Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda is one of life’s greatest experiences and the unique adventure may raise questions about what you can expect during your trip, and how to make it happen.
Gazing into the eyes of one of the planet’s most magnificent creatures in a setting that feels so far removed from everyday life will stay with you forever. A gorilla-trekking experience lets you witness the majestic beings as they share their mannerisms and exhibit their strong family bonds.
Knowing what to expect when preparing for and embarking on a gorilla trek can give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience on your African travel itinerary, as well as ensuring you are well-prepared for this unique and life-changing event.
Adventurers seeking a gorilla experience can focus their journey on two distinct destinations in east Africa, namely Rwanda and Uganda. Both countries offer outstanding opportunities to come face to face with these magnificent animals in locations unique to each place. The low-lying areas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park serve as the perfect habitat for their mountain gorillas while Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest offers a thick cover for gorilla families who live in high altitudes.
Rwanda is known as “The Land of a Thousand Hills” and the picturesque Virungu Mountains will testify to this. A lush haven of breathtaking montane and bamboo forest blend with the open grasslands and swamps of the Volcanoes National Park which lies in the northwest of the country.
The park, which is home to volcanoes, golden monkeys, and once was the base for well-known conservationist Dian Fossey, takes approximately three hours to get to from Kigali yet offers a chance to encounter gorillas in a shorter time due to their location within the park.
Discover Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a protected area that offers an almost out-of-this-world ambiance that’s true to its name, with trails that can range in difficulty and the time it takes to reach different gorilla troops.
This well-established tropical rainforest offers a picturesque place for countless butterflies and birds, and may seem consistently shady as the thick canopy of trees allows only streaks of light through. Due to the forest’s location, visitors can fly to nearby Kihihi and drive to Buhoma, which offers an exciting view to add to the sense of anticipation for your adventure.
The best time to visit for a gorilla trek can be in June to July, September to October, or December and January. By June, the rainy season eases and September allows you to avoid the crowds. Short rains fall in October, but do not greatly affect trekking conditions, while December and January offer another opportunity for dryer conditions.
As many gorilla treks are done as an add-on to an East African safari, planning your trek around the best times for a safari excursion is key. No matter when you choose to trek, excellent guides, outstanding accommodations, and friendly locals who share your enthusiasm for the excursion will ensure a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
You may prepare yourself physically and mentally for your trek, yet be prepared to feel quite humbled once you come face-to-face with these gentle giants. Expect to walk trails that wind up through branches and bush by stepping up, over, around, and under dense foliage, while led by a qualified guide and assisted by friendly porters.
Your trek will begin at a central point, from which you either drive to the trailhead or embark on your journey. Excitement quickly builds as you step into the surreal surroundings of untouched jungle terrain.
It could take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours to meet a family of gorillas, at which time you will get to spend an hour observing their quiet but powerful presence. You can enjoy a packed lunch on the mountain slopes, before descending the majestic terrain slowly with your guide and porters.
What to wear during a gorilla trek follows the rules of a safari, with neutral colors, khaki hues, and breathable clothing recommended. Knowing what to wear on a gorilla trek will ensure you feel comfortable and protected as you head into the forest. Long pants that can be tucked into your hiking boots or walking shoes are recommended, with long sleeve shirts made of light material.
Pack a light rain jacket in your backpack and a pair of garden gloves can come in handy to help you grip the branches and ground around you. A camera is a must and a pair of binoculars can help you search the forest for gorillas and other wildlife. Your porter will help carry your gear and assist you in stepping over rocks and shrubs. As long as you have the appropriate clothing, your gorilla trek will be off to a great start.
Assist with Obtaining Your Gorilla-Trekking Permit
With a focus on ensuring gorilla conservation, the daily quota of gorilla-trekking permits in Rwanda and Uganda is limited and securing yours within a reasonable time before your trip is key to a successful excursion.
Planning well ahead and considering embarking on this epic adventure outside of the peak trekking season, as well as noting availability dates, will ensure an unforgettable experience. The permits are controlled by the government of each country and pricing varies, depending on which destination you choose for your gorilla trek.
Rwanda permits start at a considerably higher cost than permits in Uganda, with the time of year dictating overall pricing, so knowing the facts is an important part of the planning process. Your Zicasso travel specialist will work with you in creating your Rwanda or Uganda journey and will obtain your gorilla-trekking permit as soon as your dates are set, adding peace of mind to your overall trip.
Select the Best Accommodations
In Rwanda and Uganda, you can choose to stay in a variety of accommodations that range from humble, home-away-from-home options to tented delights and luxury lodges. The focus in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda is on the gorillas, which carries through the majority of accommodation options in the surrounding areas.
No matter which style of accommodation you choose to stay in, friendly staff will gladly assist with getting you ready for your trek, share stories and tips for the adventure to come, and explain the day’s adventure with you.
A number of accommodations have spa facilities and ensure you have a hearty meal waiting after your trek is complete. Savor the sounds and smells of these incredible regions in two amazing countries and know that no matter where you choose to stay, you will be assured of a good night’s rest after an exciting day in the forest.
Design Your Itinerary Around Your Gorilla Trek
When thinking about whether to do your gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda, consider whether you are looking to do a stand-alone gorilla-trekking experience as an add-on after a safari or if you are ready for an adventure that embraces several activities in a specific country. Both countries work perfectly as a three-day gorilla trek, but knowing how long to spend in each destination and why may help you decide which one to pick.
Rwanda offers visitors the opportunity to stay a short while, visiting the capital city, Kigali, and then spending two or three nights in the Volcanoes National Park, where your gorilla trekking will take place. Less travel time to get from one highlight to another and shorter trekking trails create the perfect space for an adventure lasting a few days. Unwind before or after your trek and consider ending your Rwanda experience with a golden monkey trek.
If your adventure extends beyond trekking for gorillas, consider Uganda, a country that offers adventures that will take you from the Queen Elizabeth Park safari circuit to magnificent Murchison Falls to chimpanzee trekking in Kibale. Spend no less than seven days, with a minimum of three nights near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where a variety of cultural experiences can be found. Relaxing before or after your trek is an excellent idea.
Rwanda and Uganda are beautiful countries that boast a rich heritage, cultural treasures, and breathtaking scenery. Wildlife wonders that include the marvels of gorilla trekking can help create an unforgettable experience, depending on your preferences of the length of trip, when to visit, and which country is right for you.