I have visited Rwanda for mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. As you can see from all the reviews on Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet, each gorilla safari is completely different. I had one easy trip and one more difficult one but managed to see a lot of gorillas on both trips.
The first gorilla trek was about a 1.5-hour hike up. We were told that it was going to be about that long. The family was huge (30+) with 4 Silverbacks (the patriarch passed away after our trip and two of the full-grown Silverbacks fought it out for the group. The third was the son). We also saw some babies. One of the Silverbacks went around bumping members of our group. We made it back in 45 minutes.
The second hike was a little longer than planned! We had requested a close gorilla group as my mom; her friend and my brother’s pregnant wife were with us. It turned out to be a 4.5-hour hike to find the gorillas. A group of buffalo (we had to sneak past them) had scared the gorillas off. The terrain was also difficult and my mom’s friend was helped by two porters.
When we finally found the gorillas, it was all worth it. The kids wrestling us each other and the Silverback keeping a look over the family. Even though the hike was difficult, it was definitely one of the main parts of the visit as the terrain was beautiful. We also really got to see the real “Gorillas in the Mist”.
Having done some research prior to the trips, we were ready for anything. Lots of water are recommended and bring snacks especially those that can give you energy kicks. Prepare for rain, mud and tough terrain. I suggest wearing gloves. At the end of the day, the hike can be very easy, but best to be prepared. If you have any doubts about the trek take a porter.
I and my fellow travelers I was travelling with were lucky enough to be selected to track the Susa group. Another tourist with us had information about this group and she said the group has the big number in that area and was normally the hardest to get to, so we were both excited and a little nervous about the trek ahead!
I am not going to lie, the trekking is hard work! It took us nearly two hours simply to reach the tree line and the altitude really takes your breath away if it’s not something you are used to. In the forest itself, you have to be very careful where you tread as the undergrowth is dense and slippery, even a couple of our porters took a tumble every now and then to carry our big bags equipped with our perfect cameras ready to take unforgettable shoots and videos while with the mountain gorillas in the mist!
In general, an experience of a lifetime with the mammals those are the most similar to humans. The interaction is very close to small groups. It is well organized, best to buy your passes directly from the Rwanda Development Board or through your travel agent.