Questions on Gorilla Trekking answered

What is gorilla Trekking?

Gorilla trekking is a breathtaking encounter in the wild where travellers hike through the montane rainforests of the Virunga Mountains to meet the endangered mountain gorillas. The gorilla trekking exercise has been described by some past travellers as one of the best wildlife experiences in the world. Gorilla tours and gorilla safaris are done in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, the only three countries in the world with the endangered mountain gorillas.

Where are mountain gorillas found?

There are two separate populations of mountain gorillas, one group is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda, the other group is protected within 3 national parks in the Virunga Mountains that straddle the borders of the 3 countries. The 3 parks include Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

How many mountain gorillas are there?

The current global population of mountain gorillas is estimated to be around 1,063 animals. About half of these live in Bwindi and the rest in the Virunga Mountains. Part of the gorilla population has been habituated into human-friendly groups which are visited by tourists throughout the year. The habituation exercise aims at making wild gorillas get used to the presence of humans and it is regularly done to boost tourism and strengthen gorilla conservation.

How much does it cost to trek mountain gorillas?

Travellers who want to trek mountain gorillas are required to purchase gorilla permits from the national parks in order to access the animals. Each country has a unique price for a gorilla permit. DR Congo’s gorilla permit is the cheapest at $400 per person followed by Uganda at $700 and Rwanda at $1,500. Due to the need to promote gorilla conservation, gorilla permits are issued in limited numbers to control human interference and allowing gorillas to thrive in their natural habitat.

How many people are allowed on gorilla trekking per day?

Each habituated gorilla group is visited once a day by a group of 8 trekkers. Visitors are permitted to spend only one hour in the presence of gorillas in order to allow the animals enjoy their habitat with limited human interference. While in the presence of gorillas, visitors are free to take pictures of the animals but they should do so quietly and from a distance of at leat 7 meters away from them. Trekkers are also advised not to litter, spit or eat from the gorilla habitat in order to control spreading human-related illnesses to the animals. Gorillas which share 98% of the human DNA are highly susceptible to human viruses.

When is the best time to go gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking is carried out throughout the year but the best time for gorilla trekking experience is achieved in the dry months of June to September and December to February. The steep and rugged terrain in the montane forests where gorillas are found can be very difficult to hike in the rain season due to wet and slippery conditions. Gorillas also move freely in their groups during dry days and this makes it easy for visitors to see them unlike on wet days where they tend to confine themselves in one place.

What to pack for gorilla trekking 

Gorilla trekking is such a tenacious activity in the wild which requires a relative level of fitness and the right gear. Some of the most important gear to pack for gorilla trekking include a pair of hard trousers, long-sleevd shirt, pair of gloves, rain jacket, and hiking boots. Trekkers are also encouraged to pack a good camera to capture some of the breathtaking moments with the gorillas lest they forget such memories. Other requirements like drinking water, snacks and a walking stick are provided at the places of accommodation and at the park headquarters. Porters are also available at the park to help trekkers who may fall short of the hiking energy before they reach the gorillas. Each porter is hired at a fee between $15 and $20.

How many gorilla groups /familes are available for trekking?

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has the highest number of habituated gorilla groups with 19 gorilla groups and more are being habituated. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda has 10 while Virunga National Park in DR Congo has got 8. However, trekkers are permitted to visit only one gorilla group per day as one of the measures to enhance their conservation.

Which country has got the best gorilla trekking experience?

Gorilla trekking is phenomenal in all the 3 countries because of similar physical factors within the gorilla habitats and their surroundings. However, its human factors like infrastructure, security, accommodation and cost that make the difference. Rwanda has the best infrastructure leading to their gorilla trekking destination which include good roads and a short driving time of just 3 hours. Accommodation facilities like lodges and hotels around the gorilla habitat in Rwanda are also of a very high standard and this include all luxury, midrange and budget facilities. 
One factor that most clients are talking about as far as gorilla trekking in Rwanda is concerned, is the price of the gorilla permit at $1,500. Uganda has got a cheaper gorilla permit at $700 but the long driving time from the capital Kampala to Bwindi of more than 10 hours tends to discourage some travellers. In fact, there is a shorter distance from Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport to Bwindi than from Kampala and this is the route most travellers who want to trek gorillas in Uganda use. 
DR Congo has the cheapest gorilla permit of them all at $400 but the insecurity around Virunga National Park due to civil conflicts in the eastern region of the country scares away many potential visitors. Those who make it to Virunga usually access the park from Rwanda via Gisenyi border or fly in at Goma International Airport from Kigali.

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