Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda During COVID-19
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda during Covid-19 is open with strict regulations to keep the mountain gorillas and the communities around the parks protecting from acquiring the virus. The fundamental rule for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or anywhere else in Africa is not to go if you suspect to have any illness. COVID-19 has only re-enforced that rule. Mountain gorillas, like chimps, share 98% of human DNA and are susceptible to human respiratory diseases.
Recently, it was discovered that gorillas could also catch the SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19, which has led gorillas conservationists to up their game in protecting these primates against the virus.
However, the new development does not mean the end for gorilla trekking. Gorilla tourism is vital for the continued flourishing of the primates and the communities that live around the parks.
In addition to mandatory Covid-19 testing, the Rwanda wildlife authority, in collaboration with wildlife authorities in Uganda, DRC, and conservation organizations, has placed special operating procedures to ensure the gorillas and communities around them are protected from COVID-19.
In our post today, we take a look at the operating procedures you’ll need to adopt when planning your gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda during COVID-19.
If you’re planning to travel, make sure you get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. There’s no such thing as being too cautious when avoiding disease in today’s world.
Other vaccination jabs that will be very helpful in protecting you and the mountain gorillas include yellow fever, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, polio, and MMR. Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory for entering Rwanda.
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RT-PCR COVID-19 Test
All travelers arriving in Rwanda must have a negative COVID-19 certificate. The only accepted test is a SARS-CoV 2 Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) performed within 72 hours before departure (meaning travelers must be tested and get results within 3 days of their first flight). Other tests, such as Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RDTs), are not accepted.
In addition to the mandatory PCR Test, to enter Rwanda, all travelers must complete the Passenger Locator Form and upload the COVID-19 test certificate before their flight to Rwanda.
Before you’re allowed into the countryside for your gorilla trekking adventure, you’ll have to go through another mandatory COVID-19 test (at your own cost of $60) and wait 24 hours for your results at a designated transit hotel. Basically, you’ll be quarantined for 24 hours while observing operating procedures until you get your test results.
If you’re traveling from Uganda or India, you’ll be required to complete a 7-day mandatory quarantine in any of the designated hotels at your own cost. Designated 7-day quarantine hotels include Ubumwe Grande Hotel, Landmark Suites Hotel, Corina K. Guest house, Colours Club SPA & Garden Resort, Hilltop Hotel, Paradol Boutique Hotel, and Best Inn Motel.
Even when you leave the gorilla sanctuary and are ready to head back home, you’ll have to take another PCR test (and test negative) before you’re allowed to enter the airport.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Operating Procedures
In addition to testing negative for COVID-19, tourists going for gorilla trekking in Rwanda must observe the following strict guidelines:
Trekkers must wear a face mask at all times and stash away a fresh facemask for wearing when they come in close proximity to the gorillas. Preventative measures are imperative, and mask-wearing during gorilla-trekking will likely persist forever to prevent future human-to-gorilla disease transmission.
You’ll be required to have at least two facemasks before your guide allows you to start the gorilla trekking excursion. Preferably an N95 or surgical mask, which filters almost all airborne particles, is recommended. They’ll require that you wear the first mask at the briefing point and a fresh one just before you meet the gorillas.
Due to the reported side effects of wearing masks for long periods and in high altitudes, visitors shall take frequent breaks during the tracking to give themselves time to breathe fresh air. During these breaks, social distancing shall be strictly observed.
Rwanda Development Board (UDB) recently reduced the maximum number of trekkers per gorilla group from eight to six to easily observe physical distancing during the gorilla trekking adventure.
When entering or leaving the gorilla park, guides will sanitize your hands and spray all footwear with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
When with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, you’ll be required to keep a physical distance of 10 meters (32 ft) from the gorillas. Although this is hard to regulate, especially when curious juveniles come to you, you’re requested to follow your guide’s recommendations during your visit.
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 to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
These guidelines are pretty straightforward for any traveler to follow. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda during COVID-19 is helpful in financing gorilla conservation efforts in the Virunga mountains and keeping the communities around the park employed and involved in protecting the primates.
Gorilla trekking offers an alternative and sustainable source of income from local tour guiding fees, accommodation, national park fees, trekking permits, and taxes. The money gets funneled directly back into the communities, conservation efforts, government coffers, and responsible tourism efforts.
If we can all meticulously observe the operating procedure, we can handle the thin line between mountain gorilla conservation and the overwhelming health risks.
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When is the best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda during Covid?
The best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda post-COVID-19 is during the short dry season of December-January and the long dry season between June and September. The dry periods offer the best hiking conditions considering trekking occurs in mountainous terrain with unfavorable rainforest conditions.
You can trek gorillas in Rwanda any time of the year. However, the excursion will be more difficult in the rain as paths are steep and muddy. In addition, it’ll be of enormous advantage if you prepare your physical fitness before your trekking trip. Getting to the gorillas may require using your extra muscle strength.
Read more about the best time to travel.
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What you should pack
In light of the Rwanda gorilla trekking SOPs we’ve covered above, the first thing you should consider packing is at least 2 N95 facemasks. Remember, you will need one when tracking and a fresh one when with gorillas.
Pack a pair of comfortable waterproof hiking shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes.
Come with a light waterproof backpack to carry your photography gear, packed lunch, energy snack, drinking water, and anything you’ll need during your gorilla trek.
Read our extensive packing list for guidance on what to pack.
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Acquiring a Rwanda Gorilla Permit
RDB issues all gorilla permits in Rwanda. Any traveler above the age of 15 years can acquire a permit from RDB or through a licensed tour operator.
A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs USD 1,500 (£1,062/€1,232) per person per day. The permit is discounted during covid to the following fees:
- Nationals, EAC—$300
- Foreign residents—$500
- Corporates/Organizations—10% discount on bulk purchases from 30 permits
- Families—15% discount for family visits (couples and children over 15 years old)
- African citizens—a promotional $500 will be applied for mountain gorilla trekking.
- International tourists (Non- African Citizens) traveling in a group of 100 and more—a promotional rate of $500 will be applied for mountain gorilla trekking.
Read more about gorilla permit information before planning your gorilla trekking in Rwanda during Covid-19.
Booking a Gorilla Trekking Safari in Rwanda Post Covid-19
Travel may currently be restrictive, but we cant cripple the overwhelming urge to connect with the natural world and excite our senses when we travel. Rwanda is open for tourism, and its tourism jewels in the Virunga mountain slopes in Volcanoes National Park still welcome visitors post-COVID.
Encounter Africa Safaris employs local experts in planning gorilla trekking safaris, and they have mastered all the Covid-19 gorilla trekking procedures. We would like to guide you in planning your gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda during Covid-19, processing your permits, booking your accommodation, and organizing your transportation.
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