With its green hills, flourishing capital and mountain gorillas, this is a country fertile with emotional encounters; Volcanoes National Park is home to around 480 mountain gorillas, more than half of the word’s entire population and the rest live in Bwindi Impenetrable forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and in Virunga National Park in DRC Congo.
In volcanoes national park, the Rwandan part of the Volcanoes National Park now has 12 gorilla groups that are now habituated for gorilla trekking safaris. Most people will have heard of Rwanda for one reason: the massacre of 800,000 people over 100 days in 1994. The impact of that genocide, an attempt to eradicate an entire section of the Rwandan population, is inescapable. Communities were torn apart.
All Rwandans have been directly affected by it; everyone over the age of 17 knows someone who died and probably has an idea who was responsible. When it ended, many of those with blood on their hands fled over the border to Uganda or Burundi or the Congo. But now the country is at peace and ready for any gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking is a wonderful experience allowing you the opportunity to have a close encounter with these gentle giants of the jungle in their natural habitat. Now coming face to face with wild mountain gorillas is really an experience of a life time. Looking into the eyes of a large silver back gorilla and he’ll look back with thinking, intelligent gaze, mindful that you’re another individual is quite unforgettable experience.
Gorilla tracking safaris can be done throughout the year. The hiking itself can be more tiresome in rainy seasons from April to May and in November, but the most popular times for gorilla tracking are during the dry month which are between December to February and from June to mid-October.
Securing permits for gorilla trekking in high season can be difficult at short notice, so you should plan well ahead. A maximum of 80 gorilla tracking permits are available for each day and permits now costs 1500 USD per person per visit. This money may seem to be too much worthy your trek but the money provides Rwanda with a compelling economic reason to conserve the park and pays for a 24 hour guard for each gorilla group plus education of the local communities.
On the day of your gorilla trekking, you will set off very early in the morning to track these gentle creatures in the jungle forest. Your driver will take you from your lodge to the park headquarter in Kinigi headquarters. The guides speak good English and are knowledgeable about these gorillas and they will be taking you to a specific group of habituated mountain gorillas, which they know well and are used to human visitors. You will be divided into 8 people per group. You will then be driven to the start of the trail to reach your mountain gorilla group. Your guide will then be driven to start of the trail to reach your mountain gorilla group.
Your guide will then lead you to the clear paths up into the forest. The hiking is tiring and can be surprised if you feel a bit breathless at this altitude; it is perfectly normal. Once you reach the gorillas you will be given 1 hour to be with them as you take pictures and videos of the adults foraging and grooming each other while the babies tumble and play. So witnessing gorillas’ express typically human gestures and emotions is a truly profound experience and one of the reasons that gorilla trekking is such a life changing encounter.
Mountain gorilla share 98% of our DNA and they are susceptible to catching human infection particularly respiratory ones. So you should keep a distance of 7metres from the gorillas and when you your with your gorilla group, you should try not to make sudden movements and to keep your voices low so that the group remains come and relaxed, although these mountain gorillas are used to seeing people, you must bear in mind that they are still wild animals and can sometimes react unexpectedly, so you should always follow your guides’ instructions.
Gorillas live in montane forest so treks to see them are at altitude and pass through varied vegetation and terrain. So you need a reasonable level of fitness to hike the forest and willingness to climb up muddy slopes and through thick growth.
There is a maximum age to visit the gorillas. You must be at least 16 years old and there no flexibility to this rule. It is the same for both Rwanda and Uganda and it is enforced by the national parks.