Planning to travel to Africa for gorilla trekking, Rwanda’s Volcano National Park is the best choice to go; to visit the endangered mountain gorillas in Africa. It is the oldest national park on the continent and has an excellent trekking system in place, which balances the curious tourist alongside the critical protection needs of mountain gorillas.
The Volcanoes national park has 10 habituated gorilla groups for visitors and 10 other groups which are for research which adds up a total of 20 gorilla families in the volcanoes forest. When trekking with gorillas in Rwanda, you will have an awesome experience even if you decide to visit mountain gorillas more than once. Each family had a different and unique setting and dwell in different areas with different trekking experience of the park. Hence the scenery, trekking experience will be quite different and the gorilla interaction is quite distinct from one another which will offer you a unique adventure each time you go watch them.
Trekking advice to Note
1) While on trek, its very important to be flexible and keep with your gorilla groups. You will be placed in a group of ten people depending on the level of trek you want. options are easy, medium and hard. For example you are expecting a medium level trek to see the a gorilla family but at times you may find it a bit further out. The gorillas moved so you too have to move along to catch up with them which can turn into a 2.5 to 3 hour trek up steep, rocky terrain. Yet a medium trek can go unto 1hr – 90 minute, but hey, they’re wild animals and can move at any given time.
2) Best time to go is during the low/early rain season. The gorillas tend to be closer so you will have shorter treks and in-addition, there aren’t as many people competing for the different gorilla families.
3) Dress in proper trekking gear – Take your time to research on the Internet and ask your tour operator on what to pack and dress for your gorilla trek. Gloves, a waterproof rain jacket and pants, and appropriate hiking boots were all key to comfort during the long trek. For our trek, we wore wellies vice rain boots and that came in particularly handy during our second trek thru a rain soaked bamboo forest. The gloves and long sleeves also help to protect against the foliage including stinging nettles. You’ll need the gloves to better maneuver thru the thick plants and trees while following the gorillas.
4) Go for two permits. Sure you can live with seeing these amazing creatures twice, but honestly, you will be so glad you chose two treks to enjoy vastly different experiences. It’s worth the money.
5) A must to get a porter. Although you may not bring a lot of stuff with you, water, a light snack, hand sanitizer is a must to pack on your trek, but the main bonus of having a porter is that he will be key in helping you maneuver thru some of the rougher parts of the trek. You will be immensely grateful for yours and it’s only ten bucks.
6) Don’t forget to tip your ranger guide. These are the people who spend the day with the gorillas, and look for them, keep track of where you will easily find them. Make sure to tip them like USD 20 for the 3-4 trackers and then 20 for our guide who escorted us thru the entire process. It’s not much, but shows appreciation for the tough but amazing job they do.
7) Observe first with camera down. Yes, you will have the opportunity to take a bazillion photos trying to capture this most magnificent experience with these creatures, but some times it’s worth just putting down the camera to first take it all in. Its amazing! At one point I saw a young gorilla with two older females playing with a butterfly. Watching the older female gently push away the younger one’s hand, and then try to figure out what this winged creature was all about, was truly amazing. And it was that much better seeing it directly vice thru a lens.
I’m sure you have found a lot of information on gorilla tours in Rwanda, this was a supplement and I’m sure will be very useful. Otherwise seeing gorillas in Rwanda is truly breathtaking and a lifetime opportunity and I hope that you will enjoy it.