Gorilla Trekking Guide-Africa Safari Tour:
Gorillas are one of the unique African primates that are not fond anywhere else in the world unless the Pearl of Africa-Uganda, the country of beautiful rolling hills-Rwanda and the vast green country-Democratic Republic of Congo. These are differentiated in between Mountain Gorillas, Eastern Lowland Gorillas, Western Lowland Gorillas as well as the cross river Gorillas.
These also share 98% of human DNA and live in groups of 8-24 individuals hierarchically with a dominant ruling silverback who is the elder male followed by adult females then young Gorillas called the black back and then the juveniles and infants. However, some groups are led by a silverback that is not the oldest in the group as according to strength/ the power they have and females they grab from other groups during battle. These build their homes in and amongst bamboo covered slopes and forest vegetation feeding on vegetables as well as fruits within the trees. i.e are typically vegetarians.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda happens in the forest vegetation in the prominent Volcanoes National Park and these live in various groups depending on very many factors. There are 10 Gorilla families that can be tracked in the park and these are easy to track although some require physical fitness. Tracking and hiking to spot these will take you a period of 30 minutes -4 hours as according to the family you are allocated to track. The process requires you to navigate through thick forest vegetation in search for the Gorillas. Before you proceed for tracking, you will be briefed about the rules and regulations you must follow so as to enjoy Gorilla tracking even at different altitudes i.e 2500 and 4000m. You can hire a porter to help you carry your luggage, cameras as well as help you with your footing along the hike.
Costs for gorilla permits
The Gorilla permits in Rwanda have been hiked of recent to US$ 1500 per person. This applies to all visitors that travel to experience Gorilla tracking.
Any exclusive visits include;
- In order to have a personalized and exclusive Mountain Gorilla experience in a particular Gorilla group you will pay US$ 15,000.
- US$ 30,000 will be required for a minimum of 3 visitors for 3 consecutive days.
There are special Discount Packages
- For those interested in taking on combined trips with in the National Parks in Rwanda will get 30% discount (US$ 1,050). The parks include Volcanoes National Park-Gorilla trekking, Akagera and Nyungwe National Parks. This takes place in the 3 days during the months of May, November.
- For conference delegates who stay pre and post MICE events to see Gorillas will be given 15% discount (US$ 1,275)
Filming and photography of the Gorilla
- Professional filming and photography for 3 days will require a payment of US$ 5,000.
- For those in crews and prefer photography and filming will pay US$ 12,000 i.e maximum 8 people.
All fees include park entry fees.
There are 10 Gorilla family groups that can be tracked at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and these include;
- Susa group; -Largest group with 38 members.
-Inhabit the highest points hence challenging to trek due to the fact that spotting them requires physical fitness.
-They have endangered twin infants called Byishimo and Impano
- Sabinyo group; -has 17 individuals and easy to access under the leadership of a very strong silverback Guhonda.
- Amahoro group; – they are 19 members led by a dominant calm silverback called Ubumwe. Getting to interact and spot the group requires moving over a fairly steep slope. Although when this is done watching the Gorillas is worth the experience.
- Agashya group; -also referred to as Group 13 with 22 members.
- Kwitonda group; -it has 23 members under the leadership of a dominant silverback called Akarevuro. These are fond of relocating to the DRC where they are habituated hence making it quite challenging to track.
- Umubano group; -there are 13 members who separated from the Amahoro group with a lead silverback called Charles.
- Hirwa group; -this has 18 individuals who left two different groups i.e Group 13 and Sabyinyo group. This is led by a dominant silverback called Munyinya.
- English and French are the official languages spoken in Rwanda.
Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
Gorillas in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a very prominent activity carried out and these inhabit the montane thick tropical rain forest vegetation. They feed on vegetables and fruits due to the fact that they are vegetarians.
The park is also a birder’s paradise for it inhabits numerous bird species i.e 23 of Uganda’s 24 Albertine Rift endermics and these include; Shelley’s Crimson wing and the African Green Broadbill. The Gorillas make the park an extraordinary destination due to their unique ways of living.
They are intelligent and curious when approached by humans. There are 12 different Gorilla groups that can be tracked at Bwindi and these are divided in four different sectors i.e Buhoma with The Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja groups, Ruhija with Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguliro groups, Rushaga with Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Busingye and Bweza groups and the Nkuringo with the Nkuringo Gorilla group which is known to be the most challenging to trek due to their location in the Mountainous parts of the park.
The best time to visit Bwindi
Depending on the season of the year, the rains start from March-May and October until November and light rainfall starts in November to December. The dry season takes place from December- February and June-August. So, the best time to visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is during the months of December to late February as well as June to September.
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park
Situated in the South western part of Uganda along the border with Congo and Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park occupies an area of approximately 33.7 km2 and acts as a habitat for man’s closest relative the Mountain Gorilla. These inhabit the thick forest vegetation and feed on vegetables as well as fruits in groups under a lead silverback. These attract various tourists around the world who visit and experience these by taking photos to keep for future generations as remarkable memories attained on an exceptional African Safari.
There are various tree species in the park that can make tourists comfortable while taking clear photos of these eating playing, conjugating, breast feeding and building nests. The forest here provides them with enough food to eat and at Mgahinga has only one Gorilla group called the Nyakagezi Gorilla family group which is very easy to track due to the fact these are always eating and wandering around/ in visible places.
Gorilla trekking is the most prominent activity carried out at the park and about 75% of visitors around the world visit the park to track and encounter the Mountain Gorillas in their natural forest habitat. Tracking these will take a period of 3-5 hours depending on the location of the Gorilla group at the time for these are fond of relocating to the forest corridors of Rwanda and Congo. These are more exceptional when moving with an experienced guide/ ranger through the thick forest vegetation from one place to another. The trekking experience begins at the Ntebeko Entrance gate at around 8:00am in a period of 2-4 hours. An hour is allowed to spend with this group in groups of 8 people.
Best Time to go for Gorilla tracking
Transfer to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park during the two dry seasons since during this time, the forests are easily penetrated and the trails are not muddy and slippery and the months are mid-December to end of February and June to October.
How to get there
- Transfer to Mgahinga through road transport by driving by car from Kampala through Kabale then to Kisoro. The transfer will take about 8 hours.
- By air; take a direct flight from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip located close to the park and this will take a period of an hour. Daily scheduled flights are available to be booked in advance with your local Uganda safari operator agency.
Gorilla trekking in Congo
Virunga National park
Gorilla trekking in the DR Congo takes place in various National Parks but the most prominent ones are the Mountain Gorillas that can be tracked in Virunga National park and Eastern Lowland Gorilla trekking at Kahuzi Biege National Park.
Virunga National Park is a UNESCO Heritage site situated in the Eastern part of the DR Congo along the borders of Uganda and Rwanda covering an area of 7800 km2 and inhabits more than 200 Gorillas which are fond of occupying the Southern part of the park. The park is operated by both authorities of Congolese national park and the institute of Congolais pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Africa Conservation Fund.
In the western direction is Goma the capital city of the North Kivu province and transportation to the park from here is organized by the park. For travelers transferring from Kigali to Goma, a distance that covers a period of 3 hours from Rwanda’s capital Kigali to Goma which is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Goma can as well be accessed from the South Western Uganda through the Bunagana border where you can buy a local visa.
Rules and Guidelines to Follow while Gorilla Trekking
- A maximum of 8 individuals are allowed to track a Gorilla group per day.
- The age limit for tracking is 15 years and above.
- Gorilla trekking takes place throughout the day from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- You will have to spend a period of an hour interacting with the Gorillas
- Don’t go Gorilla trekking when sick/ ill for the Gorillas are vulnerable to human illnesses. In case you sneeze/ cough, please cover your nose and turn on the sides for this can infect the Gorillas.
- Keep time; use your one hour with the primates to the fullest and don’t over stay with them for this might provoke them thinking you are an enemy.
- When with the Gorillas, remember to maintain a distance of 5-7 meters away from them.
- Don’t sturtle or make noise around the Gorillas it provokes their peace.
- Take clear photos with a camera that does not have a flash.
- Carry enough water and warm gears to keep you warm through cooler conditions.
- Carry and wear comfortable trekking shoes as well as long sleeved smooth shirts, gardening gloves, sweater, long pants that are not jeans etc.
- No smoking and eating snacks while tracking the Gorillas.
- Avoid littering in the rubbish in the forest.
- Avoid direct eye contact when approached by a Gorilla/ Silverback for this is so provocative to them.
- In case you want to help yourself, a ranger will be willing to dig you a hole so that you do this comfortably.
Cost of Congo Gorilla Permits
Book your Gorilla trekking permits directly through the institute of Congolais pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN) at Virunga National Park or through a valid tour operator agency that will make it easier for you to track these primates with ease. The permits cost US $400 per person. During the low/ wet season in the months of May/April and November & October the permits cost US $350 per person where as during the high season in the other months, these cost US $400 per person.
Rules to Gorilla Trekking in all Countries
- You are allowed an hour to watch the Gorillas
- You should be in a group of 6-8 people to track a group.
- Don’t spit around in the park while tracking the Gorillas.
- If you are ill please cancel your tracking experience.
- Keep your voice low and calm while around the Gorillas.
- In case you cough/ sneeze turn away from the Gorillas.
- Don’t make continuous movements while around the Gorillas.
- In case you are approached by a Gorilla/ wild silverback make sure not to run for this might make them take you as an enemy which may lead to many injuries for they will run and fight you.
- Don’t litter rubbish in the park.
- You must be 16 years and above to track the Gorillas.