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Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda is the ultimate bucket list experience. In fact, it might just be the best thing I’ve ever done.
This park is home to over 400 mountain gorillas, which is more than half of the world’s entire population of these amazing primates. If you’re a wildlife lover and adventure seeker, this is the ultimate crossover.
But before you embark on your trek, it’s important to know what to expect.
Gorilla trekking is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be hiking through dense rainforest, up steep hills and across rugged terrain. However, the reward is well worth the effort.
Imagine coming face to face with a family of gorillas, observing their social interactions and behaviors, and feeling a deep connection with these magnificent creatures.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to plan your gorilla trekking adventure in Volcanoes National Park.
From the best lodges to stay at, to tips for booking your trek, we’ve got you covered.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking is during the dry seasons, which run from June to September and December to February.
During these months, the trails are drier and easier to navigate, and the gorillas are more likely to be found in the lower elevations.
However, keep in mind that these are also peak tourist seasons, so it’s important to book your permits and accommodations well in advance.
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The Permit Cost
Now one thing you should be acutely aware of, is the cost of the Gorilla Trekking Permit in Rwanda. It’s not cheap.
The current cost of the permit in 2024 is $1500 USD per person per day.
Please note: you must be 15 or older to trek with the Gorillas.
You can see the latest permit details on Visit Rwanda.
You can also book your permit directly on the Irembo platform.
Getting to Volcanoes National Park
The easiest way to get to Volcanoes National Park is by flying into Kigali International Airport, which is served by several major airlines.
From there, it’s a 2-3 hour drive to the park. You can either hire a private car or take a shared taxi, which is a more affordable option.
The Rwandan roads are very good these days after considerable investment, but it’s important to note that there is a strict speed limit – so be prepared for a somewhat slow ride.
There are several accommodation options available near Volcanoes National Park, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury lodges.
Some of the most popular options include Singita Kwitonda Lodge, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, Bisate Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, and Virunga Inn & Spa.
Prices vary depending on the level of luxury and amenities provided, but expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $7000 per night.
MY EXPERIENCE: We stayed in the Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel and have nothing but good things to stay. The rooms were fantastic and the steak dinner was cooked to perfection. They even provided us with trekking gear free of charge.
Health and Safety Precautions
Gorilla trekking can be physically demanding, so it’s important to be in good health and fitness before embarking on the hike.
Additionally, it’s important to follow the guidelines provided by the park rangers, which include maintaining a distance of at least 7 meters from the gorillas at all times, avoiding direct eye contact, and not eating or drinking in their presence.
It’s also important to bring appropriate clothing and gear, including sturdy hiking boots, long pants, a waterproof jacket, and a backpack with plenty of water and snacks.
Finally, be sure to purchase travel insurance that covers emergency medical evacuation, as this can be quite expensive if something goes wrong.
COVID NOTE: Since 2020, it has also been made essential to wear a mask while you are with the Gorillas. If you do not have one, the guides will provide a mask.
The Trekking Experience
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is an unforgettable experience that you will cherish for a lifetime. Here are some things to expect during your trekking experience.
What to Expect
The trek to see the gorillas can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the location of the gorilla group you are visiting.
You will be accompanied by a guide who will lead you through the dense forest and help you spot the gorillas.
The trek can be challenging, so it’s important to be physically fit and wear comfortable hiking shoes.
Once you reach the gorilla group, you will have one hour to observe and take photos of the gorillas. You will be required to maintain a distance of at least 7 meters (22 feet) from the gorillas to minimize the risk of disease transmission.
It’s important to follow the rules and regulations set by the park authorities to ensure the safety of both the gorillas and visitors.
Of course, sometimes they walk right up to you and there’s nothing you can do. For example, this young Gorilla went straight for my microphone…
Gorilla Groups in Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is home to 10 habituated gorilla groups that visitors can trek to see. Each group has a unique name and is led by a dominant silverback male.
The park authorities limit the number of visitors to each group to eight per day to minimize the risk of disease transmission and ensure that the gorillas are not disturbed.
Some of the popular gorilla groups in the park include the Susa group, which was featured in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” and the Amahoro group, which is known for its playful juveniles.
Rules and Regulations
To ensure the safety of the gorillas and visitors, there are several rules and regulations that you must follow during your trekking experience. These include:
- Maintaining a distance of at least 7 meters (22 feet) from the gorillas.
- Not using a flash when taking photos of the gorillas.
- Not eating or drinking in the presence of the gorillas.
- Not littering in the park.
- Not trekking when sick with any contagious diseases that could infect the gorillas.
By following these rules and regulations, you can help protect the gorillas and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same trekking experience.
Packing List for Gorilla Trekking
When packing for your gorilla trekking adventure in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, it’s essential to remember that you’ll be hiking through dense forests and rugged terrain.
Therefore, it’s crucial to pack light and only bring the necessary items to ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Here are some essential items to consider adding to your packing list:
By packing smartly and efficiently, you’ll be able to fully enjoy your gorilla trekking adventure without any unnecessary discomfort or inconvenience.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is sure to be a unique and unforgettable experience.
However, it is important to note that there are conservation efforts in place to protect the gorillas and their habitat.
Rwanda has made significant efforts to protect the gorillas, and as a result, the population has increased over the years.
The government has implemented strict regulations on gorilla trekking, limiting the number of visitors per day to minimize the impact on the gorillas. Additionally, the revenue generated from gorilla trekking permits is used to fund conservation efforts in the park.
The gorilla permit costs $1500 in Rwanda, which may seem expensive, but it helps limit the number of people trekking the gorillas.
This limitation helps reduce stress on the apes and their habitat, which can result in changes in their behavior or even death.
Furthermore, the Rwandan government is working to expand Volcanoes National Park by 23%. This expansion will add 37.4 square kilometers (3,740 hectares) to the park, providing more space for the gorillas and relieving them from confinement.
However, this expansion will displace some people, and the government is working to compensate them fairly.
Overall, the conservation efforts in place in Volcanoes National Park are vital to protect the gorillas and their habitat. By following the regulations and guidelines, you can help contribute to these efforts and ensure that future generations can also enjoy the beauty of these magnificent creatures.
My Final Thoughts
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda is an unforgettable experience that requires careful planning and preparation.
The park is home to some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world, and the opportunity to observe them up close in their natural habitat is truly awe-inspiring.
Before embarking on your trek, it is important to ensure that you are physically fit and prepared for the challenging terrain and altitude.
In addition, it is recommended that you book your trek well in advance, as permits are limited and can sell out quickly.
Jord’s Thoughts: Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that gave me some of the best moments I’ve ever had. Even though my expectations were pretty high beforehand, it still surpassed them.
I know the permit cost seems high and you might be wondering if it’s worth the money. In my opininon, it’s worth every penny.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best gorilla trekking trips in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda?
The best gorilla trekking trips in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda are those that offer experienced guides who can lead you to the gorillas’ natural habitat.
The guides should be knowledgeable about the gorillas’ behavior and habitat and be able to provide information about the gorillas and their conservation efforts. Some recommended tour operators include Volcanoes Safaris, African Jungle Adventures, and Rwanda Eco Tours.
What is the cost of gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
The cost of gorilla trekking in Rwanda is $1,500 per person per trek. This fee includes the gorilla permit, which allows you to spend one hour with a gorilla family, as well as the services of a ranger guide.
It is important to note that the gorilla permit must be booked in advance, as permits are limited and often sell out several months in advance.
What is the difficulty level of gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is considered to be moderately difficult. The trek can take between 1-4 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family you are visiting. The terrain can be steep and slippery, and the altitude can make breathing more difficult.
However, with proper preparation, including physical fitness and appropriate gear, most people can complete the trek.
When is the best time of year for gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
The best time of year for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is during the dry season, which runs from June to September and December to February.
During this time, the trails are less muddy, and the gorillas are more likely to be found at lower altitudes, making the trek easier. However, gorilla trekking can be done year-round, and each season has its own unique advantages.
What are the accommodation options in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda?
There are several accommodation options in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, ranging from budget to luxury. Some of the popular lodges include Virunga Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.
These lodges offer comfortable accommodations and excellent views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
What are some other activities to do in Rwanda besides gorilla trekking?
Besides gorilla trekking, Rwanda offers many other activities for visitors.
Some popular options include visiting Akagera National Park to see the Big Five animals, hiking to the top of Mount Bisoke, visiting the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, and exploring the Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Additionally, visitors can take cultural tours to learn about the local traditions and customs of the Rwandan people.