Indescribable Gorilla Trekking Experience in Volcanoes National Park
Having the chance to trek through Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I cannot recommend it enough. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable, and the opportunity to stand only a few feet away from a full-grown silverback gorilla is a breathtaking privilege.
Be sure to wear comfortable, sturdy footwear and thick pants to protect against the stinging nettles. Although we could have easily carried our own bags, my family and I chose to each hire a local porter for only usd10, as they depend on trekkers as a vital source of income. Be sure to take a few minutes away from your camera (easier said than done!) and just watch the gorillas, really soaking in the experience. It truly is a once in a lifetime adventure.
The 1 hour with the gorillas is an amazing experience I will never forget. We were surrounded by 23 gorillas including a silverback, a few black back males, females, teenagers and babies! There were 7 tourists (maximum is 8) in our group, 2 guides and 2 rangers so the experience was very intimate!
The US$1500 permit seemed expensive when planning for this gorilla safari in Rwanda but I felt that the money is being put to good use in protecting the mountain gorillas with trackers, rangers, and guides to educate tourists, (Gus and Manny our guides were very knowledgeable and friendly), and 10% of the permit fee also goes back to the local community to support schools and health/medical services.
We were on a 4 days gorilla safari and told our driver we were interested in a medium effort hike and he arranged for us to be placed in the Agasha group 13. The hike was about 45 minutes through farm fields and 45 minutes in the bush, relatively easy with only a slight grade to find the group. We lucked out with sunny dry skies. We hired porters for $10US to carry our daypack, porters can also give you a hand along if needed, but more importantly, this gives jobs to local communities, thus saving the gorillas and their habitat. Although the porters don’t go to see the gorillas, they stay with the backpacks just before see you the gorilla group.
Volcanoes Gorilla National park is stunning. Rwanda really is the land of a thousand hills. We also hiked Bisoke to the Crater Lake the next day with a group of 8 hikers, a guide and rangers. The permit is USD100. The hike goes past the turn off for Dian Fossey tomb where her camp and work took place. This is a steep hike so be prepared. It was just over 3 hours straight up. Be sure to take one of the free hiking sticks offered at the start even if you don’t usually hike with poles (I don’t usually) but the hike down was very slippery when it rained and the stick was a must!
Roads from Kigali capital to Kinigi park headquarters are good and traffic and local driving well as well. If I were to do this again I would rent a 4×4 in Kigali and drive myself rather than book a tour, but you really do need a 4×4 and experience driving it for “African massage” roads. Trekked into seeing one of the gorilla families that Dian Fossey made famous, truly a once in a lifetime experience.