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 are a truly unique moment.
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.
Mountain gorillas are very susceptible to catching human infections, particularly respiratory ones, but they don’t have our immune system to deal with them – a common cold could eventually prove life-threatening.
Various rules for gorilla trekking are therefore in place to help protect these precious primates.
Only children above the age of 15 yrs can go Gorilla Trekking. Only one group of tourists can visit the mountain gorillas each day and once you’ve found them, you’ll have just one precious hour in their company. If you have a cold, flu or other contagious infection, you shouldn’t go gorilla trekking.
You should keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas, although of course the gorillas themselves are unaware of this and will often get very close, in which case you should try to move away.
When you’re with your group, you should try not to make sudden movements and to keep your voices low so that the group remains relaxed. Although these mountain gorillas are now used to seeing people, do bear in mind that they are still wild animals and can sometimes react unexpectedly, so always heed your guide’s and trackers’ instructions.
You won’t be allowed to eat or drink when you’re with the gorillas
Permits for gorilla trekking
Inevitably, securing permits for trekking gorillas over these popular periods (can be difficult at short notice, so you should plan well ahead. We will make all the arrangements for buying your permits.
A maximum of 96 gorilla tracking permits are available each day. Permits cost US$1500 per person per visit. Rwanda Gorilla Permits doubled in price in order to fund the conservation efforts and aide the local communities around Volcanoes National Par. It is also part of the country’s effort to market itself as an upmarket destination, especially when it comes to Gorilla Trekking. Rwanda also pays for a 24-hour guard for each gorilla group. (Armed teams constantly track each habituated group.
How fit do I need to be to track gorillas?
You don’t have to be super-fit for a gorilla tracking safari but it does help if you have a general level of fitness, if only to enhance your overall enjoyment of the experience. Walking will be at a slow pace with time for breaks if needed. Depending on which group you track, and the time of year you go (gorillas tend to move down the mountains in the rains), you might find yourself walking on some pretty steep slopes for several hours. On the other hand, you could reach your group after a 30-minute stroll. It’s best to prepare for the most active option however, and if nothing else, a few hill walks before you leave would be beneficial.
The gorilla group that you will visit will depend on the assignment of travelers to the twelve (12) habituated
gorilla groups. They will be assigned to a specific group of gorillas. Their trek will vary in length depending on which gorilla group you have been assigned to and will commence at about 4,500 feet of altitude in the upper terraced slopes of the volcano. They follow paths and the walking is steep but not overly strenuous. Porters are available at a small fee (around US$10) to carry your daypack and help you up the steep slopes when gorilla tracking.
In order to minimize behavioral disturbances to the gorillas, only 8 people are allowed to visit each of the families/ 1 hour only/ per day.
What kit should you take for a gorilla trekking safari?
Paths on gorilla treks can be slippery, muddy and steep so sturdy walking boots are essential. Some people take thick gardening gloves because of the brambles and nettles en route and you should wear long trousers rather than shorts. A waterproof jacket may come in handy and take some water and a snack in case it’s a long trek. You might also find a walking stick or pole helpful.
Porters are available at the trailheads to help carry backpacks and cameras, as well as helping you with your footing along your hike which can be hard work, but well worth it. Even if you don’t really need them, hiring a porter is a helpful way to contribute directly to the local economy and chatting to them en route can enhance your experience both of local life and of your gorilla trek.
Photography on a gorilla trekking safari
If you’re a keen photographer, taking your own pictures of mountain gorillas is one of the most magical photo sessions you’ll ever experience. Do bear in mind that the light can be poor in the rainforest and that use of flash is not permitted. You might also need to protect your camera against heavy rain.
SPECIAL RATES FOR TREKKING:
US$ 15,000 for personalized & exclusive mountain gorilla visits for a targeted Gorilla family
US$ 30,000 for a minimum of 3 visitors for 3 consecutive days (Behind the scenes).
SPECIAL DISCOUNT PACKAGES
30% discount (US$ 1,050) for combined trips within National Parks in Rwanda (Gorilla Trekking, Akagera and/or Nyungwe National Park) for at least 3 days during the months of November-May,
15% discount (US$ 1,275) on conference delegates who stay pre & post MICE events to see gorillas.
GORILLA FILMING AND PHOTOGRAPHY
US$ 5,000 for 3 consecutive days for Mountain Gorilla filming and professional photography,
US$ 12,000 for Mountain Gorilla filming and photography per crew per day (maximum 8 people).
The fees are inclusive of park entry charges.