Gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda are conducted in Volcanoes National Park, located about 3-4 hours away from Kigali International Airport by road. This makes gorilla trekking in Rwanda very convenient for tourists with limited time or those who wish to catch their fight back home immediately after the activity. The gorilla trekking experience gives you an opportunity for an up-close encounter with the endangered mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park is inhabited by several gorilla families all which can be encountered during the hiking experience depending on the family allocated to you for tracking. The family groups are located in different parts of the park with similar yet different characteristics such as adventurous, peaceful. Some of the gorilla families include; Amahoro, Sabyinyo, Titus, Agashya, Karisimbi, Susa A, Umbano, Hirwa, Ugenda and Bwenge.
On the day of the activity, you get up early enough, have breakfast and take a short drive from your hotel to the park headquarters in Kinigi village. First you are briefed about the safety precautions for gorilla trekking. You are then allocated to a group of not more than 8 people and an armed game ranger guide to move with you in the jungle. The guide stays in touch with the trackers on ground so as to easily locate the gorillas and communication is done through a radio call/walkie talkie.
Once you locate the mountain gorillas, you are given a maximum of 1 hour to watch them playing, copulating, feeding and some young ones may approach you. The time spent in the forest looking for the mountain gorillas depends on the speed of the group/trackers and the terrain.
Mountain gorillas can easily catch human diseases since they share 98% of human DNA. Therefore, certain measures have been put in place for gorilla trekking and these are;
Only one group of tourists is allowed to visit each mountain gorilla group in a day.
People suffering from any contagious diseases like flu and cough are not allowed to do gorilla trekking.
Keep a distance of about 7 meters from the gorillas. Do this at all times and keep away from the gorillas as they may not be aware of keeping this 7-meter distance.
Keep close to your group at all times
Try as much as possible not to make sudden movements in the presence of the gorillas, keep your voice low as much as possible as you go trekking and even after seeing the gorillas. High pitched sounds could easily bother the gorillas and make them uncomfortable.
You are not allowed to eat, drink and smoke while in the presence of the mountain gorillas.
Clean your hands before heading out to the forest. This is done to ensure that no infections are carried into the gorilla habitat since hands can touch so many surfaces during the trek.
Flash photography is not allowed. Carry a no-flash camera or turn the flash off when taking pictures or recording videos of the mountain gorillas.
A maximum of 1 hour is spent in the presence of the mountain gorillas and all tourists should respect this.
Do not litter or leave any rubbish in the gorilla habitat. Take back whatever you come with into the forest.
The above statement rules and regulations should at all times be adhered to in order to have a successful gorilla safari in Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be done all year round. However, the dry seasons are the most recommended for gorilla tours and this is during the months of December, February, June to September. The trails are dry and easier to navigate. The dry season is a peak season and therefore it is advised that you book your gorilla trekking permit in advance. In the rainy season, the trails are muddy and slippery. It is during this time when there are less people engaging in gorilla trekking (low season) hence there is a chance to easily get a gorilla trekking permit even on a last-minute booking.
However, while planning a Rwanda gorilla safari, it is always advisable that you book the permit in advance in order to avoid any disappointments. A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda costs $1,500.