How Does it Feel to Trek Gorillas in Rwanda?

Gorilla trekking is one of the most astonishing travel experiences that everyone yearns to achieve in life. A safari to the land of a thousand hills is undoubtedly the most remarkable and life changing experiences of life time. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place in the lush jungles of Volcanoes National Park just as you get into Northwest of this remarkable country. Rwanda is among the only 3 (three) countries in the whole world where mountain gorillas are protected. It is proud to be a home to nearly 62% of all the gorillas that live in the Virunga complex.

A trip to see gorillas as they relax and chill within the luxuriant vegetation in Rwanda is the most incredible moment in life. Setting into the jungles to see these creatures is most humbling experience for you to explore their daily behaviors but most interestingly thrilling grunt and smack is what welcomes trekkers to the forest. At this moment, you will have all sorts of imaginations on how tough these creatures are and yet they are not, simply calm down that heartbeat and get deep down into the jungles and get humbled within only one hour with these creatures face to face. If you have never encountered magical experiences, then set into the jungles of Volcanoes National Park. At times, these dramatic creatures can even come close to you and at this point if you are not strong enough the tension in you can easily increase and yet the logic is simple, you only need to stand still.

Depending on your speed and habituated gorilla family that you will be assigned to track in the course of the trek,  first of all, you will be 8 (eight) visitors who will be tracking one habituated gorilla group. There are 10 habituated gorilla families that are set for tourism in Volcanoes National Park and this also translates to 80 gorilla permits that are available each day for trekkers. The gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda are obtainable at $1500 per visitor. Note that the permit is a must to have for the trek and the price cuts across all the visitors. Since the demand is high for gorilla trekking experiences, you need to book for your permits in advance.

Seeing a mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park means that you have to hike through its jungles. The time that you will spend hiking through the forest to see these spectacular species all depends on where you will get your gorilla group that you were allocated by the park management.

The briefing starts early in the morning at around 7:00 am local time and visitors need to be time conscious where possible you can spend a night in any of Volcanoes nearest lodges to help you get into visitor center early enough. It is from here that the park management will be giving you hints on gorilla trekking rules and regulations, in short terms your overall behavior while in the jungles. After, you will set off for your trek in the dense forest where your imaginations will turn into reality. Most importantly, know your tour guide because he or she will be your leader to direct where to view these impressively attractive creatures. A bide by whatever things he tells you to do. In most cases, he keeps reminding you about the rules and regulations once you seem not to be inline.

It is fun being the jungles as your guide tells will be telling you many stories. However, it is important for you to note that your hike to see these creatures means that you will be maneuvering through the muddy path or steep slopes and this calls for your physical fitness and if you have a heavy load to carry don’t bother yourself, you can hire a porter to help you. Many of these porters are around the park. Your guide will be telling you more stories about these ex poachers who posed intense threats to the survival of mountain gorillas. Fortunately, many of these ex-poachers are among the very few who have seen the light and now they are able to earn a living through tourism. You may not understand why your guide may request you to give your luggage to a porter and usually whenever visitors hear about this it turns to be an insult but after the hike, you will certainly appreciate their work.

Just like gorilla trackers, don’t feel bad seeing them around, they play a great role in gorilla trekking. Just imagine waking up early in the morning to track each gorilla family in the mountains and ensuring that these creatures are well protected from poachers.  Set into the jungles with these men and have another fantastic experience as trackers clear for you a path using their machetes. The trackers are always sent to the field prior trekking meaning they can locate where a gorilla family can be found and once you are in the thick jungles they can make that noise like gorilla. At this point the anxiety to see these wild creatures must have gone higher than before. You group definitely needs to keep silent as you wait to stare at these incredible creatures.

What does it mean spending 60 minutes with these species? This is the awaited moment for anyone in the jungle so you will need to have a peaceful mind now, position yourself for a clear view, take photos, enjoy the playful behavior for some of the young gorillas, and view how these creatures climb through the vines and hurling themselves at each other. As some of them can be rolling around on the forest floor, your experience will certainly be the most remarkable one. A couple of females and others can be grooming each other as the silverback can be there relaxed and scratching his belly as he monitors the atmosphere around his family. Your guide will be available to explain and interpret for you all sorts of body gesture that these creatures will portray in the wild.

Most interestingly, there is also gorilla naming ceremony famously known as Kwita Izina where every year, newly born mountain gorillas are given names. Despite their critically endangered status, that used to be worse some time back. In 1981, only 254 mountain gorillas existed in the Virunga region and in 2010, the number increased to 480. Conservation programs have some how played a great role towards this figures and tourism has equally contributed much. During this event, thousands will be attracted to embrace the effort of conservation and this includes not only the Rwandese but also dignitaries, foreign visitors as well as regional visitors.

Guidelines to Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

You need put on pants, long sleeved shirts or T-shirt and light hiking boots. There are stinging nettles in the forest and hardly can you detect them, which is why it is better if they can only sting your clothes than your skin. Others can also wear gloves. The ground can be muddy and slippery, it will be wrong for you to come on sandals.

Take note of tipping while in your safari. There are some porters, a ranger or two as well as trackers who will be helping you to find gorilla group prior your trek in the forest and you can leave them also with something.

You need a good camera for photo taking and this should not have a flashlight otherwise you will irritate these creatures. Don’t touch mountain gorillas but in case they choose to touch you simply need to let them. Finally, depending on the location of your habituated gorilla group that will be allocated to you, it takes you a few hours to arrive at the group. You only need to be well prepared for a breathtaking trek but you will also be surprised to find that the trek isn’t that long. The mountains are a bit high and this means that you will encounter some bit of breathtaking altitude.

In conclusion, a trek to view mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park is one of the strenuous experiences which require visitors to be physically fit. Tracking these species means that tourists must hike through the steep slopes of Volcanoes National Park in order to see mountain gorillas.