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The best way to travel to the mountain gorillas

Rwanda Gorillas Facts, Your Need to Know

Trekking the Rwanda gorillas is one of the topmost preferred wildlife adventures for most travelers thronging into the beautiful land of Rwanda. The entire population of the World’s remaining mountain gorillas lives in the mountainous ranges of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Other subspecies of gorillas can also be found in other countries in Africa such as the Congo, Central African Republic or Gabon.

Rwanda Gorillas are found in Parc National des Volcans which is located in the Virunga and is joined with Mgahinga National Park and Virunga National Park. Gorilla Safaris have become a household name in Rwanda because of the Nature of vegetation and Terrain plus its proximity to the Airport. When visiting the Land of a Thousand Hills, one should not miss out on the magnificent opportunity to visit Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans (PNV) consisting of 125 Km2 of mountain forest and home to the six Virunga Volcanoes and the world-famous mountain gorillas.

Protected within the PNV, the lushly forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla tracking. The exhilarating climb to the gorillas’ natural habitat of the shady bamboo forest offers fantastic views in all directions before the trackers are immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest, alive with the calls of colorful birds and the chattering of rare golden monkey.

Parc National des Volcans is managed and protected by the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). Access begins in the lively town of Musanze, situated at the base of the entrance of the park. Musanze has long been the base point for gorilla visits and entertains a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Bisoke, Mikeno, Sabyinyo, Mgahinga and Muhabura volcanoes.

Musanze is a 90-minute drive from Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. One can get to Musanze from Kigali either by private vehicle or by public taxi minibus. If you intend to make a gorilla visit, you will need to organise your own transport from Musanze town to the park boundaries, where you will continue your trip on foot. Vehicles can be hired for this purpose in Musanze town. Musanze is also only a 45-minute drive away from Gisenyi and the stunning Lake Kivu.

The Kinigi Guest House on the foot of Mount Sabyinyo is now open. It offers very comfortable accommodation in cottages for two, four or eight people. It also offers a good restaurant and bar. Hotel Muhabura in Musanze town also offers comfortable accommodation in reasonably priced single and double rooms. The hotel also features a reasonable restaurant and bar and fax and telephone facilities.

Rwanda GorillasFees for mountain gorilla permits:

With effect from 1st June 2012, the fee for gorilla visits will cost US$1500 per person for non-nationals. On the day of you are scheduled to trek, you must present yourself for briefing at the ORTPN offices situated at the prefecture offices in Musanze at 7:00 AM. ORTPN currently has a team of 80 trackers and anti-poachers, many of whom speak French or English.

For those are planning to do a gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda, the following information would apply (as set out in the printed leaflet by the Uganda Wildlife Authority ‘Gorilla Rules’).

Rwanda Gorillas

What to expect on your Rwanda gorilla trekking Safari?

Going on a gorilla trekking excursion is one of the most memorable experiences for anyone fortunate enough to afford it, so it is important to be prepared. In order to enjoy the most on your gorilla trekking day in Rwanda, You need to familiarise yourself with gorillas so you know how they behave, how they look, what you should and should not do in their presence, etc. I wrote a very in-depth article on gorilla facts packed with some of the most interesting aspects of gorillas in general and of mountain gorillas in particular. Rwanda Gorillas are such fascinating creatures it is very interesting to read more about them. Now that you are well geared and knowledgeable about the gorillas here is what you should expect on the day of your gorilla trek.

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda starts very early in the morning, and you will probably be picked up from your lodge by your guide or the lodge’s staff at around 6,30am so you can be at the park offices around 7 am. Coffee and tea will be available there for you to warm up or wake up. The Volcanoes National Park offices have an outdoor area with round seating areas each named after a gorilla family. Once your guide or a park ranger comes to tell you your assigned gorilla family you will head to the specific briefing area.

The trekking can happen in various kinds of vegetation depending on the location of the gorilla family but you will for sure trek through thick vegetation, mud, sliding soil, across rivers or streams, under barbed branches, through stinging nettles, bamboo thickets or extreme undergrowth. It is essential to be properly equipped. Once the trackers have found the gorillas, the guide will take you immediately there. This could mean suddenly getting into the park or finding the next gate in. You will continue trekking until you are just a few meters from the gorillas at which point you will meet the trackers.

During your one hour with the gorillas, you will be moving as they move and maybe shifting position. Sometimes the gorillas may come close to you, the little ones may want to play, the silverback may move, you are not in a zoo and this is a dynamic experience. If you are lucky and the entire family is around and together, you may choose to focus on one or another gorilla.

General health rules:

Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them:

  • Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.
  • If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
  • Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
  • Do not leave any rubbish (eg. food wrappers) in the park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep and fill it in when you are finished.

What to bring on your Rwanda Gorillas Safari:

  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes.
  • Put on earplugs for those who feel uncomfortable with the jungle sounds.
  • Carry a packed lunch and enough drinking water.
  • Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellent.
  • Bring a photo of a film camera. Using flashlight is not permitted so we recommend using films of 400-800 ASA.

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