Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

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How Does it Look Like Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Ever after Seeing Ewan Mcgregor on gorilla trekking in Long Way Down, mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda made it to the top of my African bucket list immediately.

If you want to do gorilla trekking in Rwanda, you have to go to Volcanoes National Park. The park forms part of the Virunga Mountains, a chain of active and inactive volcanoes, which spans Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, and, together with the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, around 40 km away, is the only habitat on earth where mountain gorillas.

 

When the time was right I started planning about 8 months in advance, mostly because of gorilla permits. Gorilla permits in Rwanda are limited so the first thing I did, booked gorilla trekking permits for Volcanoes park to secure my place in a small group.

 

 

volcanoes national park gorilla trekking in rwanda

 

Price per gorilla tracking permit is high, from 2017 its 1500 USD and all permits have to be booked at least six months ahead as number of visitors per day is limited to 7 -8 people per gorilla trekking group.  Money has to be at least partially wired in order to get confirmation of desired booking date.

 

This is not the only cost! There is separate charge for transport to the park, which costed 100 USD per car. Don’t pay it in advance as you will probably be grouped with other people and at the end I paid 25 USD for sharing the car with three other gorilla trekkers.

 

The Gorilla Trekking Day

 

The day of gorilla trekking started early. Woke up at 5 AM, had quick breakfast, then at 6 AM driver came to pick me up in  Red Rocks Rwanda and on the way we picked up other fellow gorilla trekkers in their hotels in Musanze.

 

It is essential to bring along to gorilla trekking passport and gorilla trekking permit. Without those two documents, despite the payment, the park authority will not let you do gorilla trekking.

 

First we drove to Volcanoes park headquarters just a short drive from Musanze, where a guide and gorilla group was assigned to our group of visitors based on group fitness level. While guide was dealing for gorilla groups, we were waiting at the yard, drinking some tea and coffee and watched traditional performance of Intore dancers.

 

All appeared quite touristy, but on the other hand, many tourists just spend two nights in Rwanda, strictly for gorilla trekking and this way at least they see a bit of Rwandan culture. It is  also worth to mention that Volcanoes Park headquarters is also last toilet stop before gorilla trekking.

 

intore dancers gorilla trekking rwanda kinigi village

 

Our driver came back, happy as he managed to get Agashya group for us. We have chosen Agashya group, that consists of 23 gorilla members and its one of gorilla groups that is not so hard to find in the park – meaning maybe two or three ours trekking in steep, muddy forest to find them.

 

The hardest group to spot in Volcanoes park, according to our driver is Sabinyo group. They wander in higher attitudes and treks can last 5 to 6 hours just to find the gorillas.

 

 

gorilla trekking in rwanda volcanoes national park

 

We got back in the car and were transferred to village Kinigi where gorilla trekking finally began. We were assigned an official park guide and ranger, and the trek began. Each group of gorilla trekkers headed to different direction. I was so excited to walk in the same forest as Dian Fossey!

Have seen several times the movie Gorillas in the mist and this day for me felt like dreams came true.

 

Things to do in Musanze

 

Gorilla trek itself, except on certain parts wasn’t too demanding. The most tricky part was somewhere in the middle where terrain became steep, muddy and walking stick was a life saviour! I was also happy I packed garden gloves with me. There were many nettle alike plants on way! We hiked for about three hours when our guide told us we are close to Agashya group.

During gorilla trekking in Volacaneos Park, along with guides there is another group of rangers already in the forest spotting the gorilla group and informing guides  through walkie talkie where to go. So about 5 minutes before the location of gorillas we were told to leave our personal things, backpacks with another ranger, except for the cameras.

 

 

gorilla trekking rwanda close to silverback in volcanoes national park

 

 

Then after several steps I finally saw first gorilla! It was just mesmerising, I was so excited, wasn’t sure what to do. Should I just watch and enjoy the moment or should I frantically snap photos to stock gorilla images! We got closer to the group that was scattered all around.

 

Silverback was on his own, eating bamboo, some baby gorillas on the other side were playing with mother, then other gorillas were grooming each other. We all had high expectations and hopes about gorilla activity, but unfortunately at the time of our visit eating bamboo and grooming was all that was going on in Agashya group.

 

Nevertheless, gorillas are amazing creatures! Very laid-back animals and eating bamboo seems to be the meaning of gorilla life. An hour passed by too quickly, but was totally worth all the money!

We hiked back to Kinigi Village and afterwards we stopped at souvenir centre because the guide had to prepare gorilla trekking certificates.  Yes, after gorilla trekking in Rwanda each trekker gets a “gorilla trekking certificate” as a souvenir. Of course under all impressions from the trek I couldn’t help myself and bought a typical, tacky, overpriced  t shirt 🙂

 

 

gorilla trekking in rwanda safari tips

Gorilla Trekking Etiquette

 

Gorilla trekking guide will tell you more about how to behave when you’re in the presence of gorillas but here are some things to keep in mind:

 

  • Dont point index finger into gorillas, they have bad experience with poachers and they might think you want to shoot them.

 

  • Be quiet, do not talk at all.

 

  • Dont make eye contact with gorillas – can be seen provocative to gorilla. If you make an eye contact with gorilla, immediately look  down and act submissive

 

  • If gorilla approaches you also act submissive and crouch down, but never try to move  or run away!

 

  • It is not allowed to take food, drink, cigarettes with you  – you will leave your backpack and unnecessary equipment, clothes  in a safe place about  hundred meters before you approach gorilla area.

UPDATE 2017 – Gorilla trekking permits increased to 1500 USD

Get Gorilla trekking permit

Is gorilla trekking in Rwanda on your travel bucket list?

 

By |2018-11-18T20:52:58+00:00September 14th, 2015|Categories: Rwanda, Safari Tips|Tags: |19 Comments

About the Author:

In last five years she extensively travelled Morocco, Sudan East Africa, Zambia and South Africa. Nina also lived in Tanzania for a while where she worked with safari company and knows safari business inside out. For Nina, people are the essence of travel and she makes sure she makes local friends everywhere she goes.© Safari Junkie. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published without permission, rewritten or redistributed.

19 Comments

  1. Sharmistha 04/07/2016 at 4:52 am - Reply

    Now this is something unique. I have never been to East Africa. But this is something exciting. Just curious, how many gorillas did you see, and what distance were they from you? Also, glad that you put the gorilla ettiquette at the end of the post, some people need to read that before anything else!

    • Admin 04/07/2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

      The gorilla family counted about 12 gorillas including playful baby gorillas, they were scattered in radius of from 2 meters to 10, 15 meters. The closest i got to, was photo with silverback as you can see in the picture selfie. At one point this silverback wanted to change the position, he was close about 20 cm, which was exciting and scary, but he just passed me by.

  2. Amanda Williams 04/07/2016 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Thanks for this, it brings back happy memories. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is still the best experience I have ever had while travelling.

    • Admin 04/07/2016 at 9:50 am - Reply

      For me too! Gorilla trekking remains the top of the top adventure in Africa so far.

  3. Hannah 04/07/2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Nice, this is absolutely a dream of mine! I’ve had friends hop over the border into DRC, or fly into Goma and do it from there. It looks like a bit more of an adventure, not sure about safety though! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Admin 04/07/2016 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Trekking gorillas in Virunga National park in DR Congo is on my list too, just because of a bit of safety adrenaline, i have to admit! However gorillas are gorillas and if one has a chance to trek them be it in Rwanda, Uganda or DRC, it will be an unforgettable experience I am sure:)

  4. Miia 04/07/2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    This looks so fun! Makes me want to visit Africa like… how about now. 😀

    • Admin 04/07/2016 at 11:50 am - Reply

      I definitely recommend to have Africa on your must see travel List:)

  5. Rebecca 04/07/2016 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    A once in a lifetime experience! I’ve never heard of these treks and it looks like a fabulous time. The Gorilla etiquette is something everyone should read.

    • Admin 04/08/2016 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Yes, you also have chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania and golden monkey trek which can be done beside gorilla trek, just not on the same day.

  6. Kevin Wagar 04/11/2016 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Incredible! My wife and I have been dreaming of an opportunity to do a Gorilla trek and have debated waiting until our kids are older vs. doing it as a trip without them. Do you know the age limits for these excursions?

    • Admin 04/11/2016 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Hi Kevin, limit age for gorilla trekking is 15 years. Otherwise Rwanda is easy to travel even with kids. You should definitely see the gorillas!:) Nina Zara

  7. Katona 05/19/2016 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Beautiful review, well done!!
    I love Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.

  8. Claire 07/06/2016 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Hi – could I ask, how did you manage to arrange grouping up to share the hire of the car/driver? I’m looking into a trip there in a couple of weeks and as a solo traveller I’d like to ideally share a car, but didn’t want to leave it all to chance when getting there. And I can’t spot any forums where folks are discussing any sharing options. Any advice would be wonderful! Thanks.

    • Safari Junkie 07/07/2016 at 7:38 am - Reply

      Hi Claire, I arranged it through my tour operator who booked and organised gorilla trekking. I had luck, as I didnt know till the last day car would be filled with other travellers, so we shared the cost 20 USD per person, in opposite event I would pay full price which was 120 USD at the time.

  9. Annika 07/12/2016 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    yes! what an amazing experience – I would love to go. did you see the video that recently went around on facebook of the guy who the gorillas came up to? little gorillas messing up his hair and being on his back, mama and papa gorilla right next to him. i think he was terrified and really excited at the same time.

    when you pay for your permit? what are the chances of not seeing any? is there any sort of guarantee that you get to go another day?

    • Safari Junkie 07/12/2016 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      No Annika, havent seen this video, will google it. There is certain number of gorilla groups, so when you pay a permit and on the day of trek, the park assigns gorilla group to each group of trekkers. A team of rangers is already in the park, mostly they know the locations where the gorilla groups are found, so usually they spot them and let the leader know where to go. Its huge, dense jungle. If not as I remember, you get to go one more time i think, not sure. But even when you get to the area with gorilla group, its a lotto, some are visible some are hiding, so no guarantee how many gorillas or even like some asking me about activities:) I had luck have seen more than a half group members during that hour spent in Volcanoes park.

  10. Ryan Biddulph 12/30/2016 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Nina,

    Awesome!

    Seeing gorillas in the wild is about A1 on our travel list, along with doing a plains-style safari to see the rich collection of wildlife Africa has to offer. Well worth the price of admission too. For other trips I may think more about the price tag. Not so for this one! Priceless experience really because seeing these beautiful beings in a pristine, gorgeous area is just mind-boggling.

    Good tips on the 100 buck transport too. If you can split it by waiting, go for it. Spend on the permit then save a few smackers for transport around the park.

    Thanks much 🙂

    Ryan

  11. Stacy 01/19/2017 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Which company did you use to organize your tour?

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