How To Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

Rwanda, being smaller than Uganda, is an ideal destination for a short trip combined with a safari or beach stay elsewhere in East Africa. Volcanoes National Park, the main gorilla trekking hub, is just a three-hour drive on a tarmac road from Kigali and the international airport. Traveling from London to Kigali takes approximately 11 hours. For a visit to the gorillas, a minimum of two nights’ stay is recommended, with three nights being ideal, allowing for two days of gorilla trekking.

1. How do I get gorilla permits?

Prior to finalizing your trip, ensure that your gorilla permit is organized. Visitor numbers are tightly regulated, with a maximum of eight visitors allowed per day for a habituated gorilla group to minimize disruption. It’s advisable to book early and consider purchasing two permits. Each permit grants you an hour with the gorillas – one can be used for photography, while the other allows you to simply savor the moment. Rwanda boasts more than twice the number of habituated mountain gorilla groups compared to Uganda, making permits generally more readily available. We can handle the booking process on your behalf, ensuring a seamless tie-in with your travel arrangements.

2. Where Can I Track Gorillas In Rwanda?

With a substantial population of gorillas in the Rwanda sector of the Virunga Massif, it’s arguably the premier destination in Africa for gorilla sightings. Volcanoes National Park (also known as Parc National Des Volcans in French, as Rwanda is French-speaking) is home to 12 habituated gorilla families. Among them are Susa, Sabinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Kwisanga, Noheli, Hirwa, Bwenge, Karisimbi, Muhoza, and Isimbi.

3.What age can I gorilla trek?

In Rwanda, the age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years old. This policy is in place to ensure the safety of both the gorillas and the trekkers. Younger individuals may not have the necessary stamina or understanding to participate responsibly in the trekking experience, which involves hiking through rugged terrain and potentially encountering wild animals. Additionally, minimizing the number of participants helps reduce the impact on the gorillas’ natural habitat and behavior. This age restriction also allows for a more immersive and respectful experience for all visitors involved, ensuring the conservation of these magnificent creatures for future generations to appreciate.

4. When is best time to go gorilla trekking?


June is the optimal time for a double-header primate holiday in Rwanda, coinciding with peak chimpanzee tracking season in Nyungwe Forest in the south. Generally, high season in Rwanda spans the dry winter months from June to mid-September, while the rest of the year constitutes low season. However, Rwanda remains accessible year-round due to its robust infrastructure. Rainy seasons typically occur from March to May and again between October and November, although precipitation can vary across different regions. Mountainous areas tend to experience greater rainfall compared to lower-lying areas, but exact predictions can be challenging.

5. Is there accommodation close to the gorilla tracking area?

While Volcanoes National Park draws a significant number of visitors, it retains a sense of being at the edge of the known world. Virunga Lodge and Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge are both esteemed accommodations full of character, highly recommended for visitors. Bisate Lodge, nestled within the natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding volcanic peaks and the national park beyond. One & Only Gorilla’s Nest is a luxurious retreat discreetly tucked away amidst a forest of eucalyptus trees, near the majestic peaks of Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda.

6. Am I fit enough for gorilla tracking Rwanda?

Gorilla tracking occurs in small groups of no more than eight individuals, with hikes typically lasting between one to four hours. Face-to-face contact with the gorillas is limited to an hour, although treks to more distant groups can extend up to seven hours. The pace of the walks is moderate, ensuring that no one is left behind, but participants should possess enough stamina to endure the trek to and from the gorillas. At an altitude of 4,000 feet (1,200 meters), similar to renowned peaks such as Ben Nevis in Scotland, Mount Diablo in California, Grouse Mountain in Canada, and Mount Vesuvius in Italy, some may experience altitude effects. To counter this, engaging in other activities a few days beforehand, either in the area or in high-altitude regions like the Masai Mara or Serengeti, is advisable.

7. Can I get some help with my gorilla trek?

Local porters can be hired for a daily fee of US$20, a worthwhile investment considering they will carry your water, camera equipment, and backpack throughout the day. Opting for porter services not only eases your burden but also contributes to the local economy.

8. Why are gorilla permits expensive?

The value of each permit directly supports the preservation and expansion of gorilla habitat forests within the park. Every permit purchased is a significant contribution toward safeguarding gorillas for future generations. Despite their critical endangerment, conservation initiatives have been effective, resulting in a steady increase in mountain gorilla populations.

9. Is the gorilla tracking steep and muddy?

Tracking in Rwanda is generally less steep compared to neighboring countries, with the bamboo forest on the lower slopes typically being lighter and drier than rainforests. However, trekkers should be prepared for muddy and nettle-filled terrain. Gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park are allocated based on hikers’ fitness levels, and sometimes, the gorillas facilitate tracking by venturing out to feed in the cultivated foothills, making the experience more accessible.

10. Why are gorilla permits expensive?

The permit fee directly supports the preservation and expansion of gorilla habitat forests within the park. Each permit purchased plays a crucial role in ensuring the long-term protection of gorillas for future generations. Despite their critical endangerment, conservation endeavors have shown promising results, leading to a gradual increase in mountain gorilla populations.

11. Am I guaranteed a gorilla sighting?

Since our establishment in 2016, our clients have achieved a 100% success rate in encountering mountain gorillas. Park rangers diligently track the gorillas, starting early in the morning to locate their sleeping site from the previous night. Your guides will lead you to the designated gorilla family “campsite” for the day, where you can spend an hour in the company of these magnificent creatures. Gorillas are known to move leisurely, often spending extended periods resting. If they happen to be on the move when you arrive, you will follow them accordingly.

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