Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is popular, with Rwanda considered by some to be the best place to see gorillas in Africa. Musanze Volcano National Park is home to the fascinating but endangered mountain gorilla. Mountain gorillas are found in only 3 countries – Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also the only country where tourists can spot mountain gorillas in the wild. Volcanoes National Park covers approximately 16,000 hectares in northwestern Rwanda.
It consists of African mountain forests, bamboo forests, savanna grasslands, large swamps, and 5 volcanoes (Bisoke, Gahinga, Muhabura, Sabyinyo, and Karisimbi). Mount Karisimbi is one of the four highest peaks in Africa. Volcanoes National Park is home to spotted hyenas, buffalo, elephants, bushbucks, duikers, and golden monkeys, among many other mammals. Gorilla trekking is the most popular activity in Volcanoes National Park and the chance of seeing mountain gorillas is very high.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park involves trekking through lush bamboo forests on a steep volcano in search of one of Rwanda’s gorilla families. The last encounter with the primate is considered one of the most exciting and unforgettable wildlife encounters in Africa. For the best of both worlds, visitors can also go on a gorilla safari in Uganda and Rwanda, known as double gorilla trekking. Trekking a gorilla is difficult, but ultimately seeing one is the ultimate wildlife experience.
Gorilla Trekking Fee in Volcanoes National Park
A Rwanda Gorilla trekking permit must be ordered in advance to obtain a gorilla-tracked location on a specific date. Gorilla permits must be ordered three to four months in advance for peak seasons such as June, July, August, and September. The current price for a gorilla permit in Rwanda is $1,500, but this is a fraction of the total cost of a gorilla trek. A portion of the funds generated from gorilla licenses support gorilla conservation efforts and help support community programs.
Booking authorization can be done through a travel agency or directly through the Rwanda Development Board. To order a permit, present your passport details to the Rwanda Development Board. There are 10 families of gorillas available for trekking and only 8 people can visit a given group of gorillas per day. This means that only 80 gorilla licenses are available each day for different groups of domesticated gorillas.
What is it like to Go Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park?
Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park starts early in the morning with a briefing by the park authorities and rangers. During the briefing, participants were divided into groups and assigned to a gorilla family. Less suitable are assigned to nearby groups. 8:00 a.m. Park Rangers lead a group to find gorillas. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park offers 8 customized groups/families to choose from. Seeing mountain gorillas is breathtaking.
You can spend hours watching the children roll and play. Mountain gorillas are always playful and are so curious about humans that they approach them. When you are with the gorillas, it is important to follow your guide’s instructions and stay calm at all times. Do not make sudden movements. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park can take anywhere from one to six hours, depending on your assigned gorilla group and its specific location on the day of the trek.
If you have excess luggage or equipment, hire a porter or two. Porters are available at the starting point. Although many were helpful and friendly, many were once poachers but have now embraced the Gorilla Conservation Program. Income from providing services prevents them from returning to their previous vices. If you are planning to travel with your parents, you may want to read about gorilla trekking for older adults. Porter services cost between $10 and $15. You will need suitable hiking boots, thick cotton gloves, and a raincoat.
How to Prepare for Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
- Prepare your body and mind in advance.
- Buy the right shoes for the sometimes difficult terrain.
- Know that it is likely to rain heavily.
- Prepare enough drinking water and snacks.
- Tip the park rangers and guides – they do a lot to make your gorilla trekking experience worthwhile. The recommended tip is $15 or equivalent in local currency.
Like all activities, gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park has rules and regulations. You must be at least 15 years old to approach the primates. In some special cases, the rules can be changed if the child is mature enough and ready for the challenge. The reason children are not allowed near the gorillas is that they are prone to carry infectious diseases such as flu and coughs, which can be transmitted to primates. This is one of the other reasons why the customer’s passport details are required for confirmation at the time of booking.
Are Mountain Gorillas Dangerous?
Mountain gorillas are endangered, with only 1000 left in the wild. Take all precautions to protect them from disease. Anyone with an infectious disease should not be around primates. Mountain gorillas are not immune to some of the infections we carry as humans. There are other rules and regulations for Gorilla Trekking, but that’s for another day. If you have a child aged 13 and over who would like to accompany the gorilla, please contact your travel agent to see if he/she can come with the gorilla.
Many visitors to Rwanda like to combine gorilla watching with a 2-day snook safari, a cultural visit, and a volcano trek in Volcanoes National Park, particularly Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. Combining a trek on Mount Karisimbi with a gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park requires considerable determination and fitness. The best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is June, July, and August.
Activities Other Than Gorilla Trekking
In addition to gorilla trekking, there are other activities available in Volcanoes National Park and other parts of the country. In your travels, you will notice that this country has a thousand and one beautiful landscapes. You can combine gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park with the following activities:
Golden Monkey Trekking:
Volcanoes National Park is home to the endangered Golden Monkey. These beautiful primates live in the same area as mountain gorillas. They feed on bamboo shoots, and insects and occasionally raid farms in search of potatoes. They are very playful primates whose only real enemies are humans and African eagles. Golden monkeys have also been found in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorilla trekking starts at the same time as Gorilla Trekking, for a permit fee of $100. Trekking golden monkeys in Rwanda is not as tiring as trekking gorillas because the monkeys live on the lower slopes of the volcano.
Visit Diana Fossey’s Grave:
Diana Fossey is considered one of the greatest primatologists of all time for his extensive research and work with mountain gorillas from 1969 until he died in the 1980s. She made mountain gorillas known to the world and worked to stop poaching. She introduced new ways to adapt to the mountain gorillas by learning how the mountain gorillas behaved, kept among them, and won the approval of the dominant silverback gorilla. This is remarkable because mountain gorillas have come to see all humans as a threat after losing their families to poachers and smugglers.
When the gorilla trade got out of control, Dean Fossey stopped focusing on research and started protecting gorillas. It is here that her troubles begin to lead to her murder. A hike to Diana Fossey’s grave is a way to pay your respects and learn about the work of this great primatologist. The Gorilla Conservation Program was started by Diana Fossey to save critically endangered mountain gorillas. You can check out our 3-Day Gorilla Trekking Tour and Diana Fossey Trekking Package in Rwanda for more information on how to visit Diana Fossey’s grave.
Visit Musanze Cave:
Musanze Cave is one of the historical places in Rwanda. The caves are located near the park in Musanze town. Musanze Cave is believed to be over 65 million years old. The cave has 31 entrances and the tunnel stretches for more than 20 kilometers. The caves are located next to the Sabinyo Mountains and the Bissock Mountains. They are thought to have been formed when two volcanoes spewed lava during their formation and then cooled. You can hire an experienced guide to take you to the caves and share their history with you. Local Rwandan kings used Musanze Cave to hide and regroup during tribal wars with their neighbors. The fee to explore these caves is $50.
Hike one of the Volcanoes on the Gorilla Trekking Trail
If you’re up for a challenge, you should check out Virunga. The most popular volcanoes are Bisoke and Karisimbi. The Karisimbi Volcano Trek takes two days and provides a truly magnificent experience. The Mount Bisoke hike only takes one day and allows you to see the huge crater lake at the top. Both mountains offer fantastic views of the Virunga Mountains, the National Park, the Rwenzori Mountains, and the borders of the three countries. Hikes to Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi start at 7:00 a.m. with a briefing from the park office. After the briefing, appoint a guide to lead the group.
Volcanoes National Park is one of the most important birdwatching sites in Rwanda besides gorilla trekking, with around 200 bird species recorded. Thirteen of them are endemic to the region. The most sought-after birds are the Rwenzori turaco and the beautiful francolin. They are the most beautiful birds you will ever come across. Other species include the red-headed darter, collared darter, red-winged warbler, Grauer’s warbler, red-winged warbler, Ruwenzori’s double-necked black warbler, and the odd weaver.
Visit Ibiywaku Cultural Village:
Ibiywaku Cultural Village is the largest and most visited cultural center in Rwanda. It is located near the Volcanoes National Park – a gorilla trekking safari destination. The center was opened to showcase Rwanda’s multiculturalism and allow the community living near the park to benefit from tourism. Many artists are poachers. At the Ibiywaku Cultural Center, visitors can participate in cultural performances such as dance, theatre, and storytelling. You will learn how a traditional Rwandan family is organized and have the opportunity to taste some of the local food and alcoholic beverages. There are even local medical experts willing to share information about traditional herbal remedies used to treat human ailments.
Visit the Rwanda Genocide Memorial:
Rwanda has several genocide memorials scattered throughout the country, but Kigali is the most visited. The museum will give you a comprehensive insight into the events that took place in Rwanda before and after the 1994 genocide in which approximately 1 million people lost their lives. If you are not satisfied with this museum, you can also visit the former Royal Palace and the National Museum in Butale to learn more about the truth about this tragic event.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest:
Nyungwe Forest National Park is one of the main tourist attractions in Rwanda. The park is home to the oldest and largest African montane forest in the world. Visit the park to see several species of primates, including chimpanzees. If you’re going on a primate safari, this is a place you don’t want to miss if you want the full package. In addition to chimpanzees, you can also see colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, baboons, golden monkeys, and more. Nyungwe Forest is the best place in Rwanda to track chimpanzees. The park management also organizes nature walks, bird watching, and foliage walks.
Visit Lake Kivu:
Between Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris, you will relax in a great atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful African sun. Lake Kivu provides the answer. It is one of the largest lakes in Africa and is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lake Kivu is great for fishing, islands, and swimming. There are stories of methane gas exploding underwater at any time, but with the beauty of the lake, you don’t need to worry.
Akagera National Park Game:
To fully enjoy the wildlife in Rwanda, a visit to Akagera National Park is a good decision. It is the only safari park in Rwanda and is only a 2-hour drive from Kigali. It may not be as big as a national park in Kenya or Tanzania, but you will find all the mammals from the big five.
In addition to the main activities already discussed, there are lesser-known activities such as visiting Ruhengeri’s main market to buy local Rwandan fabrics, visiting local village projects, visiting local families to taste local food, or drinking locally brewed beer. Those who want a quiet place with a beautiful view can visit the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. I must not forget to mention the Congo Nile Trail. You can even combine gorilla trekking in Rwanda with a safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Accommodation during Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
There are several high-quality lodges near Volcanoes National Park that visitors can use while in the park. Hotels offer ultra-luxurious, luxurious, mid-range, and budget options. The final decision depends entirely on the budget of the traveler. The most popular luxury hotels are Bisate Lodge, Five Volcanoes Hotel, Mountain Gorillas’ Nest Lodge, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, and Virunga Volcanoes Lodge. Five Volcanoes Lodge is arguably the most portable of Volcanoes National Park’s luxury hotels. They have a VIP room that surprises guests during certain months of the year. Sabyinyo Silverback overlooks Virunga Volcano. If you want the ultimate luxury hotel, consider Bisate Lodge.
The best mid-range lodges are Da Vince Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, and Lebambou Gorilla Lodge. Davinci Lodge is known for its five spacious cabins and delicious international cuisine. For the best views of Virunga Volcano and the park, consider the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge. If you are traveling on a budget, Virunga Hotel, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Villa Gorilla, Hotel Muhavura, Hotel La Palme, or Gorilla Volcanoes Hotel would be perfect. Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel has 31 comfortable rooms that can accommodate large groups. Villa Gorilla Lodge is a great choice for travelers looking to stay close to the park offices. On the other hand, Hotel La Palme is known for its excellent restaurant and local Rwandan cuisine. If most of the good-budget hotels are booked (in high season), you should contact Kinigi Guesthouse. They have many separate rooms of good quality.