Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
The gorilla trekking adventure is a top tourism activity in Rwanda that brings visitors closer to the mountain gorillas in the midst of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Volcanoes national park also known as Parc National Des Volcans is located in the North western part of Rwanda and is the only place to trek the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Gorilla Trekking is a worthwhile wildlife adventure that takes you to the heart of the jungle and allows one to spend time with the endangered mountain gorillas while on their Rwanda Safari.
Volcanoes national park is a 2 hours’ drive from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda and the park is located in Musanze district. The park is a significant site as only about 1000 mountain gorillas are left in the world of which a third of these live in Volcanoes national park making the gorilla trekking in Rwanda adventure an incredible wildlife encounter!
Volcanoes national park has 12 habituated gorilla families available for visitors to trek and visit. The national park issues 96 gorilla permits per day and the groups visiting the gorilla families have 8 people per group. The other gorilla families are mainly for research and not fully habituated as yet.
Information about Gorillas
Mountain Gorillas live in groups of 6-20 individuals that are led by a dominant adult male known as the Silver back, the silver back is generally larger in size and has silver grey hair on its back. Gorilla’s main diet consists of herbaceous vegetation and fruits that’s why while on a gorilla trek in Rwanda one will often see the gorillas feeding on fruits and green leaves.
Gorillas move within the forest in search of food to eat and feed their infants. The movement is determined by the location of the mountain gorilla groups, mountain gorilla groups living in lower altitude areas in Volcanoes national park move less as they tend to have an abundance of fruits and herbaceous vegetation. However mountain gorillas in high altitude locations have to move more and longer distances in search of food to eat so as one treks depending on the gorilla family you visit, you will notice movement depending on where the gorillas nested the previous night.Gorillas communicate through vocalizations and different behaviour patterns, gorillas are famously known for the chest-beating pattern which appears to be a display of intimidation among the gorillas.
What you need to know about the Gorilla
Trek in Rwanda
The gorilla trekking activity starts with transfer from your lodge in the morning to Kinigi park headquarters which is the official starting point for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The starting time for the session is 7:00am so it is best to be at Kinigi earlier than 7 am, the park headquarters is a well-organized area that features a café where you can even grab a cup of coffee before embarking on your gorilla trek. You will also be treated to stunning views of the Virunga Mountains which can be seen clearly on a good day and views of the beautiful landscape of Rwanda.
The Kinigi park headquarters is where you are assigned a gorilla group for the day and professional guides. After briefing from your guide on the rules to follow while in the park you start the gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda by driving to the boundary of the park where the trek starts. The minimum age for gorilla tracking in Rwanda is 15 years therefore anyone above this age is welcome to spend time with the endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.
On the gorilla trek you are accompanied by an armed ranger guide whose main duty is protection from attacks from any unhabituated gorillas or animals that live in the park like elephants however this is very rare as a majority of the wildlife encounters in Volcanoes national park have been reported to be smooth. Gorillas tend to always be on the move in search of food so the park has trained trackers who usually have spent time with the unhabituated gorilla families and are therefore familiar with the behavior of the mountain gorillas. It is these park trackers that provide prior information to the park guides about the gorillas and their nesting the previous night so before you start the trek the guides are better prepared for a wonderful encounter.
The gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda can take from anywhere between 2 hours – 8 hours depending on how far the gorilla family is situated and the fitness levels of the group members. Once you locate the gorillas you are allowed to spend a maximum of 1 hour with them during which you can watch them as they move, feed and even have an opportunity to capture some great photos. Like your guide will tell you the gorillas are habituated and familiar with people however you are advised to turn off the flash light while taking photos. You are also advised to keep a 10 metre distance from the gorillas during the trek and stand still if approached by a gorilla, do not run. Do not attempt to feed the gorillas and keep the voices rather low when encountering them.
Cost of the Gorilla Trekking Permit in Rwanda
The gorilla trekking permit costs $1500 per person for International Visitors
Volcanoes national Park in the year 2023 offers discounted permits which are valid until 31st December 2023. The discounted permit prices are listed below;
For Foreign residents in Rwanda cost is $500 per person.
For African Foreign resident cost is $500 per person.
For Africans cost is $500 per person.
For Rwandan nationals cost is $200 per person.
For East African citizens cost is $200 per person.
PS: The above promotional rates should be purchased one month prior to the trekking date. If purchased in less than one to the trekking date the price will be $1500.
Gorilla trekking permits are purchased through the Rwanda Development Board and we recommend that you book the permit in advance to be on a safe side as the demand for the gorilla permits can get high.
Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony and Rwanda’s conservation efforts of Mountain Gorillas
Rwanda has played a commendable job in the conservation of the mountain gorillas and they have done this by investing in educating the community about the importance of conserving the gorillas. Rwanda has done this through their annual baby gorilla naming ceremony known as Kwita Izina which has gathered popularity across the world. Kwita Izina in Rwandan local language (Kinyarwanda) means “to give a name” and in ancient times in Rwanda, Kwita Izina was an old tradition where members of a community gathered to give a new born baby in the community a name.
Every year Rwanda chooses celebrities, key conservationists and leaders to name the new baby gorillas. This year 2023 Idris Elba a British actor, Hollywood star Winston Duke, and Danai Gurira an actress and activist were among the namers of the 23 baby gorillas. Rwanda began the tradition of Kwita Izina in 2005 and over the years the annual event has been an opportunity for Rwanda to celebrate the conservation efforts of key conservation partners, local communities, rangers, trackers and vets who are all doing commendable efforts to conserve the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
How to prepare for Gorilla Trekking in
In terms of physical fitness for the gorilla trekking adventure one should be physically fit as the hike can be rather strenuous and require a physical skill set to navigate the muddy and slippery ground considering Volcanoes national park is a forested park.
Visitors can also prepare for the trek by hiring a porter at $10 to help carry one carry their bag and make the trek easier and lighter for you. We highly recommend that you get a porter one because the trek might take longer depending on where the gorilla family is situated that day so you might need help along the way. Secondly hiring a porter is a way of giving back to the community as porters are from the surrounding communities that live near Volcanoes national park.
In addition to your preparation we recommend that you pack the following items;
Hiking boots – these you will need because the terrain in Volcanoes national park tends to be slippery and muddy especially in the rainy season so hiking boots are ideal and much needed. The hiking boots should be of good quality and water resistant.
A Backpack – a light back pack is needed to carry our essential items like binoculars, camera, phone, batteries and packed lunch that is given to you at the lodge in the morning.
Insect Repellent – You should also pack insect repellent because there are insects that are likely to sting or cause body rush so insect repellent is very essential for protection.
Camera and extra batteries – since it is a trek we recommend you carry your camera so that you are able to take photos and capture some memorable moments while gorilla trekking in Rwanda. You should also pack extra batteries that will come in handy in case the battery runs out while on the trek.
Clothing – You should pack a long sleeved shirt and long trousers. In addition you should carry a rain jacket just in case it rains while in the forest you can wear it over you clothes to protect you from the rain.
Snacks – This is optional as usually the lodge arranges packed lunch for you on the morning of the trek and you leave with it after breakfast. However you can carry snacks just in case you maybe need something sugary for an energy boost while on the trek or something salty.
Best time to do Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Gorillas in Rwanda can be seen all year round which means permits are available for booking from January all the way to December however the trek is obviously easier during the dry season that is between June- August and July – September. The drier months are considered as a high season period so gorilla permits tend so sell out fast however the good thing is one can always look at booking during the less busy months.
Where else can one see the Mountain Gorillas?
Aside from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, mountain gorillas are seen in only other two countries that is Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. These three countries are the only places to see the mountain gorillas in the world and encounter them in their natural habitat.
Therefore other than Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Other Activities to do while in Volcanoes
National Park Rwanda
Golden Monkey Tracking
The golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes national park is a great way to experience the primates of this park aside from the mountain gorilla trek. The golden monkey trek activity can be added to your safari itinerary in addition to the mountain gorilla trek. The golden monkeys are active monkeys and a beautiful sight to see as they hop around in the forest and feed on bamboo shoots. The golden monkeys offer great photo moments and a unique experience with these primates. Visitors are allowed to spend one hour with them.
Visit Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village
The Iby’Iwacu cultural visit is a great way to experience the way of the life of the Rwandans, their culture, traditions and norms. The cultural visit can be done after your gorilla trek depending on what time you return. While at the cultural village you will visit the traditional medicine man and even be entertained by the traditional dances which you are free to join in.
Diana Fossey Tomb Hike
The Diana Fossey hike is one of the activities around park and the 4 hour hike takes you to where she was buried. Diana Fossey was a researcher who spent a great deal of her life time researching the mountain gorillas and pushing for the conservation and protection of the gorillas.
For travelers looking for adventure, Volcanoes national park offers hiking opportunities with beautiful views. Visitors can choose among 4 main peaks out of the 5 Virunga mountain ranges to hike. The most popular is the Mt. Bisoke hike which can be done in one day; the hike offers breath-taking views of the Crater Lake at the top of Mt.Bisoke. The other volcanoes to hike include Mt.Karisimbi which is a 2 day hike, Mt.Muhavura and Mt.Gahinga.
Birdwatching in Volcanoes national park
Birdwatching in the park is done with site guides who are well versed with the birds of the area. Birdwatchers have an opportunity to enjoy a great time birding in Rwanda experience as Volcanoes national park boasts of 200 bird species including 14 bird species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Region.
Twin Lakes Visit
The visit to Rwanda’s twin lakes is a short yet rewarding trip that takes one to Lake Ruhonda and Lake Burera. The twin lakes offer you breath-taking views from the top and a glimpse in to the beautiful landscape of Rwanda. While here you can capture some great photos!
Accommodation near Volcanoes
National Park Rwanda
The park has different accommodation options that one can stay at while on their gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda. The accommodation options range from Luxury to mid-range to budget. These include;
Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel – Five Volcanoes is an upmarket lodge facility located in Musanze that features en-suite rooms with clean linen and a cosy interior suitable for a guest to Volcanoes national park. The lodge also features an upstairs restaurant with a stunning view of the Virunga Mountains, a perfect place for a hot lunch after your gorilla trek.
Gorilla Solutions Lodge – This is a mid-range lodge also situated in Musanze and is a few minutes’ walk to the Kinigi park headquarters. The lodge offers amnesties and is a good option for the midrange traveller as it offers a mix of comfort and affordability. The lodge has single rooms, double rooms, twin rooms and a family cottage to cater for families travelling together.
Garden Place Hotel – Garden Place hotel is a budget accommodation located next to the park. The budget hotel features comfortable rooms that have a warm bed, a table, TV and towels. The hotel has a very good and delicious buffet breakfast for its visitors. The hotel works well as a budget option as it is near Volcanoes national park and offers comfortable service for the guest.