to embark on this extraordinary journey.
What Is Gorilla Trekking Like?
Gorilla trekking is a wildlife activity that is limited to three East African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It entails climbing up the tropical woods of Africa to witness mountain gorillas in their native habitat.
Since the gorillas are wild animals, there is no guarantee that they will be near the Park Headquarters, where treks start. Depending on the gorillas' precise location on any given day, you could walk for two to nine hours.
What is the schedule for a normal day of gorilla trekking? You meet at the park headquarters at 7:00 am for a briefing from a park ranger, after which you are divided into groups according to fitness levels. At 8:30 am, you will depart with a professional guide and tracker, along with a few scouts and porters who can assist with carrying backpacks and providing assistance. You will spend an hour with the gorillas once you come across them, and you must return to the park headquarters by 7:00 pm.
Gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
Which Country Is Best For Gorilla Trekking?
Because Rwanda and Uganda have similar harsh terrain and ecosystems, they are the greatest countries in Africa for gorilla trekking.
However, the easiest to get to is Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, which is about a two- to three-hour drive from Kigali International Airport; Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, on the other hand, is at least eight hours away from Entebbe International Airport, which is the main entry point into Uganda; Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is usually reached by first taking a four- to five-hour drive across the border; alternatively, you can fly into Goma International Airport, which is the closest airport to the park headquarters on the DRC side.
Most travelers choose between gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda because of the safety concerns associated with traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although gorilla permits in Rwanda are much more expensive (USD 1500) than in Uganda (USD 700), you do need to account for the costs of transportation and lodging in order to access Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The landscape in Volcanoes National Park is generally easier to navigate compared to Bwindi, the gorillas frequently inhabit bamboo forests, making them more accessible for photography.
Scroll down for more commonly asked questions about gorilla trekking in Rwanda:
When Is The Best Time To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda?
Since June to September falls within Rwanda's long dry season, it is generally accepted that this is the best time to go gorilla trekking in the country. It is also easier to access Volcanoes National Park during this time, and the hiking trails are less muddy and slippery than they are during the wet season. However, gorilla trekking during the peak season is highly sought after, so make sure to reserve your permit well in advance.
A short dry season runs from December to February in Rwanda, which is another excellent time to go trekking. It is not quite as popular as the long, dry season, but if you wish to hike during this period, you should still get permits in advance.
April to May is Rwanda's long rainy season when torrential downpours can be expected. While the trails are significantly more slippery than during the dry season, gorilla families tend to descend to the lower slopes, so you may not have to go as far to see them.
There will be brief showers in the afternoon or evening during October and November, but by the morning, the skies should be clear. If you are an avid birdwatcher, this is one of the greatest times to go because a large portion of the park's vegetation is in bloom.
The best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is from June to September
Is Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda Safe?
With low levels of crime and strict security, especially in the vicinity of popular tourist destinations like Virunga National Park, Rwanda is among the safest countries in Africa. The substantial presence of military and police personnel has effectively deterred poachers, minimizing the likelihood of encountering any problems before, during, or after your trek.
If your concern is the gorillas, you can be sure that the scouts are prepared for any eventuality and will defend you in the unlikely event that a silverback charges. They are also skilled in evacuating trekkers in the event that they come across dangerous animals, and they know when to use their weapons to scare away the animals rather than harm them.
How Long Does Gorilla Trekking Take?
A unique and thrilling experience, gorilla trekking in Rwanda provides a chance to see and get up close and personal with critically endangered mountain gorillas in their native environment. The trip offers you the chance to fully immerse yourself in the lush grandeur of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park in addition to an amazing wildlife encounter.
The duration of a gorilla trekking encounter may vary. An average gorilla trek lasts anywhere from one to six hours, depending on when and where the gorillas were last observed. This time includes the initial trekking point to the gorilla viewing location and the return trip to the National Park meeting point.
The time spent on a gorilla trekking expedition encompasses the duration of walking to the location where the habituated gorilla family resides, a period of time spent in close proximity to the gorillas once found, and the time required to return to the park headquarters, marking the starting point of the trek. So, the length of time guests spend gorilla trekking in Uganda varies based on the gorillas' location.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda provides a chance to see mountain gorillas in their native environment
How Difficult Is Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda?
While gorilla trekking is not as difficult as hiking in the Himalayas, it is still not an easy walk in the park. It is relatively difficult and challenging, depending on your fitness level. Even in the dry season, the steep, muddy, and slippery forest trails might be difficult for certain people due to the mix of humidity and altitude. Travelers must be fit, able and willing to walk the steep terrain in all conditions to see Mountain Gorillas in the wild.
Many older people who do not consider themselves hikers or adventurers can successfully visit the gorillas. Personal assistants/porters can be hired to carry your day-pack and assist you in difficult areas. The local guides will work hard to make it as easy as possible for one to track and photograph the Mountain Gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is not as difficult as hiking in the Himalayas
How Much Is Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda?
As of the current date, obtaining a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda requires USD 1,500, applicable to all nationalities. It is advisable to obtain your permit through a trustworthy tour operator, allowing for discussions regarding dates, transportation, and accommodation arrangements.
Since there are only 96 permits granted for gorilla trekking in Rwanda each day, making reservations in advance is strongly advised. With only eight permits available for each gorilla troop, securing your spot ensures an intimate and unobtrusive experience with the gorillas. Although the amount of time spent trekking can vary greatly, each group is only allowed to spend an hour or less with the gorillas.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is worth the money
You might be wondering if gorilla trekking in Rwanda is worth the expensive permit alone. Well, anyone who has been to Volcanoes National Park will tell you that it is. Rwanda's mountain gorillas are the most habituated compared to those in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are also easier to photograph because they are typically found in areas of bamboo rather than dense forest.
Please note that 10% of the permits' income is reinvested in the community, supporting the construction of roads, schools, and health facilities; additionally, a fund is set up to compensate local farmers in the event that the gorillas damage their crops, ensuring that the gorilla and human populations in the area can coexist peacefully; gorilla trekking also creates jobs for local trackers, guides, and porters and is a major source of income for the community.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a mesmerizing experience that brings you closer to nature's wonders. By addressing these frequently asked questions, we aim to provide comprehensive insights for those planning this extraordinary journey. Remember to prioritize conservation, secure your permits in advance, and relish the opportunity to witness the mountain gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park.
For a smoother and more convenient journey, we encourage travelers to apply for a Rwanda eVisa through Rwanda Immigration Services. This streamlined process ensures efficient entry into the country without visiting the embassy or consulate.
Feel free to contact us today for further information or to plan your extraordinary adventure. Our team is ready to assist you with any inquiries, applications, or special requests you may have. We look forward to hearing from you soon and helping you create unforgettable memories!