Gorilla Trekking Tours

Witnessing a group of mountain gorillas in their lush natural habitat going on about their daily lives without a care in the world is such an exhilarating experience

The Gorilla Trekking Experience is arguably the most breathtaking African safari experience. It is no wonder that gorilla trekking tours are the most sought-after African safari adventures. Witnessing a group of mountain gorillas in their lush natural habitat going on about their daily lives without a care in the world is such an exhilarating experience. An enthralling expedition, gorilla trekking takes travelers on a trek through the dense tropical rainforests in search of mountain gorillas. Led by expert guides and armed rangers, tourists in small groups of eight venture into the bamboo-covered slopes to interact with man’s close relatives – the world’s most gentle apes. Watching them pluck leaves off bamboo trees for food, nurture their young, and simply live gently and subtly is an unforgettable moment and one to cherish forever.   

Mountain gorillas are highly endangered and there is only a population of over 1000 individuals remaining in the world. This population is only found in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda’s highlands and Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda on the Virunga Mountain slopes are unquestionably two of the greatest spots in Africa to watch mountain gorillas. These two locations boast the utmost conservation and sustainable programs for gorilla trekking adventures, as well as outstanding infrastructure, including some of the best safari lodges for gorilla safari, stays. On the other hand, DRC is the only place where tourists can visit both the mountain gorillas (in the Virunga National Park) and lowland gorillas.


Gorilla Trekking Tours in Uganda

Gorilla trekking tours are the most popular adventure tours in Uganda, and of the three countries, the Pear of Africa is the only country with two mountain gorilla national parks. Uganda boasts half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas and while the largest number of these reside in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, the other smaller population can be found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the Virunga Mountains.

Gorilla Tours in Uganda

3 Day Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari

4 Days Gorillas and Golden Monkey

5 Days Gorillas and Chimpanzees

7 Days Primates and Wildlife Tour

10 Days Uganda self drive safari

14 Day Uganda Safari Holiday

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the finest place in Uganda to see mountain gorillas which is home to the largest population of mountain gorillas. Bwindi is a 131-square-kilometer (128-square-mile) primeval, montane, and lowland forest whose incredible biodiversity also supports the refuge of other numerous creatures including birds, smaller primates, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and moths. The UNESCO World Heritage site has over 19 habituated gorilla families distributed in its four respective sectors for gorilla trekking. These include Rushaga, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Buhoma. More so, Bwindi offers gorilla habituation experiences in the Rushaga sector, where tourists can enjoy prolonged interactions with wild gorillas alongside a group of researchers and rangers.

On the other hand, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park in Uganda covering 33.9 square kilometers of the Virunga Massif. The par also encompasses three of the Virunga volcanoes – Mount Gahinga, Sabyinyo, and Muhabura and thus a great location to go mountain hiking in Uganda. Mgahinga boats one habituated gorilla family, the Nyakagezi gorilla family and is the only one available for gorilla trekking in the park. However, Mgahinga is also a great place to see golden monkeys (the only golden monkey habitat in Uganda), Albertine Rift endemic bird species, and the Batwa group of people.

To enjoy a gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, tourists are advised to book a gorilla trekking permit in advance. Uganda gorilla trekking permits cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for residents, and UGX 250,000 for East African Citizens. More so, a gorilla habituation permit costs $1,500 per person. Uganda gorilla permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and they can either be booked directly or through a local tour operator. Gorilla trekking tours in Bwindi and Mgahinga start at the Park Headquarters of the respective gorilla trekking trailheads.

Visitors are taken through a briefing about the mountain gorillas and the trekking exercise in addition to the rules and regulations for trekking by the game rangers and park wardens. After the briefing, visitors are divided into groups of eight and assigned a gorilla group to trek, as well as an armed ranger and guide to lead the trek. Trekking mountain gorillas takes anywhere between 30 minutes to 5 hours depending on the location of the mountain. Once located, visitors are required to spend one hour observing the apes. After gorilla trekking, visitors head back to the park headquarters for certification and appreciation.

Getting to Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks

All Uganda gorilla safaris begin from either Kampala or Entebbe and visitors can either fly or drive to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. By road, Bwindi is approximately an 8-hour drive from Kampala or Entebbe whereas Mgahinga is about a 9 to 10-hour drive. By air, there are scheduled flights operated by Bar Aviation and AeroLink Uganda from either Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe International Airport to Kihihi and Kisoro Airstrips respectively. A domestic flight from Entebbe to Bwindi or Mgahinga is about an hour.

However, Uganda gorilla trekking tours can also be accessed via Kigali Rwanda which is about 5 hours by road and 30 minutes by flight.

How to Get to Bwindi Forest National Park for Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking Tours in Rwanda

In Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park, also known as Parc National des Volcans (PNV) located in the Virunga Massif is the country’s sanctuary for the endangered mountain gorillas. Encompassing 160 square kilometers, the Volcanoes National Park also protects golden monkeys, vervet monkeys, and other primates, as well as six volcanoes including Bisoke, Karisimbi, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, Muhabura, and Mikeno. Moreover, Dian Fossey, a prominent gorilla conservationist, was also buried on a site in the Volcanoes National Park. Home to 10 habituated gorilla groups available for trekking, the Volcanoes National Park offers the most accessible gorilla trekking experiences since the gorillas here do not move around a lot.

Moreover, Rwanda is well-known for the best luxury gorilla trekking tours with complimentary stays at some of the most opulent safari lodges. Although the country faced genocide in the early part of the 1990s, there has been a phenomenal comeback in the economy, with tourism, notably gorilla trekking, increasing significantly. Fortunately, gorilla trekking in Rwanda is slightly less exhausting than in Bwindi Forest since these animals do not make several movements.

Gorilla Tours in Rwanda

3 Day Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Safari

5 Days Gorillas and cultural safari

9 Days Best Of Rwanda Safari tour

Gorilla trekking tours in the Volcanoes begin at 7 am with a briefing at Kiningi Park Headquarters from the park wardens and like in Bwindi, visitors are assigned mountain gorilla groups to trek as well as rangers and guides to lead them on the trek. Hikes to see the mountain gorillas can range anywhere from 30 minutes to four or more hours and once located, visitors have an hour to spend time with the apes. Porters are available to help the visitors with bags and cameras, as well as to lend a hand along the way.

Like in Uganda, one requires a gorilla trekking permit to trek mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. A Rwanda Gorilla trekking Permit costs $1,500 per person – the most expensive gorilla trekking permit in East Africa. Rwanda Gorilla trekking permits are issued by the Rwanda Development Board and can be booked either directly or through a reputable local tour operator. However, with just 96 permits available each day in Rwanda (eight permits for each gorilla troop), it is strongly advised to reserve your gorilla trekking permit ahead of time given the high demand.

Through gorilla conservation and community empowerment, a percentage of the gorilla permit proceeds is directed to surrounding local communities for the improvement of livelihoods, and construction of schools, roads, and health centers. Moreover, there is a compensation fund for local farmers if gorillas damage their crops, which contributes to harmonious coexistence. Furthermore, numerous people gain employment from gorilla trekking such as game rangers, guides, trackers, drivers, etc.

Where can you go gorilla trekking
6 Days Gorilla and wildlife Safari

Getting to the Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park is accessible from Kigali Capital City by either road or air and the best way to access the park is by flying into Rwanda via Kigali International Airport. Kigali is approximately 116 kilometers which is about 2 to 3 hours by road. Volcanoes National Park can also be accessed from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While on gorilla trekking tours to Volcanoes National Park, tourists can also indulge in golden monkey trekking, cultural tours, mountain hiking, birding, nature walks, etc.

Gorilla Trekking in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Besides Rwanda and Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo is another ideal place to go for gorilla trekking tours in Africa. Mountain gorillas may be found in DR. Congo’s Virunga National Park, also known as Parc National des Virungas. Established in 1925, Virunga National Park, located in the Virunga Mountains is home to a third of the remaining population of mountain gorillas. The Park is bordered by Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Spanning over 7,769 square kilometers, Virunga National Park is Africa’s most biodiverse protected region, supporting a variety of wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures. Located on the eastern side of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, Virunga is also known as “the park of fire and ice” due to its diversity of ecosystems including savannah, volcanic plains, and the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges.

Despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Virunga is continually under threat from conflict, poaching, and criminal activities, as well as uncontrollable natural calamities. The Congo gorilla population was severely harmed when several of the mountain gorillas were brutally slaughtered in 2007. Moreover, in 2012, a conducted census revealed that the gorillas were doing well despite the instability that had decimated some of them some years before. Thanks to the rangers’ efforts in preventing poaching in partnership with Virunga National Park officials. In 2014, the park’s director was shot in an ambush but survived. The park officials continue to work to protect the Virunga National Park from encroachment by rebel groups, as well as oil companies seeking drilling rights around and within the park.

Gorilla Tours in DR Congo

4 Days Gorilla and Nyiragongo Hike

3 Day Low Land gorilla trekking safari

5 Days Rwanda Congo Safari Tour

Gorilla trekking tours in Virunga National Park are the most popular tourist adventures in Congo and the park offers six habituated gorilla groups for gorilla trekking. Furthermore, Congo is also the only safari location in Africa where tourists can see both the mountain gorillas and the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, found in the nation’s Kahuzi Biega National Park. Moreover, DR. Congo offers the cheapest gorilla trekking tours with gorilla trekking permits costing $400 per person. And unlike in Rwanda and Uganda where permits sell out, especially in the high tourism season, it is not the case in Congo. In ‘low season,’ permits may be reduced to as little as US$200.

Are gorillas aggressive

Accessing Virunga National Park

 Virunga National Park is very accessible both by air and road and most visitors to the park often fly into Kigali International Airport and embark on a 3-hour drive to the border crossing at Gisenyi, Rwanda/Goma, DRC. Alternatively, travelers can fly into Goma International Airport with Ethiopian Airlines, as well as other indigenous DRC aircraft. However, be advised that flights tend to delay, thus it is best to arrange accommodation in Goma on the day of your arrival. By road, visitors traveling to Virunga National Park can access the park via the city of Goma at the Grand Barrière border crossing. However, the best way to get to Goma is through neighboring Rwanda. Kigali International Airport is a 3-hour drive from Goma.

All gorilla trekking tours in Congo begin and end at the Goma Tourism Centre. When booking a Congo gorilla trekking tour package through a tour operator, the tour operator is responsible for your transport inside Goma. Nonetheless, travel to, from, and within Virunga National Park is catered for by the official Virunga transport, which must also convey the passengers to the point of departure on time.

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