Gorilla trekking in Africa as offered by the Great Apes Tours!
Gorilla trekking involves maneuvering through dense thick rainforests in search for habituated gorillas. The activity encompasses walking through steep mountainous regions thick forests, jumping rivers and various water streams before getting closer to gorilla families. It is an outdoor activity that is mostly done in East and Central Africa because that's where mountain gorillas can be found in the whole world.
They inhabit the Virunga massif and mostly live in bamboo forests in Rwanda and in the thick tropical rainforests of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla trekking is one of the famous tourist activities in the world and several tourists flock in central and eastern Africa to engage in this activity and have the thrilling adventure of being close to these gentle giants. It is therefore worth noting that the feeling of being next to gorillas is an unforgettable one and worth the payment and time of the visitors.
Various national parks have been gazetted in the Great Lakes region to help keep the habitat of the gorillas untouched and conserve the gorillas for the future generations to come.
The different national parks that have been gazetted in the three countries are as explained below;
Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks in Uganda.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is located in the southwestern region of Uganda in Kisoro district on the border of Uganda and Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This magnificent park is the smallest park in Uganda and sits on an area of 34 square kilometers and it features 3 extinct volcanoes that connect with the clouds at an altitude of 3000 to 4000 meters (about half the height of Mount Everest) above sea level. The volcanoes in this National Park are Gahinga that elevates up to 3474 meters (about 2.16 mi), Mount Sabyinyo which extends up to 3645 meters in the skies and Muhabura volcano which is the tallest with approximately 4127 meters (about 2.56 mi).
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a renowned haven for rare mountain gorillas that inhabit the ranges of the volcanoes especially in the bamboo trees and the tropical rainforests.
The National Park can be accessed both by air transport and road transport; with air transport, visitors board scheduled flight from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro where they can be received by tourist guides with comfortable safari cars and head to the National Park.
Road transport travelers can use the Kampala- Mbarara- Kisoro highway and the park is just 14 kilometers (about 8.7 mi) away from Kisoro town. Mgahinga National Park is known by its slogan “where gold meets silver” and travelers to the park prove it every day that indeed it's a slogan well deserving for this park because of the diversity therein.
Bwindi impenetrable National Park.
This captivating National Park is yet another hidden gem in the southwestern part of Uganda and is characterized by thick tropical rainforests that are known as one of the oldest forests in the whole world dating back to 1000 years and beyond.
The impenetrable forest lies on the edge of the picturesque Albertine Rift Valley that is to say the western arm of the east African Rift Valley with elevations ranging from 1600 up to 2600 meters (about 1.62 mi) above sea level. The National Park sits on an area of approximately 331 square kilometers and is located in the present day Kanungu district in Uganda.
The National Park can be accessed both by air and road transport; from Entebbe International Airport up to Kihihi airstrip in South western Uganda or by road transport where travelers can use the Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara- Kabale highway and enter through the northern gates of the park.
This forest is called an impenetrable one because it has extensive well grown tree species that are interspersed amongst the huge forest hardwoods with various roots on ground and shrubs hence making it impassable. Bwindi impenetrable forest is renowned for being a natural habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas and has half of their population in whole world that is to say approximately 459 individuals that inhabit the steep slopes of the mountainous regions in it.
The National Park also has different gorilla sectors within it and in the gorilla sectors there are other subdivisions of gorilla families that can be tracked down since they are habituated. The gorilla sectors in this National Park are Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija.
Gorilla tracking activities in this National Park are led by professional ranger guides and accompanied by armed rangers who ensure the safety of the visitors at all times of that trek.
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Trekking mountain gorillas in Uganda costs a visitor a non-refundable fee of $700 per person for the foreign nonresidents, $600 per person for the foreign residence and Uganda shillings 250,000 per person for the East African citizens.
The park entrance fees for both Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable National Park are $40 for the foreign nonresidents who are adults, $30 for the adult foreign residents and Uganda shillings 20,000 shillings for the adult East African citizens.
Gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park is located in the northwestern part of Rwanda and it covers an area of approximately 160 square kilometers that are characterized of rainforests. In this area of land also lies 5 of the 8 Virunga ranges and that is Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga. Volcanoes National Park is a renowned gorilla tracking site in Rwanda and is the only National Park with mountain gorillas in the whole of Rwanda and this sets it apart from the rest of the national parks since most travelers to national parks in Rwanda have the interest of tracking the rare endangered mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park was first established as a national reserve in 1925 and is one of the oldest national parks on the African continent. It was established mainly to protect mountain gorillas from the poachers who were hunting them down for unclear purposes.
Tracking mountain gorillas in volcanoes National Park costs international visitors a non-negotiable fee of $1500, 30,000 Rwandese francs for the East African residents and Rwandans. Gorilla tracking permits can be bought directly through the Rwandan Development Board or purchased through travel agents and tour operators. Volcanoes National Park also sets the standard high by having luxurious accommodation facilities that also enhance the experiences tourists get while in this virgin land.
Gorilla trekking in D.R. Congo.
Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Virunga National Park is one of the celebrated biologically gifted areas on the planet and is also a habitat to the critically endangered mountain gorillas. The name Virunga means volcanoes in Kinyarwanda and was coined to this land due to the various volcanoes that are therein. Virunga National Park is also characterized by thick tropical rain forests especially on the steep slopes of the mountains that are inhabited by endangered mountain gorillas which can be tracked while in the region.
Virunga National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site though it was back then scraped off due to the political insecurity, resource extraction and inhuman poaching activities that were skyrocketing in the area. The park is located in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo in the present day Bulambo district.
This captivating National Park was created in 1925 and is also a historical National Park renowned as one of the Pioneers of conservation in Africa. Gorilla tracking activities in this National Park are guided by professional guides and Rangers who ensure that the visitors to the park are safeguarded from charges of the animals just in case there's any. The professional tourist guides further provide information to visitors that helps them appreciate the adventure and makes it more rewarding to them.
Kahuzi – Biega National Park.
This is yet another National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and is located in the eastern part near the western banks of lake Kivu and the border between Congo and Rwanda. The top tourist attraction in this National Park are the lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas normally live in larger groups as compared to their counterpart mountain gorillas.
This spectacular National Park can be accessed through boarding flights from Kigali International Airports to Kanombe in southern Rwanda and take a car that could drive for about 20 minutes crossing through Rusizi to Bukavu town.
Connecting from Uganda to Kahuzi-Biega, one can go through Musanze town via Cyanika border later on proceed south of Rwanda and to Bukavu town in eastern Congo.
This interesting National Park can also be accessed by water transport by getting a ferry that runs from Goma to Bukavu town passing through the islands of Idjwi on Lake Kivu. It would could take two to three hours and public transport boats can take up to five hours. On arrival in Bukavu one takes a safari Jeep to access the park.
Gorilla trekking packing list
Travelers going for gorilla tracking in the Great Lakes region should endeavor to park appropriately for them to have extraordinary experiences that are uninterrupted. Visitors should consider having the following on their packing list;
Long sleeve shirts or a regular shirt.
Long sleeved shirts are important on the gorilla tracking adventure since they help cover the body parts especially the arms and the lower belly preventing them from biting insects such as mosquitoes that inhabit the dense tropical rainforests. This therefore helps prevent diseases such as malaria and bruises on the skin.
These are also essential for the gorilla tracking adventure since they help cover the legs from itching plants and biting insects. Travelers often have the best of their trips when they are assured of their health and safety especially in the jungles.
Waterproof hiking boots.
Waterproof hiking boots are equally important on the gorilla tracking adventure since they help travelers maneuver through the thick forests in the rugged terrain even when it's slippery. A visitor can be able to reach all the ends where the gorillas are and therefore get a more rewarding experience on the trek.
Raincoats provide protection to travelers and heavy rains. It is important for travelers to note that in the Great Lakes region especially in central and East African tropical rainforests, it tends to rain unexpectedly and so it is important to have a raincoat that will prevent a traveler from getting wet due to unexpected rains.
Mosquito repellents are equally important in the jungle since they help keep the biting insects away and therefore protect the visitor from sicknesses such as malaria and yellow fever while on the trip. Therefore, this minimizes the risk of disturbances and so the traveler will have the best of their trip.
Nice camera equipment is also relevant because it helps the travelers to take pictures of themselves with the gentle giants in their natural habitat. This helps improve on the memories that are made in the forests and acts as reminders of the travelers of their expeditions in the Great Lakes region.
Visitors are advised to have backpacks where they can keep their personal valuables that will help them have the best of the trip. These can be drinking water, personal medicine, snacks and other personal things that are important to the traveler.
Gorilla habituation refers to the scientific process of introducing gently wild mountain gorillas to the presence of humans in the environment for research conservation and care purposes. This process makes gorilla tracking activities possible since the gorillas are used to human beings and therefore cannot charge towards them unless they feel tampered with. Gorilla habituation experience in Uganda gives you more time with the mountain gorillas normally 4 hours and therefore visitors can get to learn more about gorillas in their natural habitat which is quite a rewarding experience.
Gorilla habituation experience is priced at $1500 in Uganda, and this gives you full access to four hours with the gorillas in the jungle rather than the one typical hour of gorilla tracking. The visitor is accompanied by researchers who have more information about the gorillas and therefore the visitor is assured of much deeper insights into the lives of mountain gorillas. Observing mountain gorillas interact with their fellows and as they groom their young ones is such an extraordinary experience and visitors often find it worth the efforts.
Best seasons for Gorilla Trekking Safaris
The best seasons for gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo are the dry seasons - the long dry seasons that run from June, July, August up to September and also the shorter dry seasons that run from December up to February.!
Visiting the national parks in the high season is more rewarding and interactive since there are many visitors in the national park and this enables visitors to make more friends which improves social bonds. Sometimes friends made on trips tend to be friends for life.
It is however important to note that the national parks are not limited to only visits in the dry season as they can be visited all year round and every season has its own benefits that could be better in any other way.
Rules and guidelines governing gorilla trekking in Africa
Gorilla trekking age limit.
Gorilla trekking can only be engaged in by people above 15 years of age. This rule was put in place because children of younger age usually have communicable diseases like flu and cough which can easily be transferred to gorillas. Also such children may not manage long hikes in the forest
Attend the pre-trek briefing.
Always attend the pre-gorilla trekking briefing and follow the instructions of your guides and park Rangers. This is because they know more information about the jungle and the gorillas and so they deserve the ears and the wheel to guide tourists in the jungle to avoid being lost in the thick forests.
Do not litter in the park.
It's important to leave only footprints behind as visitors leave the National Park, instead of leaving behind residues that contaminate the environment and therefore degrade it.
Do not eat near the gorillas.
This is because they could possibly get closer and grab it from you and if you insist, they may see it as a challenge and therefore fight you.
Maintain a 7-meter distance from gorillas.
Always maintain a safe distance - at least 15 feet from the gorillas. This is to ensure that you don't interfere with their peace and not transmit any communicable illnesses to them. Gorillas can contract human illnesses.
Gorillas can contract human illnesses
Visitors are not allowed to engage in gorilla trekking when they have transmittable diseases like flu, cold and COVID-19 of recent. These diseases can be easily transferred to gorillas and may risk death of these endangered species so it is better to postpone journeys when one is sick.
Minimum gorilla trekking number
Only 8 people are allowed to track a single gorilla group per day, and this helps to prevent the habitat from being overexploited and prevent the possibility of disease transmissions in the jungle.