In order for gorilla trekking to effectively contribute to the protection and conservation of mountain gorillas, strict rules have been put in place to curb the threats that often stem from gorilla tourism.
Gorillas can be visited in Central and East Africa in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Virunga Region covering the edges of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda is comprised of three national parks, namely, Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Virunga National Park.
Rwanda: Volcanoes National Park
In Rwanda, gorilla safaris take place in Volcanoes National Park, which is situated just two hours drive from the capital city of Kigali. Given that the airport is located in Kigali, this specific park is one of the most popular options for gorilla trekking due to its convenience when compared to other gorilla tourism destinations. The park boasts ten habituated gorilla groups and has the highest number of mountain gorillas of all the parks in the Virunga Conservation Region, followed by Virunga National Park which has six gorilla groups, and lastly Mgahinga with just one gorilla group.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda is carried out within a very strict and organized system. Visitors have to attend a briefing session stating the rules and guiding principles that one must follow when entering the park. Despite being habituated, gorillas are still wild animals and the situation can quickly become dangerous for both the gorillas and the trekkers if rules are not followed.
What You Should Know About Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Visitors should be at the Kinigi Head Office by 7:00am for a gorilla briefing session that will be provided by the Head Guide before the actual trekking encounter commences. If you miss the briefing, you will not be allowed to take part in the Rwanda Gorilla Safari even in the event that you've purchased a gorilla permit. Noting this, it goes without saying that being on time is very important.
A visitor has the choice to decide which group of gorillas they would like to visit. Each group is typically associated with an easy, medium or strenuous hike and it's important to be realistic about your physical ability and to ensure that you're in shape.
A group of eight individuals per day are able to visit each group of gorillas in Rwanda for about one hour. This means that there are 80 gorilla permites available in Rwanda on a single day.
Please Note: Permits get booked quite early and it’s very necessary to book well in advance.
Gorilla trekking starts in the morning and ranges from one to eight hours of hiking depending on the movement of the specific gorilla family.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
Very important... follow your guide's instructions! Your guide leads visits to gorillas every single day and is familiar with the gorilla environment.
Keep with your group, otherwise you can easily get lost in the jungle. The group moves at the pace of the slowest person. When in the presence of gorillas, don’t disperse to get a better view, stick to your group at all times.
Don’t go gorilla trekking if you're sick. Inform your Park Warden and you will receive a refund for your gorilla permit.
Don’t leave rubbish in the forest. Gorillas are very much vulnerable to human infection. It's very necessary that you trek out anything that you trek in.
Don’t make noise when in the presence of the gorillas. This can irritate and threaten them!
Keep a safe distance from the gorillas to avoid disease transmission. Gorillas can easily die from human diseases, as they have no immunity to human-transmitted infections.
Don’t try to touch or hold eye contact with the gorillas. They are wild and can react unexpectedly.
No flash cameras are allowed at any point in the trekking experience. The flashlight can make the gorillas feel threatened and cause them to become violent.
Trekkers are also recommended to wear long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants due to the fact that the forest is full of thorny plants. Garden gloves will also come in handy to protect your fingers when trying to grip onto vegetations for support. It's also smart to carry a raincoat and waterproof pants as rainful is frequent in the area even during the dry season.