Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park is the main activity in the park where travelers get a chance to experience the endangered mountain gorillas. Rwanda is considered one of the best places to do gorilla trekking from. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place from the Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes National Park, located in Musanze in the northwest of the country and covering a total size of 160 square meters, forms part of the Virunga massifs. It is this park that a number of mountain gorillas are inhabited in Rwanda. These mountain gorillas can only be found in two other countries, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The activity that has tourists hiking into the lush forest cover to search for the mountain gorillas is what has come to be known as gorilla trekking.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park has been made possible by the availability of a number of mountain gorillas in the park and about 10 habituated gorilla families that tourists can visit. Not all gorillas in the park can be tracked or visited by tourists, only the habituated (gorillas prepared over a period of years to accommodate human interaction for a time) gorilla families can be and in Volcanoes National Park, the elusive Hirwa gorilla family, Bwenge, Amahoro, Ugenda, Titus, Karisimbi, Kwitonda, Umubano, Agashya, and Susa gorilla families are available. More of them will be availed due to the conservation efforts of the Rwanda Development Board that has put up stringent measures to protect and conserve these endangered mountain gorillas.
To have a gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park experience, travelers need to book and purchase gorilla trekking permits way in advance as these permits are very few and on high demand. At least 3-4 months in advance is advised for one to be guaranteed of getting one. Gorilla trekking permits in Volcanoes National Park cost $1,500 per person per trek, including the Rwanda nationals. Part of the revenue collected from gorilla trekking permits goes to the support of the gorilla conservation effort and supporting the local community. Booking gorilla permits can be done through a trusted tour operator or directly from the Rwanda Development Board in Kigali. Passport details of a traveler is what is required to be presented to the RDB when purchasing a gorilla tracking permit. Only 8 people can trek a single gorilla family per day, meaning there are only 80 gorilla permits available per day and to secure your gorilla permit for the exact date you wish to track in, travelers are strongly advised to book in advance.
To best prepare for a perfect gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park experience, one must;
- Prepare both physically and mentally well in advance. Small work out sessions like jogging around the house over a period of time could be good enough.
- Pack the essential items for a perfect gorilla trekking trip. Items like waterproof hiking shoes, long pants, long sleeved shirts, waterproof rain jackets, a waterproof backpack for safekeeping your items plus insect repent creams must be carried. Your carrying these items will either make or spoil your gorilla trekking experience. Energy giving snacks and water are also advised.
- Also know that it can rain at any time here, very heavily sometimes.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park starts very early in the morning with a briefing by park rangers at 7am at Kinigi, the park headquarters. During the briefing, trekkers are divided into groups of eight and allocated a particular family to track. Gorilla families are allocated depending on the fitness level of the trackers and the trek starts at 8 am. During the trek, travelers are encouraged to be on the lookout for other wildlife that are in the park, you might chance and see forest elephants, bush pigs, and a number of bird species. The park rangers will also share with you information of the park, forest and much more that they deem worthy to share and also keep you informed.
Once you encounter these gentle creatures, you will be amazed by just watching them. Mountain gorillas are playful mostly the juveniles that are quite curious about humans that they may even come up close and play with or on you. Travelers are advised to stick to instructions from the rangers, stay calm at all ties and to never make sudden movements. The gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park can take anything between 30 minutes to 5 hours or more, this is dependent on the location of the mountain gorillas given that they never really stay in the same place for long. Porters are available for hire at the start of the trek to help you with a push or pull when it is required and to also carry your luggage for you.
Just like any activity has rules and regulations, gorilla trekking has a number of them as well that are solely for the travelers’ safety and conservation of the mountain gorillas. Some of them include;
- Be 15 years and above to track gorillas
- Be healthy to be able to track. persons with infections and illnesses are advised to kindly volunteer not to track as these mountain gorillas can catch them too and they are very much affected.
- Maintain a 7-meter distance away from the mountain gorillas at all times
- Stay in the group you are put with. Do not wander off or part
- Avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas, this threatens them
- Noise is not allowed, whisper if you really need to
- Do not litter in the park
- Do not touch the gorillas
- Always keep calm when a mountain gorilla charges at you and follow the rangers’ instructions at all times.
- Do not eat near the mountain gorillas. This should be done at least 200 meters away from them.
Volcanoes National Park is easily accessed by road from Gisenyi town or Kigali International Airport. The drive to the park can take 2 hours at the very most, making it possible to have a one-day gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park experience. There are a number of accommodation facilities in the park that suit every traveler, from super luxury to the very basic kind of accommodation. Whatever your budget, be sure to find just what appeals to you.
A gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park experience can have other activities incorporated to it both within the park and also from other national parks like Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls or Serengeti National Parks all of which provide wonderful typical African safaris. Take time to visit and have a trusted tour operator organize for you the best safari experience that you will always cherish.