How is safety and Security guaranteed during gorilla trekking in Rwanda?
Rwanda is one of the safest countries on the African continent and in the world, and this is because the government has made Security and safety a top priority after the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Rwanda has been safe for over 20 years now and, with the friendly people, has become a safe safari destination for gorilla trekking.
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Even though so many people have come to Rwanda for a gorilla safari, there are still so many asking the same question about whether it is safe to trek gorillas in Rwanda, and the answer is yes. It is understandable when this question is asked because we all need our safety assured, especially if we are trekking through the jungle for the first time. Tourists need to be assured that gorilla trekking is safe because even though Mountain gorillas are wild animals, they have been habituated to get used to human presence, and once the trekking rules and regulations have been followed, there will be no issue with trekking, the gorillas in Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is carried out in the Volcanoes National Park and is one of the most entertaining safari activities in the country. Rwanda is one of the three countries with Gorillas in addition to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, currently, DRC is not a safe country to go for gorilla trekking due to the political unrest experienced in the country. Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is carried out in the Virunga National Park, and in Uganda, the exercise is carried out in Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Safety measures taken on a gorilla safari in Rwanda
An experienced guide: a professional and knowledgeable tour guide is assigned to you during the briefing session, and he or she will take you through the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking and take you through the exercise. The tour guides are very knowledgeable about the gorilla families and the best routes to use. To be safe, you need to follow all the guidelines and instructions given to you by the tour guides.
The age limit for tracking: The age limit for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is 15 years and above. This is the age limit for all tourists planning a gorilla safari in Rwanda. Age verification using your official identification documents like national IDs and passports will be done. The age limit was put at 15 because all those that are 15 and above can easily be controlled, unlike children below the age who are hard to control and might be forced to run in case a gorilla approaches them. They make noise and play around. This is one of the many ways safety has been guaranteed when gorilla trekking.
Provision of armed rangers: The park authorities provide one or two armed rangers to provide Security to all the trek groups within the Volcanoes National Park. The rangers are always in contact with each other, and only use routes they believe are safer. Volcanoes have other wildlife, so the job of the armed ranger is to keep you safe as you enjoy a memorable and safe gorilla safari in Rwanda.
The security checkpoints: After tourists get to Volcanoes National Park from Kigali, each person has to go through a security checkpoint to ensure that they are not a danger to the gorillas, themselves, and other tourists. After undergoing a security check for firearms, knives, and any other considered to be a threat, you will be allowed to enter the park and participate in the activity. Note that immediately after the security check, you must attend a briefing at the park headquarters.
Briefing: The briefing is minutes between experienced tour guides and trekkers. During the briefing, trek rules, and regulations are re-echoed so that tourists get to remember them (we are going to be looking at the trek rules and regulations later on), and it is also the time when groups of 8 are assigned the gorilla families that they are to trek.
CCTV cameras: You will notice CCTV cameras in the different parts of the national park, as well as security personnel. Gorilla trekking is a top-earning activity for Rwanda in terms of revenue, and that is why Security is always on standby to help and protect the tourists.
Gorilla trekking permits: Gorilla permits are legal documents printed by the Rwanda Development Board and are the only way tourists get to trek the gorillas. These need to be booked in advance because of their high demand. Gorilla permits are part of the safety and security measures to protect the gorillas. A few permits are printed daily to reduce the number of people who trek the gorillas, and each goes for $1500. To know more about the cost of a gorilla permit and how to purchase one, check out our website on how to purchase gorilla permits.
Although safety measures have been put in place, you also need to ensure that you take care of your personal Security to contribute to safety during a gorilla trek safari in Rwanda. Below are some security measures you can take during and before the trek.
Follow all the rules and regulations that were put in place because they are to protect you from mountain gorilla attacks and protect the gorillas from extinction.
- Before booking your gorilla safari, make sure that you carefully research the tour company you are planning to use. Ensure that the company is registered; do not pay on personal bank accounts but ask for the company bank account and read reviews on TripAdvisor.
- Get proper clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and trousers, to protect your body from tree scratches, branches, and sharp plants. A walking stick will be available if you need it, as well as a waterproof raincoat and warm clothes to keep you warm. Make sure you do not feel sick during the hike by packing right for the safari.
- If you are not used to hiking or physically capable, ask for an easier trek so that you can handle trekking a hard one. This can be done during the briefing, or you can ask your operator during the booking process.
- When feeling sick, avoid trekking, this is one of those rules that need to be followed to the dot. You risk infecting the gorillas if you have a contagious disease because mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human illnesses/diseases. We advise that you wait until you are strong enough and well to enjoy the trekking business.
- Always stay calm when you are with the gorillas. Although the gorillas are shy and quiet, they can easily be irritated in case their daily behavioral patterns are disturbed, so ensure that you do not make unnecessary movements with the gorillas. Avoid sunglasses because they show reflections of the gorillas. When approached by a gorilla, do not run but stay calm, assume a subordinate position, and don’t look directly at the gorilla. All this will ensure that you are safe from the attacks and wait till the gorilla bypasses you before making any movement.
Rwanda rules and regulations for gorilla trekking
For all tourists planning on participating in gorilla trekking in Rwanda, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed to keep both the gorillas and the tourists safe. Following such rules is like a safety measure, and failure to do so might result in the person breaking the rules being banned from gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Here are the gorilla trekking rules and regulations to follow:
- When with the gorillas, Ensure you keep close to your trek route and do not wander off. Other wildlife species are found within the national park so to keep safe, everyone is to stay with the group and follow the tour guide.
- Every group gets to spend an hour with the gorillas, and all tourists are to respect this.
- Turn away from the gorillas when you feel like coughing or sneezing to prevent infections.
- Pack a no-flash camera with you because flash photography is prohibited.
- Keep your voice low when communicating before and when with the gorillas. Loud noise irritates and makes them uncomfortable, so you should avoid them at all costs.
- A maximum of 8 people is allowed to trek a gorilla family in a day, and this is done so that gorillas maintain their normal day-to-day behaviors.
- Before and after the trek
- Wash your hands thoroughly before the start of the trek to prevent infections from humans to the gorillas.
- Do not leave the trek path unless the tour guide says so.
- You have to carry all your rubbish when leaving the national park to protect the gorillas and their natural habitat.
What to carry for a gorilla trek safari in Rwanda
For a fun-filled gorilla safari, you will need to carry essential items which include trousers, long-sleeved shirts all in neutral colors, ankle-length hike boots, a warm sweater, waterproof rain jacket, sunscreen, a sunhat, warm clothing, insect repellent, a first aid kit, day backpack, camera and camera equipment, flashlight, binoculars, sandals, running shoes, wet wipes, biodegradable toilet paper, cash (preferably visit UGX and in smaller notes for easy tipping) snacks, refillable water bottle and personal toiletries among others.
Best time to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking safari
The best time to go for a gorilla trek safari in Rwanda is from June to September and December to February during the dry season. This is also the best time to go for other safaris within the country. You can still enjoy the trek during the rainy season (March to May and October to November).
Several activities are carried out in Volcanoes National Park besides gorilla trekking, and these include bird watching, golden monkey trekking, Mountain hiking on the Virunga mountains that are found within the national park, attending the Kwita Izina ceremony, cultural tour to the nearby villages and a guided walk to the Ruhondo and Burera Lakes.
FAQs about safety in gorilla trekking in Rwanda
There are so many frequently asked questions about safety and Security during gorilla trekking in Rwanda, and we are going to discuss some of these below.
How safe is it to trek the gorillas in Rwanda?
Yes, it is very safe to trek gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and this is because there are so many security measures that have been put in place to protect the gorillas and the trekkers at the same time.
How safe is it to book accommodation in the park?
Accommodation facilities are safe, but booking through a tour operator is best since they are well-versed with the best lodges/ hotels to use during a gorilla safari in Rwanda.
Before choosing an accommodation facility, try reading their reviews on TripAdvisor, avoid booking lodges that have been visited by a few people, and avoid going for budget rooms because criminals can easily target them. Instead, try mid-range if you are traveling on a budget.
Mountain gorillas have 98% of their DNA to humans and are gentle and peaceful for as long as you do not disturb their peace. We are here to help you organize a gorilla trekking safari to Rwanda and assure you that it will be a fun-filled and safe activity.
If you are still worried about your safety, contact us through our website and contact info, as our staff is always available to help.