Rwanda Gorilla Experience

4 Days


The film Gorillas In The Mist brought our collective attention to the plight of the endangered mountain gorillas, gentle giants whose existence has for years been threatened by poaching and habitat destruction. While these animals are still listed as critically endangered, enormous efforts have been made over the past couple of decades to combat this risk and improve their chances of survival.

The Virunga Mountains are home to around 800 gorillas, the last remaining wild mountain gorillas in the world. Gorilla trekking is one of the key conservation efforts created by the three African countries who share these mountains – Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC – where the cost of the permits is funneled back into the conservation programmes that protect the animals.

Coming face to face with gorillas is something truly special, a powerful and humbling experience that leaves you feeling changed. In addition to your time with them, you’ll also discover a little of the beautiful  and complex country that is Rwanda. From the Genocide Museum in Kigali to the terraced hillsides and sweeping mountain landscapes that precede your entry into Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda will have a hold on your thoughts long after you’ve left.

Note: gorilla trekking is available to visitors aged 15 years and older.

Upon arrival at Kigali Airport in Rwanda, you will be met by a local representative who will assist with your transfer to your Kigali hotel for your overnight stay. You can then explore this fascinating city at your leisure for the remainder of the day.

Kigali is geographically located in the very centre of the country, making it the perfect entry and exit point for your journey. The city is clean and safe and the local residents are extremely friendly people who will welcome you warmly. With a plethora of cultural activities and sightseeing including award-winning museums, a burgeoning music scene and some of East Africa's most memorable dining experiences, Kigali is an exciting destination that sets the tone for your Rwandan trip.

Following a hearty breakfast you will be collected from your hotel by your guide for a morning city tour which includes a visit to the Genocide Museum. After lunch, you’ll depart on a scenic drive north-west through beautiful terraced hillsides. Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills and the 2.5 hour drive to Volcanoes National Park gives you ample opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. After stopping off at several viewpoints for photos, you'll arrive at Ruhengeri, your base in the Park for your gorilla trek. Ruhengeri is a small and friendly town just 25km from the Uganda border offering great views of the surrounding volcanoes. You'll have the afternoon to relax and explore before setting out early the following day on your trek.

On the day of the trek you'll be up and ready to leave at 06h30am. Your first stop is Volcanoes National Park headquarters for registration and grouping. Park staff will determine which group of gorillas you'll visit and divide you into groups of up to eight according to fitness levels. There are only 80 gorilla permits available each day and visitors are spread out between different gorilla families in order to minimise disturbance to them. It’s important to book well in advance to secure a permit. Once you’ve been assigned to a group, your guide will brief you on trekking procedures and what you may and may not do while in the presence of the gorillas. From here you'll drive up the mountain to the starting point of your trek. You can hire a porter at an additional cost if you'd prefer help carrying your backpack and photography gear - this option also provides valulable employment opportunities for locals.

Your trek can take anywhere from two to six hours depending on the group you've been assigned to and whether the gorillas move before the park rangers have managed to locate them. The guides will stop frequently to give you the chance to rest and take photos along the way. Once you reach one of the habituated gorilla families that tolerate the presence of humans, you will have one hour with them. Watch the younger ones flinging themselves through vine-covered trees while the older adults groom one another or scratch round for snacks. As tempting as it may be to capture that perfect photo, remember to put your camera down at times and just experience the moment.

At the end of your trek, you will be transferred back to the lodge for lunch and a free afternoon of exploring. Visit the twin lakes of Bulera and Runhondo or head into town and go shopping at one of the local markets.

Leaving from the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, you’ll drive south past coffee, tea and banana plantations on the breathtakingly scenic drive back to Kigali where you'll catch a flight to your next destination.

Best times of year for gorilla trekking:

Excellent – January-March, July-October

Good – December

Fair – June, November

Poor – April, May


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