The lush green tropical of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo are the only places where one can trek gorillas in their natural habitat.
As the morning sun sips through the forest canopy, you slowly trudge through the lush green forest undergrowth following the rangers as they clear a path. The sweet smell of the fresh grass is adulating. The chirping of the forest birds is a beautiful white noise on your hike. Then suddenly, the rangers stop and motion you to come closer, just to tell you “we have found them”. A knot suddenly appears in your stomach, and your heart pounds as you anxiously crave for a viewing. You drop the walking stick and get your camera ready for an encounter of a lifetime.
There are only approximately 1000 mountain gorillas remaining on the planet, and visiting them in their natural habitat is the only opportunity to view them because they cannot thrive in captivity. Gorillas trekking in Africa’s emerald rainforests and seeing these fragile creatures’ daily interactions is probably one of life’s greatest gifts. Follow the everyday activities of gorilla families. Consider how a mother carefully feeds her young while keeping an eye out for a 200kg silverback keeping a vigilant eye over his group. Spending time with gorillas in Africa is an unrivaled wildlife experience since it is like locking eyes with a distant relative.
But where can you go gorilla trekking in the wild? Based on our extensive first-hand trekking experiences in Africa’s most remote locations, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on where to see gorillas in Africa:
Rwanda, Africa’s most accessible gorilla trekking destination, is a little country that punches much above its weight in terms of natural beauty. Volcanoes National Park is a flagship reserve and is only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Kigali International Airport, a three hours drive by car.
The magnificent Volcanoes National Park is located in northwestern Rwanda and encompasses 5 of the 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains range. It includes 160 square kilometers of outstanding rainforest. It serves as a mysterious background for Rwanda’s immersive gorilla conservation adventures. Gorillas are critically endangered primates that spend the most of their waking hours foraging for food on the ground, moving less than 1 kilometer each day, making them easily trackable. A professional gorilla tracker will lead you through the park’s towering African redwoods and bamboo, weaving vines, and floral lobelias to the location where you’ll have a soul-stirring encounter with one of humanity’s closest living relatives.
Volcanoes National Park served as the home base for trailblazing primatologist Dian Fossey. You can pay your respects at Fossey’s tomb. It is a well-protected and maintained reserve teeming with monkeys (including the endangered golden monkey) and forest birds.
At least 10% of the park’s tourism money goes to community programs, enhancing the good impact of gorilla trekking in Rwanda thus making the conservation of these big apes highly feasible for rural populations. Conservation initiatives employ reformed poachers, allowing them to earn a lawful wage.
Despite the fact that gorilla trekking in Rwanda is popular all year, the country’s dry seasons provide by far the great hiking conditions and the least danger of malaria. The lengthy rainy season in Rwanda lasts from roughly March through May. The lengthy dry season then begins in June and lasts until roughly mid-September, making this the best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The rainy season is shorter from October to November, followed by a short dry season from December to February. This is also a wonderful season to visit Rwanda to view gorillas, however, it might be a little more humid than from June to September.
A permit costs $1500 USD per person for one hour with the gorillas in Rwanda. For a trek during the lengthy dry season (June to September), they are sometimes sold out up to a year in advance, so we recommend reserving your safari as soon narrow down the dates of your gorilla trek.
Mountain gorillas can only live in their natural habitat, so hiking into their native woods, such as Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla national park and is your chance to observe them in the wild. To preserve the health and safety of these creatures, severe rules are in place, such as the Uganda gorilla trekking permit requirements. Because daily viewings of each gorilla troop are extremely rare, we recommend booking your Uganda gorilla trekking tour at least a year in advance. The good news is that Uganda’s trekking permits are some of the affordable in the world, making it the best place in Africa to view gorillas on a budget.
Mountain gorillas in Uganda may be found in the epically called Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a shroud of tangled green that blankets the country’s southwestern slopes. It’s a day’s drive (9 to 10 hours) from Kampala or a speedy (but more expensive) charter aircraft – so you’ll have to work a bit more to get there than in Rwanda, but it’s worth it!
Bwindi is a World Heritage Site with both montane and lowland forest, providing a lush environment for over 120 animal species, 350 bird species, 220 butterfly species, and many more reptiles and amphibians. Because of the cash provided by tourists, the park’s endangered mountain gorilla population has increased to around half of the world’s population.
Mgahinga gorilla National park is another destination where one can go for a gorilla experience. This is the smallest national park and home to 1 habituated gorilla family. The park is home to golden monkeys and can be seen (if you are lucky) on your gorilla trek. If you want to visit primates other than gorillas in Africa, Bwindi will provide you with excellent interactions with colobus monkeys and chimps throughout your Uganda gorilla trekking excursion.
Every year, the nation has two dry seasons and two wet seasons. Although gorilla trekking in Uganda is an all-year sport, most people favor the dry months of June to September and December to February, when hiking conditions are better. Because there are fewer people during the low seasons, Uganda’s parks are less congested and housing is more reasonable (March to May and October to November). This is the perfect time for budget-conscious travelers who want to go gorilla trekking in Uganda.
A permit to spend an hour with gorillas in Uganda costs $700 USD per person. You may also pay $1500 USD for a habituation permit, which permits you to accompany the researchers and spend a maximum of 4 hours with the gorillas in their natural habitat.
Congo gorilla trekking is unusual in that you and your guide may walk right into the forest from camp and begin exploring for gorillas in the wild; occasionally you can spot them within an hour. This differs from other gorilla trekking sites like as Rwanda or Uganda, where you have to embark on a road transfer into the national park before hiking for two to five hours into the highlands. Congo’s flatter topography and lower altitude also implies that it is warmer than Rwanda and Uganda. There is also the option to go trekking for three days in a row, which is limited to one day in the other nations. This gives you more time to interact with the different gorilla families and compare the intriguing variances in personalities and group dynamics.
The country’s Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which covers 13 500 square kilometers (5 200 square miles) of pristine tropical rainforest and is home to over 100 animal species and one of Africa’s most diversified primate populations, is still relatively obscure. The park is well-known for its effective protection of western lowland gorillas, making Congo the greatest destination in the world to witness these primates in the wild. Lowland gorillas are smaller and less hairy than their mountain counterparts found in Rwanda and Uganda, with softer hair, narrower faces, and rounder noses. But, like their higher-altitude relatives, they are always a sight to see.
The ultimate ‘Heart of Africa’ experience is gorilla trekking in Congo. Follow professional guides through dark forest pathways shrouded with beautiful butterflies, and distinguishing monkey and tropical bird cries as you get closer to one of the most stunning animal encounters on the planet.
Rain is a crucial component of the valuable ecology of the Congo Basin’s equatorial rainforest, known as the “green lungs” of the earth. As a result, its seasons are accurately defined as wet, wetter, and wettest.
The ‘low rainfall’ season, which runs from June to September, and the ‘gentle rainfall’ season, which goes from December to February, make trekking for gorillas in Congo simpler. July and August are generally the least rainy and coldest months of the year.
A permit to trek gorillas in Congo costs $500 USD per person and is included in the cost of your tour package.
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