Gorillas in Africa are classified into two major species; the Eastern gorillas also known as the Gorilla Beringei and western gorillas also known as the Gorilla Gorilla.
The Eastern gorillas have two groups, the eastern lowland and mountain gorillas. The western gorilla group also has two groups including western lowland and cross river gorillas.
Africa is the home to the three best countries well known in the world for gorilla trekking. Uganda, Rwanda and Congo have made names for themselves as the leading destination for travelers seeking gorilla safaris. However, there are five top gorilla trekking destinations in Africa and these are;
Bwindi impenetrable National Park
Bwindi impenetrable National park is undoubtedly the leading destination for gorilla trekking in Africa because of its large number of mountain gorillas in the world compared to other trekking destinations. It is located in the south western part of Uganda in the district of Kanungu taking you over 8-9 hours’ drive from Entebbe international airport.
Bwindi impenetrable National park was established in 1991 and was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. It covers an area of 325 square kilometers largely made of the tropical rain forest.
Amazingly, gorilla safaris in Bwindi impenetrable National park are done in four sectors which makes it easy for guests doing trekking. The sectors include Buhoma sector in the north, Ruhija in the east, Rushaga and Nkuringo in the southern part of the park. Each of these sectors has different families that can be visited at any time of the year.
Bwindi impenetrable National park is home to over 19 habituated gorilla families meaning 152 gorilla permits are available on a daily basis. The chances of trekking gorillas are high because of availability of permits. Trekking mountain gorillas in each of the regions is a unique experience for the visitors to explore Bwindi Impenetrable National park.
The best time to visit Bwindi impenetrable National park is during the months of June, July, August and early September in the dry season when the trails are dry and less slippery to ease the trek.
Where to stay in Bwindi impenetrable National Park
Bwindi National park has many lodging options for the visitors doing gorilla trekking here. The accommodations range from luxury, midrange and Budget. Lodges in Bwindi impenetrable National park are scattered in the four gorilla trekking sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Accommodations in Bwindi National park include; Buhoma lodge, silver back lodge, Rushaga gorilla lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi lodge, Nkuringo Bwindi lodge, Sanctuary gorilla forest camp, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Mahogany springs safari lodge, Buhoma community haven lodge and many more.
A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $700 for foreign nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents and 250,000 UGX for EastAfrican residents all obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters or through local tour operators.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National park is another best trekking destination in Africa located in the north western part of Rwanda in East Africa. It is one of the oldest National parks in Africa established in 1925 covering an area of 160 square kilometers.
The Volcanoes National park of Rwanda also is home to 10 habituated gorilla families including susa, Bwengye, Karisimbi, sabinyo, Kwitonda, Amahoro, Agashya, Hirwa, Umubano, Ugenda, where gorilla trekking is carried out.
Volcanoes National park is part of the Virunga conservation area which covers the five Virunga volcanoes including sabinyo, Muhabura, Gahinga, Karisimbi and Bisoke. Karisimbi being the highest volcanoes with an altitude of 4.507 meters.
Volcanoes National park is also best visited in the dry season from June to early September and December to February when there is no or less rain fall. Though the park can be visited throughout the year.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park starts very early in the morning with briefing from the park headquarters by the ranger guides about the rules and regulations of trekking. The experience can take from 2-6 hours depending on how far the gorillas moved the previous day.
Volcanoes National park has the most expensive gorilla trekking permit which goes for $1500 for all residents. However due to Covid 19 the gorilla trekking permit for foreign residents was reduced to $500 up to 31st December 2022.
Where to stay in Volcanoes National park.
Volcanoes National park has different options of accommodation facilities ranging from luxury, midrange and budget. These include; one and only gorilla nest, Ingagi park view lodge, Sabinyo silver back lodge, five Volcanoes Boutique, Best view hotel, mountain gorillas nest lodge, Faraja hotel, Da vinci gorilla lodge, hotel muhabura, La Bambou gorilla village, Virunga lodge, Kinigi guest house, La Palme hotel among others.
Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National park is located in the south western part of Uganda and is also part of the Virunga volcanoes. Mgahinga National park is such a remarkable destination for gorilla trekking especially for visitors interested in less crowds.
The park was established in 1991 and occupies an area of 33 square kilometers. Nyakagezi family is the only habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga set for visitors to trek.
Trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National park takes about 2-6 hours depending on the location of the mountain gorillas. They move from one place to another in search for food, once they have been found the visitor is allowed to one hour in the presence of the endangered species for observation of their characters, feeding ways, photography and videography to take back memories home.
Just like other gorilla trekking destinations in Africa, Mgahinga National park can be visited at any time throughout the year but the best time to visit is during the months of June to August and December to February when the trails are dry and not slippery to ease the trekking experience. During the rainy season when the trails are wet it may be hard to climb up the forests in search for the gorillas.
Where to stay in Mgahinga National park
Mgahinga National park also has various accommodation options for your stay on your gorilla trekking safari. These include; Ntebeko river camp, Mgahinga gorilla triangle lodge, Mondi lodge Kisoro, Mount Gahinga lodge, Traveler’s rest hotel, Mucha hotel, Amajambere iwacu community camp, Mutanda lake resort, Mgahinga rest camp among others.
Virunga National park
Virunga National park is also another place to trek mountain gorillas in Africa found in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was established in 1925 covering an area of 7800 square kilometers.
Virunga National park makes the largest part of the Virunga ranges which also covers Mgahinga National park in south western Uganda and Volcanoes National park in North western part of Rwanda.
Virunga National park currently hosts 8 habituated gorilla families including Nyakamwe, Bageni, Munyaga, Mapuwa, Rugendo, Lugendo, Humba and Kabirizi. Kabiliza family being the most popular to many travelers on gorilla trekking safari in DRC.
However, Virunga National park is not recommended for gorilla trekking now because of its political instabilities of the country leading to insecurity. The park is considered not safe for gorilla trekking. Virunga National park also has the cheapest gorilla trekking permit which costs $400 compared to Rwanda and Uganda.
The park is located in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the park can be accessed by road which 32kms close to Goma town. Others travelers to Virunga National park fly in to Kigali international airport and proceed by road through Gisenyi town and cross to Goma in Democratic Republic of Congo.
From Goma, it is averagely 2 hours’ drive to Bukima at the park headquarters.
Where to stay in Virunga National park
Virunga National park offers a wide range accommodation ranging from budget, midrange to luxury suits that will fit your budget. These include; Mikeno lodge, kibumba tented camp, Bukima tented camp, mount Nyiragongo summit shelters, Lulimbi tented camp, Techegera island camp and many more.
Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National park is another exceptional gorilla destination to consider on your gorilla trekking safari in Africa. It is a magical park to visit for its Eastern lowland gorilla trekking. The park was gazetted in 1970 to conserve the eastern lowland gorillas and remains the only destination to see the Eastern lowland gorillas in the wild.
The park covers an area of 6000 square kilometres and protects the mountain forests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo which is the most densely populated area in the country. Kahuzi Biega National park is named after the two spectacular extinct volcanoes which dominates its high-altitude sector, mount Kahuzi and mount Biega.
The eastern lowland Gorillas is the world’s largest species of gorillas followed by the mountain gorillas that are only found in 3 countries in the world; Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla trekking in DR. Congo is an encounter with the few remaining eastern lowland gorillas which rewards you with a great experience of the eastern lowland gorillas over the mountain gorillas in Africa. The park has only two habituated gorilla families open for gorilla trekking by travelers that wish to adventure into the jungle.
Kahuzi Biega National park is located 30kms from Bukavu town and it takes one and a half hours drive to the park. It can also be accessed by both road and air means of transport. However, travelers have to understand that from Kavumu airport and at miti, you take the left and keep going straight until you reach the visitors center.
It is also important for travelers to note that since the Democratic Republic of Congo is not safe in most of its parts, you should consider choosing a tour operator who is knowledgeable about the local conditions and not think about self-drive. Security is the main concern for tourists so it’s advisable to stay updated on internal issues of the country before embarking on your gorilla safari.
Where to stay in Kahuzi Biega National park
At the moment, the travelers to Kahuzi Biega National park should be aware that there is no single lodge or accommodation that has been developed in the park, but the recommended lodges are found in Bukavu town the nearest town to the park south of Lake Kivu. Though the park offers camping options near the headquarters in Lwiro for budget travelers.
The recommended lodges include; Virunga hotel and campsite, Mount Kahuzi hotel, Hotel kasindi Lubiliha En Abrege Hki, Coco lodge, L’orchids safari club, Hotel Begonias Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu budget, Lake side hotel Bukavu among others.