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Gorilla trekking in Rwanda,  Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a life-changing safari that brings you closer to the giant Apes in their natural habitat. A 3 hours’ road trip to the Musanze district in north-western side of Rwanda will introduce you to the verdant Volcanoes National Park, a home to the endangered Mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park was gazetted in 1925 to conserve the mountain gorillas that were facing extinction and covers over 160 square kilometers of mainly Tropical rainforest and Bamboo forest. The Park is also popular for being the research center of Dian Fossey-an American primatologist who dedicated over 18 years of her life in studying and protecting the gentle giants Mountain gorillas).

Gorilla Families in Rwanda

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is a home to more than 20 Gorilla families but only 10 gorilla families have been habituated for tourism. These families are Susa A, Susa B (Karisimbi), Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Ugenda, Amahoro, Agashya (Group 13), Sabyinyo and Bwenge.

How Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done

The quiet sound of the wild whispering and birds singing will be a signal that it is already break of dawn where you will be required to prepare yourself and have your breakfast. Move to the Park Headquarters where you will meet other trekkers, rangers, guides and porters to be briefed on the guidelines of your long-awaited activity. Move to the trailhead and this will be followed by bushwhacking through the thickets of bamboo and huge trees, while supporting yourself up the steep and rugged slopes toehold to toehold.

This challenging trek will be spiced up by an encounter with other numerous features of the Volcanoes National Park especially the birds, primates and outstanding tree species. Even when you move through thick canopies, behold some sunlight streams through the canopies that will illuminate the curtain of verdant rainforest. After several hours of trekking, you will be signaled by the tour guide and finally set your eyes into the huge silverback resting and protecting his territories while ready to charge at any suspected enemy, a saggy-breasted female nursing her baby, juveniles twirling down the bamboo stalks, infants playing and other members of the family foraging from a distance. Spend one hour and let your cameras unholster faster than shooters while taking photos of this magical moment and later head to your room to relax/rest.

Cost of gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda

The cost of gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda is $1500 from $750 three years ago.

Guidelines of trekking Gorillas in Rwanda

Human access to each habituated gorilla family is restricted to only 8 persons per day thus 80 visitors are allowed to undertake guided gorilla treks in Volcanoes National Park every day.

Make sure your hands are properly washed before tracking the Mountain gorillas.

Avoid using flash cameras for photography.

Tourists have only one tightly-monitored hour with each habituated gorilla family.

Avoid eating and smoking while in the presence of mountain gorillas to avoid dropping food particles that in turn become breeding places for germs.

Stay at least 7 meters away from the Mountain gorillas and avoid touching them. If a mountain gorilla moves towards you, slowly step away. Don’t touch them because regardless of their friendliness, they are still wild animals.

Avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas and if any of them charges, don’t freak out but instead face away or drop to the ground in submission.

Keep voices low while trekking or when in the presence of the Mountain gorillas. This is done to prevent scaring the other residents of the Park especially birds.

What to carry for a gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda

After paying for your Rwanda gorilla trekking safari (in terms of permits, accommodation and transport), the next thing is to organize your packing list to include your gorilla permit, travel documents (passport and air ticket), strong waterproof hiking boots, first aid kit, long-sleeved shirts, safari pants, gardening gloves, rain jacket, sweater, hat, non-flash camera with enough batteries and memory card, energy giving snacks, underwear, water bottle, sunglasses, cotton socks, swimsuit, pajamas, toiletries (toothbrush, hand wipes, deodorant, hair shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, hair gel and lip gloss), medicines and insect repellant among others.

Best time for trekking gorillas in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is conducted all year round although some travelers prefer it during the dry season while others during the rainy/wet season. For tourists planning to travel during the dry season (months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December), conditions are more favorable with less muddy hiking trails hence making the activity more interesting and less challenging. This is undeniably also the peak season because most tourists prefer this time, making demand for gorilla permits and accommodation facilities to be high.

For those planning to trek Rwanda gorillas during the wet season (March, April, May, October and November), trekking conditions are more challenging with muddy and slippery trails but the advantage is that mountain gorillas occupy the lower slopes because of abundance of food and to avoid cold temperatures in higher altitudes. Also, accommodation facilities are not fully booked during the wet season hence travelers have more options to choose from and some Lodges offer discounted rates.

How to get to Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is only 105 kilometers/2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali City and can be reached through private and public transport means. For the latter, you board a bus from Nyabugogo Bus station to Musanze then to Kinigi Park Headquarters by cab. For primate means you will drive from Kigali to Kinigi Park Headquarters or your booked accommodation facility.

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