Gorilla Trekking Tours in Africa – Tracking Mountain Gorilla in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Globally, tourists put gorilla trekking tours in Africa top on their safari agendas due to its thrilling nature. There are around 900 mountain gorillas left and watching them in their natural habitats is a thing a few people will ever have the opportunity to experience. This article gives you where the mountain gorillas live and you will find them, where to stay while on a trekking safari, the tracking costs, the best time to visit gorillas and the best tour firm to book with.
Where can you see Mountain Gorillas in Africa?
Around 480 mountain gorillas live in an extinct volcanic region of the Virunga Mountain Range across the boundaries of Rwanda, Uganda in East Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC) in Central Africa. On the other hand, other over 450 mountain gorillas dwell in the neighbouring region Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a thick rain forest in south western Uganda.
Gorilla Trekking Safari Packages
Trekking Gorillas in Uganda
Uganda has two parks where mountain gorillas are found and these are; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where gorilla trekking tours are the major safari activities. Click here to see a map of where the parks are located.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a home to nearly half of all mountain gorillas in the world is found in south-western Uganda. The park which occupies around 200 square miles of exceptionally dense thick forest is a proclaimed World Heritage site according to UNICEF. After gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest, a visitors can as well do birding, community, cultural and nature tours around the area.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is found in the southwestern corner of Uganda on the gradients of the Virunga Mountains near the borders of Congo and Rwanda. The park with 28 square miles harbours gorillas, golden monkeys, a few primate species and birds. A visitor to Mgahinga may as well do community and nature walks around the park.
Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Rwanda
Rwanda, a tiny country in east Africa has got mountain gorillas as a major attraction. The Volcanoes National Park Rwanda also known as Parc National Des Volcans (PNV) is also a habitat to Golden Monkeys, white and black colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys and primate species. Around Volcanoes national park is also a place where Dian Fossey, a famous gorilla conservationist was buried. The park is on an area of around 46 square miles and comprises of six volcanoes. Although the country faced a grave genocide in the first half of 1990’s, there has been a tremendous recovery in the economy where tourism including gorilla trekking are progressing steadily. At the Volcanoes Park is where Dian Fossey put her base and research centre. On a better note, Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda is slightly less tiresome than in Bwindi Forest as these primates do not make several movements.
Gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has got Mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park or Parc National des Virunga. The same country is also a home to the Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park. The population of gorillas in Gongo experienced a major obstruction as many of these primates were violently killed in 2007.
In the year 2012, a census revealed that the gorillas were quite fine despite the instabilities that had depleted some of them some years back. Thanks to the rangers efforts in combating poaching in collaboration with Virunga National Park authorities. A tragic incident happened in 2014 when the Director of the park got gunshots in an ambush, but fortunately survived. He continues to with his efforts to save the Virunga Park from some clusters of rebels to encroach on their area plus some Oil Companies seeking for drilling rights around and into the park.
Trekking Mountain Gorillas
Whereas you are not 100% guaranteed on seeing the mountain gorillas while on a trekking safari, there are about 98% chances of spotting them in the jungle. The trekking excursion to the woodlands where the gorillas live takes you via the extremely dark vegetation, negotiating ups and downs in the vegetation for hours until you meet them. The solid vegetation is usually characterised by stinging and burning provokes, thus putting on gloves is a noble idea. Biting insects like ants or mosquitoes are also existent in the forest, meaning wearing long socks, long-sleeved shirts and trousers is a good precautious idea. Gorillas wander around their habitats and therefore trekking them is not an easy task. The mountain gorillas you will meet while ion you Uganda, Congo or Rwanda gorilla safari are habituated ones, implying that they are ideal to be close to humans with no dangers. Habituated gorillas are the ones made to get accustomed to live in the presence of humans with no problems arising. However the peaceful characters of these gorillas are only maintained as long as they are not provoked or irritated. As you enjoy gorilla trekking tours, ensure that you follow strictly the set rules and regulations by the park authorities.
Some basic rules of tracking gorillas include:
- You must be above 15 years old
- Don’t go to track when sick or having an infectious disease
- One hour is the time allowed to be the gorillas in at least a distance of 5 meters
- Between 6 to 12 people per group is the maximum number of visitors per day.
- Do not use camera flash while taking gorilla photos
- Body fitness is necessary for trekking
- Proper body equipment like warm clothing for wet weather conditions.
- No eating or drinking near the gorillas
- Do not touch the gorillas, though they may choose to touch on you instead.
- Pointing at gorillas is unacceptable
Gorilla Trekking Permits
To see gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo, you need a formal permit sold and issued by the respective wildlife or tourism authorities in such countries.
In short, a permit is an entry ticket to the forest to watch gorillas. Such permit is obtainable some months back via reliable tour operators like Speedway Safaris. Such an operator will booked and buy a permit for you as well as organising the entire safari itinerary package for you.
In Uganda, a gorilla permit costs USD 600 a foreign non-resident and USD 450 for a foreign resident per person per day in high season months. Except for April, May and November, permits are slashed to USD 450. For easy gorilla safari bookings, you can buy your entire gorilla trip using specialised companies such as Speedway Safaris Uganda.
In Rwanda, permits sold by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in Kigali can also be booked via a reliable gorilla trekking tour operator who would organise the entire trip. A Rwanda Gorilla permit costs USD 1500 per person and valid for a day. Booking a gorilla permit is advance applies everything there are gorillas, Rwanda inclusive. It is difficult to obtain a permit without booking a tour at the same time.
In the DR Congo, a permit is at USD 400. A tour operator organising your Congo safari must update you about the security situation as this country is known for being volatile. You can combine your visit with chimpanzee trekking and an amazing volcano trek.
When to Go for Gorilla Trekking Tours in Africa?
Mountain gorillas can be trekked at any time of year. Though the rainy period tend to make the forest paths a bit difficult to pass. The rainy seasons happen in months of March to May plus October to November. These trekking periods apply to all the three countries.
How to Get There?
The majority of gorilla tours will include transport from either Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda or Kampala in Uganda. This applies whether you have travelled with a tour operator or alone by public means.
Getting to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
To travel to Bwindi, one can drive from Kampala to the park and this usually takes 10 hours covering 480 kms. Bwindi gorilla groups/families are spread to various regions and therefore, the travel time vary depending on where one will stay. Professional and knowledgeable tour guides know the routes very well and will transfer you safely. Unwilling to sit in a vehicle for longer hours, a visitor may choose to fly to Bwindi using the daily and weekly scheduled flight or charter. Uganda has flights from Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The two available transfer options; that is the use of road from Kampala or flying from Entebbe to Bwindi are executable in a 3 days gorilla safari. As for chartered flights from Entebbe, the trip is doable in one or two days only. Bwindi is also accessible easily from Rwanda. The drive takes about 3 hours. The option of trekking gorillas in Uganda going through Rwanda facilitates well 2 and 3 days gorilla safaris in Uganda.
Accessing Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park is not far different from that of Bwindi as transfer plans are almost the same. Kisoro is the main town the park and its where most tourist stay prior and after doing activities in the forest including golden monkey tracking. For flying, a plane moves from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip instead of Kihihi in Kanungu district near Bwindi. Mgahinga National Park is also easily accessible from Kigali Rwanda via Katuna or Cyanika border posts.
Getting Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Getting to Volcanoes National park is roughly a driver of 3 hours from Kigali. Ruhengeri Town and its surroundings are near the park entrance and has got several accommodation facilities for gorilla visitors. Since the park is nearer to the Kigali, the entry gateway to Rwanda, 1, 2 and 3 days gorilla safaris are very common and easily executable.
Accessing Virunga National Park in Congo
Virunga National Park is 20 miles from Goma town, the capital of North Kivu province in Congo. To trek gorillas in Virunga, it is better for one to have stayed around Gisenyi City in Rwanda or Goma a day before. Gisenyi is adjoins Goma and are the bases for gorilla safaris in Congo. Visitors doing safaris in Uganda or tours in Rwanda at times choose supplement them with congo tours. These include mountain gorilla trekking and Nyiragongo Volcano Hiking in the Virunga plus Lowland Gorilla Safaris in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Where to Stay while on a Gorilla Safari
In case you are planning trekking gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo, accommodation should not worry you at all. There are several lodge and hotel facilities in Uganda Rwanda.
There are several tour options offered by various operators in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo
Gorilla and chimpanzee safaris in Uganda by Speedway Safaris or Gorilla trekking in Rwanda by AAB Tours and Travel