Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda: Helpful Tips for First Time Travelers

image courtesy of M.Makonzi
Written by editor

Preparing for your first trip can be hard! To some it is quite overwhelming and sophiscated to put together a trip on your own. Planning lifetime adventures like gorilla trekking is not an easy job and most times, you need handy tips to guide you through the process of planning to booking your trip.

Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular adventure activities that do not miss on the bucket list of things to do in Rwanda, Uganda or Democratic republic of Congo (DRC). The experience in itself is a challenging hike but the encounter with the mountain gorillas make it worthwhile.

It is important to note that, gorilla trekking is a rewarding lifetime experience to gaze at the mountain gorillas in the wild. The mountain gorillas are endangered species and are only found in three countries in the whole world; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

They live up in the tropical rain forest where visitors always have to trek following their trail until they finally find a settled gorilla family going about their day playing, feeding or resting.

The experience alone of trekking is quite thrilling especially during the rainy season amidst slippery grounds. In this article, we share handy tips and tricks that we think will be useful for every beginner to plan your next Rwanda safari. These tips include how to plan, what to pack, safety tips and more. With these tips, you will enjoy your gorilla safari in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.

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For the first time traveler planning a gorilla safari you need to note the following;

  1. Book a Gorilla Permit Well in Advance

The moment you think of a gorilla safari, securing a gorilla permit should come in handy. A gorilla permit is your guarantee for this life experience. You can secure a through a registered tour operator in Rwanda.   

The cost of a gorilla permit in Rwanda is $1500. It is also advisable to book your gorilla permit at least 3 months in advance to avoid last minute inconveniences.  

2. Choose the Best Travel Season

Gorilla trekking is an all year daily activity. However, it is associated with high and low season especially during the rainy season and dry season. The rainy season is usually in the month of March, May, October and November.

The rest of the months are dry seasons, therefore you need to choose well not to ruin your experience. Also important to note; during high season accommodation facilities get occupied easily and may be a hustle securing one.

In wet seasons gorillas tend not to move very far deep into the Volcanoes National Park so you can trek for a shorter time.

3. Carry Important Travel Documents

After securing a permit and sure of travel season, you would probably wonder what else you need on your list. Among the other important documents for a convenient gorilla safari in Africa include but not limited; yellow fever immunization card, Covid-19 Immunization, visa card and all other necessary travel documents.

4. Have the Right Pack

You are also reminded to pack light clothing, good hiking boots, rain jackets, insect repellant, garden gloves; just to mention but a few.

On actual day of visiting the mountain gorillas, you will need a pack of snacks or lunch plus plenty of drinking water.=

5. Obey the Gorilla Watching Rules & Regulations

While with the mountain gorillas you will be asked to observe the rules and regulations like stay back 7 meters away from the gorillas, avoid flash photography. You will be allowed to spend one hour with the gorillas while observing them.

Note: only persons above 15 years of age will be allowed to track mountain gorillas.

6. You Need to Be Fit

Your fitness level matters a lot when it comes to mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda. To keep fit enough for your gorilla trek in the Volcanoes National Park, you must have adequate time to exercise, stretch, run around the hillside back in your home country or travel early and make advantage of the hills in Rwanda for a few days before your trek.

By the time you get to Volcanoes National Park for actual gorilla trek, your fitness level would have improved significantly. Though treks to see gorillas often takes 2-6 hours, most often, even the elderly have made it through Rwanda jungles to explore more about these massive apes. The recommended age limit for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is 15 years and above – below this, you won’t be allowed to take part in this exhilarating experience.

7. Services of a porter

You can also hire a porter to help you carry some of your luggage during the trek. The porter can help carry daypack of your essentials that you will need to use. And this will give you room to put full concentration on your trek.

Porters in Rwanda can be hired at USD20 per person for a day. When you hire a porter, you also support the local communities and never know you are changing the lives of the locals living close the national park.

8. Choosing a Gorilla Family to Trek in Rwanda

It is recommended to request for a gorilla group that is easy to track. Different gorilla families offer different elevation challenges. Susa A gorilla group is known for its breathtaking/challenging treks in Rwanda due to the terrains in where the group is found.

If you are looking for the most accessible group, then Sabyinyo gorilla family should be a must visit. Other families that don’t demand much when it comes to physical fitness include Hirwa gorilla family, Umubano, Amahoro family group, etc.

For most guided safaris in Rwanda, your guide will be responsible for requesting a gorilla family that suits your interests during the allocation process that is done at the park headquarters at Kinigi.

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About the author


Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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