Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is one of the main tourist activities that thousands of Rwanda tourists engage in annually. Rwanda is one of the African countries that inhabit the interesting, famous and endangered mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas in Rwanda are found in Volcanoes National Park which is situated in Musanze town in the North-Western part of Rwanda bordering Mgahinga national park in south-western Uganda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Volcanoes National Park is the oldest national park in Africa and apart from the mountain gorillas, volcanoes national park harbors other wildlife species such as the endangered Golden Monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Black and White monkeys, Buffaloes, Hyenas, Bushbucks, Duikers, Forest Elephants which are rarely seen, Bird species, five of the Virunga volcanoes which include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is the most famous, exciting and adventurous activity in volcanoes national park where visitors move on foot into the rain forests in search of the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Volcanoes national park is a home of 15 habituated gorilla families that are available for trekking on a daily basis and allows a maximum number of 8 people to trek each gorilla family for one hour with the gorillas in their natural habitat. The gorilla families in Volcanoes national park include,
- Susa family, this is the first group that Dian Fossey studied when she was in Rwanda. Susa was the biggest group after habituation with 42 members but later spilt to form Karisimbi family and it remained with 28 members and it lives on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi.
- Karisimbi family, this group is a split from Susa family and it inhabits Mount Karisimbi. Karisimbi family was formed in 2008 and is composed of 16 members with one silverback.
- Amahoro family, the name Amahoro means peace and the family lives on the slopes of Mount Visoke and is one of the hard to trek group due to strenuous terrain. Amahoro family consists of 17 members with 2 silverbacks.
- Sabyinyo family, this family was named after Mount Sabyinyo which is one of the Virunga volcanoes. Sabyinyo family lives on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo and consists of 9 members.
- Hirwa family, the name of this family means the lucky one and was habituated in 2006. Hirwa family inhabits between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga consisting of 9 members.
- Kwintonda family, the group derived its name from the Kwitondo silverback which died in 2012 and was known for its humble character. Kwitonda family consists of 18 members with 4 silverbacks and is also hard to trek because it keeps moving to far areas.
- Agashya family, the name Agashya means news and this family lives on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo with 25 members and one silverback.
- Umubano family, this family was split from Amahoro due to inabilities between Charles and Ubumwe. The group consists of 11 members with one silverback.
- Bwenge family, the name of this group means wisdom and is comprised of 11 members. This group inhabits Mount Bisoke and is one of the easy groups to trek in Volcanoes national park.
- Ugenda family, the name Ugenda means on the move and this family hardly settles in one place in that it’s always on the move in search of food and it lives on Mount Bisoke. Ugenda family consists of 11 members and 2 silverbacks.
- Igisha family, this group is dominated by Igisha silverback and it also split from Susa A in 2014 and moved with 23 individuals. The group now consists of 30 members and lives on the upper slopes of Mount Karisimbi.
- Muhoza family, this group split from the Hirwa family to form it’s a new group in 2016. This group is led by Muhoza silverback and is comprised of 11 members with one silverback.
- Isimbi family, this group split from the Karisimbi family in 2012 and is comprised of 18 members with one silverback.
- Titus family, this group was habituated during the Dian Fossey’s days in Rwanda and is one of the oldest groups in volcanoes national park. The group was named after the silverback Titus which died at the age of 35 years in 2009. This gorilla family lives on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and Mount Visoke and is comprised of 7 members. Titus group is a research group that is only available for trekking when there is shortage of gorilla permits in volcanoes national park.
- Pablo family, this group is also reserved for study purposes and is only accessed by scientists, researchers and is comprised of 13 members.
How to get to volcanoes national park
Volcanoes National Park can be accessed by both road and air means of transport. By Road, volcanoes national park can be accessed through Uganda where you will drive from Kampala City via Mbarara, Kabale through Katuna border to Volcanoes national park which takes 9 to 10 hours’ drive and in case you are coming from Bwindi national park or Mgahinga national park in Uganda, you can use Cyanika border to the park which takes 3 to 4 hours drive. By Air, you can fly to Kigali International Airport and they connect to the park by road which takes about 2 hours drive.
When to go for Gorilla Trekking activity in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is the only park in Rwanda that harbors the endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park can be visited all year round however the best time to visit is during the drier season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February when there are fewer rainfalls in the forest, short grass which gives easy viewing of the gorillas, dry grounds among others. Gorillas can as well be visited during the wet season in the months of March to May and October to November though there is always heavy rainfall which makes trekking difficult due to the wet, muddy and slippery grounds.
Cost of a Gorilla Trekking Permit in Rwanda
Gorilla trekking permit in Volcanoes national park costs $1500 for all nationalities and is the most expensive gorilla trekking in other gorilla destinations for example in Gorilla trekking permit in Uganda‘s Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park the gorilla trekking permit costs $600 for Foreign Non Residents and $500 for Foreign Residents. Gorilla Trekking Permits in Congo cost $400 for Foreign Non-Residents. The gorilla trekking permit in Volcanoes national park is worth the money paid because it allows you to spend 1 hour with the gorillas in their natural environment and is valid for one day just like other gorilla destinations and gives you the best gorilla experience on your safari in Rwanda.
When to book for a Gorilla Trekking Permit in Rwanda
Gorilla trekking permits in volcanoes national park should be booked 3 to 4 months in advance before the trekking date because they are competitive and usually get sold out. Gorilla trekking permits in volcanoes can be obtained from Rwanda Development Board a tourism body in Rwanda through email or telephone calls and can also be obtained through a trusted tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris which is a the best option because it saves you all the hustle. When booking a gorilla trekking permit through a tour operator, you contact the company with the dates, month and year when you want to travel to volcanoes national park and the company will check the availability of the permits and inform you. You will be asked to send a deposit for a gorilla trekking permit through the company’s bank account and the scanned copies of your passport details which will be used when processing the permit. After the payments have been made your permit will be purchased and you will be sent a copy of the permit as confirmation. Achieve global safaris can also plan others activities to engage in while in volcanoes national park and also other parks like Bwindi national park which also offers gorilla trekking tours among others hence making your safari memorable.
What to pack when going for gorilla trekking activity in volcanoes national park
Visitors who visit Rwanda for gorilla trekking safari should pack different items because it’s always very cold in the morning and night in Volcanoes national park and the weather can change anytime since it’s a tropical rainforest hence you need to packs necessary items including
- Gorilla trekking permit is the most important item to carry while going for gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park because without the permit you will not be able to trek the gorillas.
- Hiking boots that provide easy movements in the jungle and also protect your feet from mud while trekking in the forest.
- Garden gloves, these will protect you from thorny trees because you can touch the trees in the forest especially looking for support since the grounds are sometimes wet and slippery. The gloves will also protect you from the germs and can be removed while having a moment with the gorillas taking photos.
- Long sleeved trousers and shirts, these clothes will protect you from the thorny bushes, prinking thickets and also keep your body warm since its sometimes cold while trekking gorillas in volcanoes national park.
- Waterproof rain jacket/ poncho, the jacket will protect you and your electronics like phones, camera among others from rain since it can rain anytime any day in volcanoes national park.
- Long socks, these should be tucked into the long sleeved trousers and the socks will protect you from the safari ants.
- Energy Snacks like drinking water and packed lunch which is provided by the lodge where you will be staying, the snacks will give you energy in case you are trekking gorillas in long distances however the snacks shouldn’t be taken while in the presence of the mountain gorillas because some portions of food might fall down and transmit some diseases to the gorillas.
- Insect repellent is used to protect you from the insects in the jungle such as tsetse flies, safari ants among others.
- Camera, this is also an important item to carry while going for a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda in that it is used to capture the moments on your safari and also take photos while in the presence of the gorilla family though the camera shouldn’t be used with the flash while taking photos.
- Backpack is a bag that is used to carry all the items that will be used while trekking gorillas such as the camera, snacks, batteries among others.
- Porter, porters in volcanoes national park are available for hire at an affordable price to help you while trekking in the jungle through giving you a push, pull, carrying a backpack among others hence making trekking easy.
Where to stay while in Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking
Kigali the capital city of Rwanda offers a wide range of luxury, mid-range and budget accommodation facilities where visitors on a safari in volcanoes national park can stay including Virunga Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Kinigi Guest House, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Muhabura Hotel, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge among others which offer comfortable shelter, great scenic views of volcanoes national park, prepare both local and international dishes for visitors, offer other service facilities like sauna, massage, swimming pool, free internet, library among others which make the visitors on a safari in Rwanda exciting.
Rwanda is one of the famous and best destinations for gorilla trekking activity in Africa that offers visitors with fascinating and magical experiences while on a safari in Volcanoes national park hence making it a must-visit destination in Africa.