Rwanda “the Land of a thousand Hills” is one of the three countries where gorilla trekking is conducted. Gorilla trekking is therefore the key reason as to why thousands of tourists flock Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. These mountain gorillas live in the high altitudes of Volcanoes National Park, where tourists hike to encounter these Giant Apes.
The Volcanoes National Park covers an area of 160 square kilometers, and is situated about 105 kilometers West of Kigali town. With this short distance of Kigali to the Park, it is about 2-3 hours drive to Volcanoes National park. This magnificent Park was gazetted in 1925, making it one of the oldest Parks in Africa.
Gorilla tracking should be one of the awesome and inspiring moments that one shouldn’t miss in life his/ her life time. In Rwanda, the cost of a single gorilla tracking ticket is US$1500 with a difference of only US$150 from that of Uganda – which is US$700 per person. In Rwanda, 6 – 8 people can visit a given gorilla family per day, in rough estimation, Rwanda can also take about 80 visitors/ tourists per day.
Mountain gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda situated in Musanze district (formerly called Ruhengeri). The park covers about 125 km² of incredibly scenic forest-covered mountains, as well as six volcanoes and it is part of the larger Virunga conservation area. The park’s gorillas are uniquely known as the most wholly habituated in their families. They mostly prefer staying in bamboos than dense forests; this fate makes photograph lovers easily take photos with a very clear view of these 98% human giants.
Rwanda is chiefly enriched with about 10 well habituated groups of the internationally known rare mountain gorillas. Most of them can be sighted in Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) and the other roam through Mgahinga National park in Uganda and the Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. PNV is where Dian Fossey devoted all her life to study about and discover the behavior of these then highly poached and mistreated animals.
Where to Go Gorilla Tracking
There are currently 12 habituated gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park hence Rwanda Development (RDB, the governing body) sells a maximum of 6 gorilla permits per day (based on the maximum of 8 persons who can visit the group).
On a gorilla safari in Rwanda, tourists are allowed to spend only one hour with the mountain gorillas but the process of tracking can take between 30 minutes and over 6 hours before the gorilla group is sighted.
These groups are open for tourists all the year round. These include;
The susa group; This is the highly populated gorilla group with about 39+ mountain gorillas Including about 3 silverbacks, 5 black backs, 8 females, 12 youths and 3 infants. This group has the biggest male and can often be up to 5 hours trek a day. If you get a chance tracking this group, it will become your finest and memorable moment with wildlife.
The amahoro group; recorded to be with a total of 15 gorillas with 1silver back, 5 females, 1 black back, 3 youths and 2 infants.
Sabinyo group; This is recorded to be with a total population of 9 gorillas comprised of 2 silverbacks, 2 youths, 2 infants and 3 females
Umubano group; This group has a total population of about 7 gorillas with 1 silverback, 1 youth, 2 females and 1 infant.
Group 13; This group consists of an overall total of 10 gorillas with 1 silverback (leader), 4 females, 1 youth and 4 infants.
Don’t let you tour be cancelled because of visa worries, in Rwanda almost everything in readily solved, visas are available on the border and at the national airport at a general cost of US$60 valid for 30 days.
The price of a Gorilla Permit
With effect from 6th May 2017, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) increased the price of Rwanda Gorilla permits from $750 to $1500 per person. According to Claire Akamanzi the CEO of RDB, the new prices aim at ensuring sustainability of Conservation Initiatives, Intensifying Visitors’ Experience and supporting the development of local communities that live around the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. This price also has some advantages because tourists who spend a minimum of 3 nights in either Akagera National Park or Nyungwe National Park are offered a 30% discount. Much as it is also assumed to be high, tourists are entitled to several services before tracking including a cup of coffee/tea and free entertainment which are not offered in Uganda and DRC.
Gorilla group in Volcanoes National Park
There are ten habituated gorilla groups/families that can be visited for your unforgettable gorilla trekking safari. They include Group 13/Agashya group, Hirwa group, Umubano group, Kwitonda, Susa Group/Susa A group, Sabyinyo gorilla group, Karisimbi group/Susa B, Amahoro Group, Bwenge family and Ugenda group. Each of these ten groups has unique characteristics which makes it different, special and sets it apart from the others. You can choose to visit all of them to explore their unique features.
Best time to visit Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park can be visited anytime of the year. Any season (dry or wet) can be ideal for gorilla trekking. However the dry season (from early-December to late-January and June to mid-September) is more favorable for this remarkable adventure. Hiking is less arduous in the dry seasons. In This season, the possibility of rainy is greatly reduced and the trails are most likely to be less muddy and slippery. But don’t get your hopes too high because Volcanoes National Park being within a Tropical rainforest makes the possibility of raining higher. Besides that, areas above 2000m above sea level can receive rain anytime of the year. The rainy season (April to May and in November) is not preferred by most tourists because hiking itself can be difficult and the trails can be muddy and slippery.
Recommended Wear and what to carry for Gorilla Trekking
Before you are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest to watch the Giant Apes that are habituated in the shady bamboo forest, make sure you are prepared for the hike by wearing appropriately. Make sure to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts. Avoid shorts and short sleeved shirts that will ruin your excitement when you are cut by sharp grasses and tree branches, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes respectively from the sunshine. Also wear sturdy waterproof hiking boots with enough grip and ankle support, carry a walking stick that will support you during hiking, a camera is very crucial but avoid the flash cameras, drinking water and snacks are also important, carry a rain jacket whether it is a rainy or dry season and a waterproof backpack is also recommended.
Rules and regulation of gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is governed by the following rules; avoid littering while in the jungle, a maximum of 8 person are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day, maintain a distance of 7 meters when with the Mountain gorillas to avoid transmitting human diseases and also do not participate in gorilla trekking if you are sick with cough and flue because the fact that these animals share 98% of their DNA with humans, they can easily catch those diseases. Please avoid spitting within the jungles, avoid unnecessary noise when with the Giant Apes, if you have to cough or sneeze turn your mouth away from the gorillas, maximum time of being with the gorillas is one hour, avoid rapid and unnecessary movements because it can scare/frighten them, avoid direct eye contact and when they charge by beating their chest you have to stand still and avoid direct eye contact as a way of avoiding confrontation.
Accommodation in Volcanoes National Park
If you wish to spend your night within Kigali, it is not a bad idea but if you desire to be within or around the Park so that you arrive earlier for the adventurous activity, then you can choose from these classic accommodation facilities near Volcanoes National Park. They include Le Palme Hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel and Jack and Hannah Cottages among others.
Therefore, Volcanoes National Park being just a two hours’ drive from Kigali is a perfect location for gorilla trekking safaris. With the classic accommodation facilities and the less tedious tracking conditions in this park, tourists can visit it for a memorable gorilla trekking experience.