Without question, trekking through dense jungle for an encounter with one of mans closest relative will be the highlight of your visit to Rwanda, – Gorilla trekking is fantastic experience and definitely one for the bucket list if you like animals. The gorilla trekking day is professionally run, well organized with knowledgeable employees who genuinely love their job. The hike itself is awesome.
As of January 2014, there are 10 habituated Gorilla Group families which visitors to Rwanda can access in the Volcanoes National Park. The ten Gorilla Families including the largest mountain gorilla group in Africa – the Susa Group, others include the Sabinyo Group, Amahoro, Agasha, Kwitonda, Umubano, Bwenye, Hirwa, Karisimbi and Ugenda Group. Plus those which are for the study/ research purpose and these are only accessed by scientists and researchers. These include Beetsme, and Pablo’s Shida’s and of course there are more Gorilla Groups in the park but these are not habituated to people. Normally, gorillas are very shy. If they detect a person, even from a great distance, they often flee. Therefore habituating them to the presence (for behavioural observation or tourism) of humans is a very lengthy process which usually takes several years.
Game rangers go out of their way to help – hacking vines, poison ivy and giant leaves to creating paths, the riche volcanic soil underfoot wet and slippery sometimes along with the altitude grabbing breath away from you ... will combine adding a new dimension to hiking. The temperature is generally mild, but you may get hot while trekking. Take plenty of water, at least a couple bottles.
The weather and climate found in the Virunga in the Volcanoes National Park tends to be on the wet side of the hinges. The dry spell is from June to September and from December to February and they are also the high season months. Gorilla tracking is a year-round activity and people flock from all over the world all time coming to spend an hour with the gorillas. At times it rains but stops and won’t stop you from seeing the gorillas otherwise you would see travelers complain on travel forums.
It’s interesting to see a Silverback standing infront of you – huge, majestic with intelligent eyes ensuring the safety and obedience of his family. The hour you spend with the gorillas goes far too quickly. 1. Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases. You might want to check out on a couple of other rules regarding the visit to the mountain gorillas.
During the trek, the Rwandan gorilla trackers and guides are observant to both your needs and that of the gorillas. Your tracking day time goes quickly as there is so much to see from bee hives in trees to the children walking along the road to the scenic lookouts along the way.
Rwanda Gorilla permits are $750 all year round. Uganda is therefore much cheaper $600 (regular) with off season promotional prices going down to $350/permit.
For the trek into the Park, I suggest you hire a porter, they are inexpensive (10 - USD15) and will carry your backpacks, camera bags, etc. and give you a push or pull should you need it.– you will be at 5000+ feet. Bring gloves, and absolutely wear long trousers/pants with socks that you can tuck the pant legs in to – a long sleeved shirt to protect you against the nettles. All this is to keep the ants from crawling up your legs, don’t be surprised how many ant hills you will come across... and your rain jacket.
Your contribution helps to keep these majestic, kind creatures live and survive in their own habitat. Remember 15% of the fee you pay goes to the immediate community, 35% to the government and 45% to developing infrastructure in the area.
No need to bring more than a 70-200 mm lens, anything bigger would be a burden to carry and the Gorillas will be close enough anyway! If you have a rain protection for your camera and lens, take it!
Absolutely totally worth the money and if you can afford it do two treks so that you can just sit and absorb the atmosphere the second trek without thinking you need to take a million photos. Be prepared to trek for an unknown time frame.The trek up the mountain can be challenging, with thick brush, fire ants and stinging nettles. It can take minutes or hours depending on where the gorillas decide to rest.