The Virunga Massifs which lies at the border area between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offer refuge to about 480 individuals of the rare mountain gorillas representing about half of all the individuals that thrive on earth today while the remaining number thrives in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, southwestern Uganda.
The Virunga Massifs covers areas of Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Rwanda Volcanoes National Park features about 10 (ten) habituated families which visitors come and track each day. The park covers an area of 125 square kilometers and refuges 6 (six) of the eight (8) Virunga Mountains ranges. Unlike the usual wildlife safaris, spending an hour with a group of mountain gorillas while they are in their natural habitats is such a magical experience of lifetime. These unique primates ate intelligent, humble, and great giants on earth.
Best time for mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla tours in Volcanoes National Park are regarded as all year around experiences. Hiking through the thick jungles and steep slopes to see a group of these dramatic apes is ideally a breathtaking adventure. The experience can even be more dramatic depending on season and the nature of the habitat. The wet season that starts from April to May and November comes with its own drama; you will hike through the jungles and muddy steep slopes but the advantage with this season is that most of the gorillas are kept within the foothills due to plenty of food for them to depend on. And at elevation of about 2000 meters and above, you have to expect rains at any time of the day. The wet season is usually characterized by slippery and muddy steep slopes which make it a bit challenging for one to hike through the jungles to see a group these dramatic creatures while in the wilderness. Most trekkers visit the park for this lifetime adventure in dry season which starts from December to February and from June to September.
Gorilla trekking permits
When it comes to this primate adventure, a permit is a must to have for all interested visitors and it has to be booked in advance prior the actual day of gorilla trekking. About 80 permits are always available for visitor to purchase to be able to track one habituated family. On 6th May 2017, the Rwanda Development Board hiked the price of gorilla trekking permits from $750 to $1500 per visitor. The other exclusive packages include $15000 for personalized mountain gorilla visits mainly for targeted gorilla group, $3000 for a minimum of three trekkers for three consecutive days. The cost of the trekking permits covers park entry fees. The permits can be booked through a local tour operator or through Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation offices or through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to track mountain gorillas?
Mountain gorilla trekking is best conducted in habituated gorilla families and your permit allows you to track one habituated group in a group of 8 people per day. The notable groups for you to trek in Volcanoes National Park include the Agashya, Sabyinyo family, Hirwa, Amahoro, Umubano, the Susa ‘A’ and the Susa ‘B’, Kwitonda family, Ugenda and Bwenge family.
What physical level is required for gorilla trekking?
Gorilla trekking is a strenuous adventure which requires one to be physically well. The entire process involves hiking through the thick forest and steep slope to see a group of rare mountain gorillas and depending on the location of the gorilla family and nature of habitat, your trek can take about half hour to 8 hours. And note that these unique creatures live at altitude of 2500 meters above sea level. This requires you to have enough drinking water, energy giving snacks as well as walking stick and to get relieved of the heavy luggage; you can hire a porter to help you carry your luggage as you only concentrate on the actual adventure. The treks start early in the morning with briefing of visitors at the park headquarters in Kinigi and after you will be assigned to one group and one guide. You will be put in groups of eight people after you are briefed about the code of conduct to be observed while on the forest.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
Mountain gorillas share about 98% of their DNA with humans making them the most vulnerable primates to human infectious diseases and there are strict rules and regulations that apply to protect these critically endangered species on earth. Only one habituated group is tracked by one group of trekkers every day and once visitors come across their family, only one hour is allowed for them to spend with the mountain gorillas. For visitors who may not be feeling well, say you have any cold, flu or rather contagious infection, you won’t be allowed to go and track gorillas but you can reschedule and track another day when you are better, a distance of 7 meters has to be observed at all times, your voice should be kept low at all time but where need be ask as many questions as you can, don’t touch gorillas and never drink, eat, smoke in the gorilla habitat, your camera shouldn’t have a flashlight and if it has as you take photos make sure that the flash light is off.
Packing list for gorilla trekking
Note that gorilla trekking takes you through muddy, slippery and steep slopes which requires you to pack appropriately and not like you are traveling for a picnic. In your packing list, make sure that you have included waterproof hiking boots and should be light and offer support to ankle while you hike, waterproof jacket, long trousers, long sleeved shirts/T-shirt, hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, walking stick-this can be got at the park headquarters or at your lodge, camera, gorilla trekking permit, backpack, porter-can be hired at the park headquarters.
Therefore, mountain gorilla tours in Rwanda feature among the most sought after life changing experiences in most travelers’ itineraries. The entire experience is breathtaking and requires one to be well prepared to hike through the thick jungles and steep slopes. If you want to thrill your mind with primate adventures, then consider Volcanoes National Park a must to visit while on Rwanda safaris.