Rwanda Gorilla Trekking, Rwanda Travel Guide: All you need to know while planning your Rwanda Gorilla Safari
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking – This travel guide has necessary information you’ll need while preparing for your African safari for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It contains the current costs of gorilla permit, how to get to the park, gorilla families and other wildlife expected to find, the best lodges for accommodation while on your safari and other activities to combine with your tour.
The world’s Mountain Gorilla trekking destinations-Africa
There is nowhere else you’ll find the endangered mountain gorillas in the world apart from the tropical rain forests on Virunga volcanoes in DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. In DR Congo, they are found in Virunga national park, in Uganda they are in Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga national parks and in Rwanda, they are in Volcanoes national park.
Known as Parc National des Volcans in French and Volcanoes national park in English, it is located in northwest of Rwanda in Musanze. It is adjacent to Uganda’s Mgahinga and DRCongo’s Virunga national parks. Gorilla trekking is the park’s main activity though there are more tourist activities that can be done to make the safari tour more explorative. Because Rwanda is a luxury gorilla trekking destination, it has the highest gorilla permit price – US$ 1,500 and if you choose to trek for these primates here, you’ll surely get an experience worth the cost.
There are 10 mountain gorilla groups habituated for trekking in Rwanda where a group of only 8 people is allowed to visit each group.
Book with All gorilla Trips a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda
All Gorilla Trips is your best partner to organize with for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park. Select from our different itineraries. We shall book and secure for you a gorilla permit, plan your visa, arrange for transport from the airport to the park, book for a comfortable and close accommodation and provide more information about the trip. More information regarding other activities to participate in on the tour will be given.
What to expect on your gorilla safari in Rwanda
You’ll be transferred to your lodge the day before trekking, rest as you prepare for the following day. On the day of trekking, wake up and have an early morning breakfast. Set out of the lodge and you’ll be transferred to the starting point. There you’ll meet the rest of the people that you’ll trek with, meet the ranger guide of Volcanoes national park. He will give you all the guidelines before penetrating into the forest to search for the big primates. He will guide you through the trails on the hilly volcanoes until you come across the family mountain gorilla family group being trekked.
You are advised to wear long sleeved shirts or t-shirts and long trousers because you’ll go through trails covered with tall plants. The duration of the activity depends the movement of the gorillas. It can last for 30minutes, an hour or more. Once the gorillas are spotted, you are given a maximum of one hour to interact with them, take photos and observe their behaviors. Note that you are not allowed to use flash cameras.
You’ll find the primates playing, feeding on the plants and jumping on the branches of trees, you are advised to maintain a minimum distance of 7m from them. Other common sightings will be the beautiful birds of the forest. If you are lucky, you may as well spot some of the other residents of the forest such as the golden monkey, buffaloes, hyenas and bushbucks.
Only those above 15 years of age go for mountain gorilla trekking. About 80 gorilla permits are issued for trekking daily to the 10 groups of mountain gorillas. We shall advise you on the most interesting mountain gorilla to book for depending on the kind of adventure you want to encounter.
Groups of Mountain gorillas in Rwanda
Among the three national parks in Rwanda, it is only in Volcanoes national park that you can see mountain gorillas. Rwanda Development Board has put aside some gorillas for research and others for tourism purpose. Today, there are 10 amazing gorilla families that have been habituated for trekking by tourists. Each of these families is visited by a group of a maximum of 8 people. You’ll enjoy the trek differently depending on which family to be visited. The mountain gorilla groups are; Susa (Susa A), Amahoro, Karismbi, Sabinyo, Umabona, Ugenda, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Bwengye and Group 13.
Susa family (Susa A)
This is the biggest gorilla group and the most interesting to visit. It is the group that Dian Fossey first used for research when she was in Rwanda. Susa gorilla group is quiet challenging to trek because of its distant location. It is often sighted on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi and rangers will first find out about their location before advising trekkers to search for it. If it has moved to a very distant area, you will be advised not to trek for it. However, if you happen to spot it, you’ll have the best experience of the activity.
There were 42 members before it split, and there are currently 33 gorillas. from the time the gorilla mother-Nyabitondore gave birth to twins (Impano and Byishimo), this has been one of the most interesting and famous gorilla families to visit.
Sabinyo gorilla family
The group was formed after the death of the dominant silverback that had been leading Group 13. It has the biggest silverback of all the gorillas in the back. Sabinyo group is fond of roaming around the slopes of Mount Sabinyo and this makes it easy for visitors to find it. Mebers here are relatively fewer, 13 members with 2 silverbacks.
This group is also known as Agashya gorilla family. It got its initial name group 13 because the family started with 13 members under the leadership of a silverback known as Nyakarima who was later over powered by Agashya hence the current name of the group. Nyakarima and Agashya went into a brutal fight at the end of which Agashya won and took over the Nyakirima’s group. He immediately shifted the group to a different location to stay safe from the loser.
The size of the group has been increasing as members from other groups join. It currently has about 25 members with one silverback. Agashya group also lives on the slopes of Mount Sabinyo and can as well easily be spotted if they have not moved long distances.
Karisimbi family (Susa B)
This group is referred to as Susa B because it broke up from the initial Susa A and also referred to as Karisimbi because of residing on the upper slopes of Mount Karisimbi. The volcano is 4507m high. This group is a good one to trek for tourists that are much interested in hiking since you have to climb to the higher slopes to find these primates. You may be advised not to trek for this group if rangers find out that is has moved to very distant locations on the mountain.
Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “peace”. The group was named Amahoro because of the peaceful nature of the members of the group. Even the dominant male silverback-Ubumwe is a peaceful and humble gorilla and this makes it easy for other silverbacks to steal his members to their groups. Most members have been lost to Umubano gorilla group led by Charles. Amahoro group resides on the slopes of Mount Visoke and often moves to the upper slopes making it one of the difficult groups to trek. The group currently has 17 members; Ubumwe, 5 juvenile gorillas, 5 adult males, 2 black backs and 4 babies.
In Kinyarwanda, Umubano means neighborliness. This group was initially part of Amahoro group. It comprises of 11 members; Charles the silverback leader, a sub-adult male, 3 adult females and 6 babies. It was formed when Charles separated from the initial group because he couldn’t submit to a silverback (Ubumwe) that had just taken on leadership after the death of their former leader. Because of occasional fights arising from failure of submission, Charles decided to move with 2 female gorillas from Amahoro to form his own group-Ubumano. When the two silverbacks Charle and Ubumwe meet, they do not fight.
Hirwa means “lucky one” in Kinyarwanda. One of the lucky things it names is the twins that the group has. Hirwa group is the newest and was formed by members that broke up from Group 13 and Sabinyo family. Later on more gorillas joined the group and today the group adds up to 16 members. This group is easy to trek because it lives on the slopes of Mt. Sabinyo.
The group got its name from the late silverback leader who died in 2012 at the age of 40. Just like the meaning of his name, the silverback was a “humble one” during his days. He was succeeded by Akarevuro. This is the second largest group with about 28 members. It migrated from the DRCongo inhabited areas between Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga.
Bwengye means “wisdom”. The group is led by a silverback named Bwengye who separated from his initial group to form this group in 2007. It has 11 members including the silverback leader who is popular because of his great wisdom. Bwenye group faced a big challenge of losing 6 infants. It was a difficult time for the group. This is one of the groups to trek, it lives on the slopes of Karisoke volcano.
This group has 11 members living on the slopes of mount Karisimbi. Ugenda means “being on the move” and it was named so because of its frequent movements.
LODGE OPTIONS OF WHERE TO STAY ON A GORILLA SAFARI IN RWANDA
On your gorilla trekking tour in Rwanda, you have a variety of options of lodges top choose from for your comfortable stay. There are luxury, midrange and budget lodges to cater for all capabilities of different tourist.
The lodges include Sabinyo Silverback lodge, Mountain Gorilla View lodge, Bisate lodge, Virunga lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel among others.
Other tourist activities after gorilla trekking in Rwanda
While in Volcanoes national park, there are much more activities to do apart from gorilla trekking. These are; golden monkey tracking, mountaineering, Visiting Dian Fossey’s tomb, birding, and visiting the twin lakes among others. Rwanda has other destinations where one would visit for adventurous tourist activities. You may choose to go to Akagera national park, Nyungwe forest national park, Gishwati national park and Lake Kivu.
Touring around Akagera national park offers an opportunity to watch Rwanda’s wildlife including lions, buffalo, elephants, and many antelopes. Birders will be amazed with a variety of bird sightings.
Explore the diverse wildlife species at Nyungwe forest national park. It is a good destination for those who wish to go for chimp tracking.
Gishwati Mukura national park is a home to some primates like chimps, blue monkey, black and white colobus monkey, more than 80 bird species and other wildlife.
After the adventurous activities of gorilla trekking and more, you may choose to visit Lake Kivu for a relaxation before embarking on the return journey to your home. You’ll relax at the beach, swim and take on boat rides.
GORILLA CONSERVATION AND EVENTS RWANDA
Conservation of gorillas in Rwanda is mainly run by the Dian Fossey Foundation and The International Gorilla Conservation Project among others.
The presence of the giant attractive primates has led to a number of events one of the famous one being that for naming gorillas. the event is known as “Kwita Izina” meaning giving a name in Kinyarwanda. It is an annual event and if you are interested in attending it, book for your safari with us.
Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda
In Rwanda, one can embark on a Gorilla Tracking Safari in Volcanoes National Park, which crosses the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the park, you can find a quarter of the world’s mountain gorilla population, and the remainder can be traced between Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Virunga National Park in Congo.
On a Rwanda gorilla tracking tour, you have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to stare gorillas in the eyes and learn about them face to face. Though gorilla tracking takes place all year round, the best time to go is between December and February. Hiking during April, May, and November is not recommended due to heavy rains.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Permits
Gorilla tracking permits cost $1500 per person. This price may seem high, but the money is used for gorilla conservation efforts in the park and to provide 24-hour guards against poaching. At present, there is no “off season discount,” or period during the year when the price is lowered.
The gorillas roam around the forests in families, and you will be assigned a family to track. It can take any amount of time between 30 minutes and 8 hours to find your gorilla family; keep your patience and good humor to get the most out of your hike. General fitness is appropriate, as it can be strenuous to roam the slopes for up to eight hours. Be assured that your guide will be experienced and knowledgeable about gorillas and tracking, and will do his or her best to ensure your enjoyment on your trip.
About Gorilla Tracking
On the morning of your tracking day, you will be taken to the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, where you will watch a traditional dancing performance over a hot cup of coffee. Next, you will receive a short briefing and separate into groups of eight persons or less. Your guide will outline the etiquette of gorilla tracking, and explain what you can and cannot do. For example, eating and drinking in the presence of the gorillas is not permitted, and you should turn your cell phone on silent or turn it off.
Next, you will drive with your group to the area where your family was seen last. Since the early morning, local guides will have been tracking the gorillas, and you will head in the direction they indicate on foot. Your guide will be in radio contact with the trackers, who will help you locate the gorilla family.
When you finally do locate the family, do not worry about the danger of facing a 200-kg silverback gorilla. The gorillas do not mind humans watching them, and will continue to eat and play normally. They might approach you closer than 20 feet. Keep a low voice, and move slowly; here, the gorillas are wild. Always listen to your ranger guide.
Because gorillas and humans share 99% of the same DNA, gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses; thus, if you have a cold, you will be asked to remain at a distance of at least 7 meters (about 20 feet) from the gorillas.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Tours
Enjoy Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Parc National des Volcans (PNV) or Volcanoes National Park. The park is home to over 360 Mountain Gorillas, with 7 Habituated Gorilla Families available for tourists to visit. The distance from Kigali to PNV is only 2 hours, making Rwanda the best Gorilla trekking destination compared to Uganda and Congo the other two countries where you can find the mountain gorillas. We offer several Rwanda Gorilla Tours ranging from day trips to multiple day safaris.
It is recommended to book your gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda at least 3 months before intended travel date to enable us secure your trekking permit in time. We can also do last minute bookings depending on availability of the gorilla trekking permits.
Other activities to do while on your Rwanda gorilla safari
Volcanoes national park has a lot of other interesting activities you can do while on your Rwanda safaris including Hiking mount Bisoke, Golden Monkey trekking, Dian Fossey Hike, hiking mountain Karisimbi, a visit to the ibylwacu cultural centre, a visit to the twin lakes of Ruhundo and Burera.
What to Wear for your Gorilla trek in Rwanda
Trekking gorillas in their natural habitat means hiking through thick jungle; thus, you should wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt. Bring shoes or boots that can handle mud, as well as a waterproof jacket. You should also pack water and a snack with you, since you might be hiking for several hours. Your guide can lend you a walking stick for the hike if needed, and if you would like to, you can hire a porter to carry your small belongings to keep your hands free from the starting point.
Equipment for the Gorilla trek
We recommend that you bring a camera that works in low lighting; flash is not allowed when around the gorillas. Consider bringing a cover for your camera, as it may rain at any time of the day or of the year.
The Mountain Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park
Groups, or families, of gorillas tend to climb much higher on the slopes during the dry season than during the rainy season. There are ten families currently residing in the park, ranging in size from 11 to 28 members, 1 to 4 silverbacks, and up to 12 infants.