How to plan a gorilla trek in Africa

 

There is something special about trekking to see mountain gorillas in the remote rain forests in Uganda Rwanda & Democratic Republic of Congo. That unique feeling and realization that they are just like us, living in closely attached family groups, evidently headed by a “parent”, the dominant silverback serving as their protector and defender.

mountain-gorilla-with-infant

Though still categorized as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mountain gorilla populations have progressively been growing with each year, as there remarkable numbers of new borns and less deaths thanks to strict conservation effort and protection of their habitat.

There estimated to be over 1000 gorilla species, residing in Bwindi Forest in Uganda and in the Virunga conservation region, comprising of volcanic mountains with bamboo forest shared by Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Mgahinga national Park Uganda and Virunga national park in Congo.

Practical guide to gorilla trekking

Book your gorilla permit, before you confirm your flights to Africa. There is so much competition for Gorilla permits especially during the peak seasons of June – September. Rwanda offers a total number of 80 gorilla permits per day, Uganda offers 104 gorilla permits per day, and 8 available for gorilla habituation experience while Congo offers a total of 48 permits.

virunga-gorilla-safari

The numbers of visitors traveling to see mountain gorillas in the wild is multiplying by each year, that there is great need to book your gorilla safari at least a year in advance. As such, the government of Rwanda has double the price of gorilla permits from $750 to $1500 Per Person for 1 hour with the gorillas so as to limit the number of visitors. A gorilla permits in Uganda still goes for $600 Per Person, while Congo gorilla permits go for $450. My suggestion is to arrive through Kigali crossing into Uganda – 3 hours drive – and trek to the gorillas in Bwindi forest at $600 and drive back to Kigali.

Is gorilla trekking worth the hustle?

There is no single traveller who has had the opportunity to track gorillas that hasn’t loved it! Check out ratings and reviews on trusted travel forums like TripAdvisor Lonely Planet and Fodors. Trekking to see gorillas is one of the most fulfilling and meaningful adventures, not only to save the critically endangered species, but also to aid the poor communities surrounding the national parks.

gorilla-trekking-rwanda

Is it safe?

Uganda and Rwanda are very safe countries to visit, with no security issues. When trekking gorillas in the jungle, visitors are guides by professional rangers, escorted by military armed guards. Safety for visitors is priority area enforced governments as tourism is a major revenue earner for the country’s budgets.

What to pack for gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking takes you hiking through the jungle in search for mountain gorillas, its essential that you packing the right clothing, footwear to protect you from nettles, slippery grounds, branches and more.

gorila-tours-africa

Don’t forget…

A pair of waterproof hiking boots, as the trails get slippery when it rains.

Dress in long trousers to protect your skin against nettles, thorns, long sleeved shirts and a light rain jacket in case of rain.

A pair of sturdy garden gloves to protect your hands, in case you touch nettles, thorns, vines, etc.

Insect repellent is a must.

Essentials for your trek

Keep on time for your briefing! If you skip the briefing, you cannot trek to see gorillas.

Hire a porter to carry your day pack.

A hiking stick comes in handy.

Work on your physical fitness.

Note that gorilla trekking is possible even for the very old and the disabled.

Kalitta Belinda is the Tours Manager at Wild Rwanda Safaris.

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