Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park is one of the top activities that are done in the park as travelers explore the amazing Gorilla species. Volcanoes National Park which forms part of the Virunga massifs houses the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The park is thought to be the one park that offers the best gorilla tracking experience in the world. Volcanoes National Park is located in the northern part of Rwanda and is bordered by Uganda in the north. The park has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife and physical beauty, it is gorilla trekking however that overshadows the rest of the attractions. Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves travelers hiking or walking the jungles in search of the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The Volcanoes National Park has 10 habituated gorilla families that tourists can visit say the Susa gorilla family, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Bwenge, and Titus gorilla families plus the elusive Hirwa gorilla family that goes to Uganda as well.
How to get to Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village of Musanze which is very accessible by public transport from Gisenyi or Kigali International Airport. The drive to Volcanoes National Park is 2 hours and this possibly means that one can go gorilla trekking and return on the same day when done with the trek. Since the trekking activity starts very early in the morning, it is advisable that one planning to use public means or doing a tour starting from Kigali should awake very early in the morning and embark on the two-hour drive to the park headquarters of Kinigi.
How to book a gorilla trekking permit to Volcanoes and cost
To be able to go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, it necessitates one to obtain a gorilla tracking permit way before your actual trekking date. This gorilla tracking permit can be obtained from the Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali or website and you receive it when you arrive for tracking at the park, or alternatively, one can use a trusted tour operator to have this done for them. The gorilla tracking permits are at $1,500 for all travelers tracking the gorillas including the Rwanda citizens. It should be noted, however, that these gorilla tracking permits sell out very fast and one is advised to book way in advance so as to secure their spot for a particular day. Volcanoes National Park is home to 10 habituated gorilla groups that are available for tracking by tourists of which only persons per day can track a particular gorilla group for only one hour.
When should I book a volcanoes national park gorilla trekking tour
It is advised that you book your gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National Park at the very least 3-4 months in advance since gorilla trekking is a much sought after activity and the permits sell out fast. The months of June, July, August, September, mid-December, January, and February are the best months and most advised months to visit these endangered and yet gentle gorillas in their natural habitat. These months are in the dry season and this is the best period to trek as the rains are relatively low. A gorilla trekking tour can, however, be done any time in the year and if your schedule falls on the other months that the rains are most expected then having the best and very essential items for gorilla trekking is very important.
Essential for Gorilla trekking in Uganda
- Hiking boots for easy walking, waterproof post preferably to avoid getting soaked when you step in water puddles or when it rains. Do not be tempted to carry sandals or open shoes
- Hand gloves to help you have firm grips on the walking rod and to avoid getting reactions from the various vegetation you are likely to get a hold of or insect bites when on the hike. The nettles are particularly aggressive in Volcanoes National Park.
- Long sleeved shirts and blouses to protect you from thorny bushes and insect bites.
- Rain jackets for the ever-changing weather
- Sunglasses and hat to protect you from the direct sun
- Long pants and stockings tacked into boots to prevent bites by ground insects and crawlies
- Energy giving snacks and water for refreshment since the hike will be very tiring and take longer hours
Gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park time frame
Trekkers are expected at the park headquarters of Kinigi at 7:00 am and latest 7:30 am for a briefing by the one or more of the ranger guides. They are then grouped in groups of eight and given the various gorilla groups. The groups are 10 gorilla groups in Rwanda, including the elusive Hirwa gorilla group that moves to Uganda at times. Gorilla trekking usually starts at 8:00 am and all trekkers are expected to be back to the headquarters by 7 pm. The trekking period can take from 30 minutes to up to 5 or more hours depending on the location of the gorillas. When nearing the gorillas which can be known by their sounds that they make, the ranger or guide will inform you such that you minimize in the voices and also keep your foods away. Upon reaching the mountain gorillas, the travelers are allowed up to an hour to be with the gorillas in which time they can take pictures or videos or whatever.
Guidelines for successful gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park
- A 7 meters’ distance away from the mountain gorillas must be observed at all times.
- Keep within your group that you are put with
- Noise is not allowed and whispers if you really need to speak
- Avoid direct eye contact with the gorillas, this threatens them.
- Keep calm when a mountain gorilla charges. Follow whatever instructions your guide/ranger instructs you to do.
- Do not throw rubbish in the park. Carry back all that you came with.
- Do not eat near the mountain gorillas. Easting should be done at least 200 meters away.
- Do not touch the gorillas.
What can I combine my gorilla trekking tour with
Rwanda is a beautiful country with lots of attractions apart from the mountain gorillas. This land of a thousand hills has other national parks and historical sites that can be included on your gorilla trekking safari. In Volcanoes National Park itself, you can opt to go hiking on Mount Karisimbi, Bisoke or golden monkey tracking or maybe visiting the great primatologist Dian Fossey’s grave. You can include among others, a genocide memorial center visit that will give you more insight about the 1994 Rwanda genocide where over one million people were killed, a wildlife visit to parks like Akagera for wildlife viewing, boat launches, among others. You can also include other destinations in the region say Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya or Uganda.
Take time to visit Rwanda and go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Get your trusted tour operator of choice to organize this once in a lifetime gorilla trekking experience for you and you will always long to visit again, which you can if you really want to and you will always be welcome.