Rwanda is one of only three countries in the world where the critically endangered mountain gorillas live.
Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is often described as “life changing” and with good reason. With only an estimated 880 Gorillas left in the world, to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat is a truly unique moment.
Gorillas make their homes in and amongst the bamboo-covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda. Trek to see them and you’ll be introduced by your expert trackers and guides to one of the fully-habituated families of mountain gorillas and you can stay with them for an awe-inspiring hour, often crouching just a few feet away, whilst the gorillas go about their daily lives.
Hikes in the mountains can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours + depending on the family allocated to your group and their location. The journey back can take just as long, but you are often carried along by the euphoria you feel at seeing the gorillas!
Expert guides give a pre-trek briefing on specific protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas that live within an altitude of 2500 and 4000m. Porters are available to help carry backpacks and cameras, as well as helping you with your footing along your hike which can be hard work, but well worth it.
Book your permit: Gorilla permits can be booked at the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office in person, by telephone (252 57 65 14) or via email: email@example.com.
Costs for gorilla permits:
- USD $750 per person for non-nationals
- USD $375 for foreign residents
- 30,000 Frw for Rwandan citizens
The fees are inclusive of park entry fees.
From Kigali, you need to get to Muzanze. Muzanze is a 90 minute drive from Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. You can either hire a private care or take a public taxi minibus. From there, you need to get to Kinigi, where the trip begins. Vehicles can be hired for this purpose in Musanze town.
On the day of you are scheduled to trek, you must present yourself for briefing at the RDB Tourism & Conservation offices situated at the prefecture offices in Kinigi at 7:00 AM.
RDB Tourism & Conservation currently has English and French speaking trained guides as well as a team of 80 trained gorilla trackers many of whom speak French or English.
The climate in Musanze is changeable and you can generally expect both sun and rainfall during the day. At 1,700m above sea level, the city is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening, so warm clothing is advised.
What to wear:
Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings. Steady walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. Raingear useful.
What else to bring:
Bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden. Don’t forget your camera!
Photographs are permitted, although you may not use flash.
Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small charge.
Mountain gorillas live at high altitude and this may cause difficulties for some visitors. You should walk slowly and drink plenty of water. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.
There are several guidelines that RDB kindly requests all visitors adhere by:
- To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, please do not visit the gorillas.
- Viewing time is limited to one hour.
- Maximum 8 visitors per group.
- Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited.
- Should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.
- When with the gorillas, keep your voice low.
- Try not to make rapid movements that may frighten the gorillas.
- If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.
- Do not litter.
- Tracking can be done by persons of age 16 and above.
There are ten families living in the Volcanoes National Park that are fully habituated and available for visits by the public (whilst others are habituated for scientific research purposes only) . Each family consists of at least one Silverback (but sometimes as many and four), along with several females and a group of youngsters.
- Susa — The largest group with 38 gorillas. They’re hardest to trek as they tend to range high into the mountains. They have rare 5 year old twins named Byishimo and Impano.
- Sabinyo— 17 members Sabyinyo is an easily accessible group led by the powerful silverback Guhonda.
- Amahoro — 19 gorillas, led by teh calm and easy going Ubumwe. To reach Amahoro it’s usually a fairly steep climb but it is well worth it!
- Agashya — (formerly known as Group 13) today it has 22 members - a very positive sign for conservation.
- Kwitonda— 23 members led by Akarevuro, originally habituated in DRC so they tend to range quite far making it a moderately difficult trek.
- Umubano —a family of 13, who broke off from Amahoro with leader, Charles,
- Hirwa —this group has 18 members and only fairly recently formed from former Group 13 and Sabyinyo family members. They are led by Munyinya.