Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is an exciting and thrilling activity that is carried out by most tourists visiting Rwanda on tour. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is carried out in Volcanoes National Park, which is home to 12 habituated Mountain Gorilla groups.
Gorilla trekking activities have been included in safari itineraries by most Tour Operators seeking to cash in on the high demand from tourists visiting the East African country.
Volcanoes National Park is one of the 3 national parks that Rwanda proudly boasts of. It is also referred to as ‘Parc National des Volcans’ in the French language. The national park is located in the Musanze town, in the northwestern province of Rwanda. The national park is blessed with a number of bird and plant species. It is also one of the habitats that is home to the endangered species of Mountain Gorillas in the world; the others being in Virunga National Park in DRC and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
Volcanoes National Park was first gazetted as a national park in 1925 and is the oldest national park on the African continent. It was gazetted as a national park in order to protect mountain gorillas from poachers.
Volcanoes National Park borders Virunga National Park in DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It encompasses 5 of the 8 volcanoes of the Virunga volcano region and these include; Mount Karisimbi, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Bisoke.
Volcanoes National Park covers 160 square kilometers of rain forest and bamboo. It has 178 bird species of which 13 species and 16 subspecies are found in the Virunga Conservation Area and the Rwenzori Mountains respectively.
Volcanoes National Park acted as a base for the American primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey. Her scientific research in the park dates back as far as 1966 when she started studying mountain gorilla groups within the park. After her murder, she was buried at a gravesite located within the park.
Volcanoes National Park is home to quite a number of mammal species such as; bushbucks, vervet and white and black colobus monkeys, spotted hyenas, forest elephants, buffaloes and giant hogs amongst others.
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
The term gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is a physically thrilling and adventurous activity that involves a tourist travelling to a gorilla habitat, hiking through forest cover and locating gorilla groups. The activity may also involve walking on the footprints of a gorilla and spotting gorilla feces in order to locate a group or family of mountain gorillas.
Gorilla Trekking expeditions in Volcanoes National Park happen in groups of eight individuals who are going to tack the same gorilla group or family. Each tourist is provided with a well trained and experienced park ranger who are in constant communication with scouts and follow their course of direction.
Gorilla Trekking involves hiking rough terrains and dense vegetation hence the activity calls for tourists to be physically fit, healthy and patient. However, there are provisions for those tourists who are physically disabled to trek gorillas as porters are availed to carry them on stretchers but this comes at an additional fee.
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park involves tourists tracking gorillas for about 1- 8 hours depending on how easily the gorillas are located. When the gorillas are spotted, tourists are allowed to spend only an hour with the gorillas.
Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park can be done by tourists starting from the age of 18 years.
Gorilla Trekking Permits.
Gorilla Trekking permits can be got at Volcanoes National Park offices at a fee of USD 1500 per person and does not include park entrance and porter fees. However, tourists can also make bookings for gorilla trekking through their preferred Tour Operators. It is recommended that tourists book for gorilla trekking permits 6 months before travel.
Rules and Regulations of Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
Before tourists embark on their journey to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, they are briefed by a head ranger at the Park’s Offices and also taken through the rules and regulations. These rules and regulations of tracking gorillas in the park are as follows;
- Every tourist must have acquired a gorilla trekking permit before visiting the park.
- Gorilla Trekking can be done by adults 18 years and above.
- Tourists can interact with gorillas for only an hour.
- There is a maximum of 8 visitors per day per group.
- No use of flashes in cameras when taking photos of gorillas as this can easily disorient them.
- A safe distance of 7 meters should be maintained between the tourist and gorillas.
- Only tourists who are healthy are permitted to trek gorillas so as to reduce the chances of spreading diseases between the tourist and gorillas.
- Tourists are advised to lower your voices when in the forest and when in close proximity to the gorillas.
- Do not litter the park.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke when in the presence of gorillas.
- Limit unnecessary movement when with gorillas.
- Do not spit when in the park as it may lead to the transmission of diseases.
- Always hid to the advice given by your ranger given that they are experienced guides.
Where to Stay When Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
There are quite a number of accommodation facilities that a tourist can opt to stay at when on a gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National Park. These include;
- Bisate Lodge: The lodge was constructed on an eroded volcanic creator and has 6 en-suite rooms. It is a luxurious lodge that can accommodate a maximum of 12 guests. The lodge offers services such as; free Wi-Fi, restaurant, well-stocked bar and walks to the surrounding local communities.
- Virunga Lodge: The Lodge is located in Kinigi and is an hours’ drive to the park’s headquarters. The Lodge offers its guests stunning views of Lakes Burera and Ruhondo. It also offers guests activities such as; nature walks, music, and entertainment from the local Indore dance group, spa massages amongst others.
- Sabyinyo silverback Lodge: This lodge is Rwanda’s first-ever community-owned Lodge. It is located close to Volcanoes National Park and has a sister Lodge in Kenya. The Sabyinyo silverback Lodge is a luxurious Lodge that offers its guests amenities like; spa treatments, fitness club given its well-equipped gym, free Wi-Fi and indoor dining.
Other accommodation facilities near Volcanoes National Park Include; Mountain gorilla view, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Kinigi guesthouse and Gorilla Volcanoes Lodge.
What to Wear When Going Gorilla Trekking
When going Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park, please do carry the following items with you;
- Insect repellent.
- Hut or cap.
- Wear trousers and long sleeved shirts.
- A poncho or raincoat
- Hiking boots.
How to Get to Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is located northeast of Rwanda close to the border with Uganda in the north and DR Congo in the west. The park is a 2-hours’ drive-by road from Kigali City that offers amazing experiences of Rwanda countryside. The nearest big town being Musanze is a 20-minutes’ drive and close for tourists on tour of Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park can also be accessed from Uganda using the Cyanika international border. It is a 30 minutes’ drive from the border to the national park and hence is a convenient route for tourists on a Rwanda- Uganda safari.
Volcanoes National Park can also be accessed by air with charter flight options to Kinigi that are offered by Akagera Aviation. Cyanika international border post with Uganda is 30-minutes’ drive-by road and an easy way to extend safaris between the two countries. Akagera Aviation offers faster helicopter charter flights to Kinigi.
“In short, Rwanda is a great country to visit and I would recommend any tourists visiting to ensure that Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park is on your bucket list.”