How to plan a summer holiday to trek Rwanda Gorillas
How to plan a summer holiday to trek Rwanda gorillas. Located within the Virunga region, Volcanoes National Park covers over 160 square kilometers and is home to the Mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The park is the only place in Rwanda where you can see the endangered mountain gorillas, which number over 400 recorded gorillas. Volcanoes has 15 habituated gorilla families, which trekkers can track all year round. The summer holidays coincide with the best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda, which is June to September, and you need to plan ahead if you wish to enjoy your safari in Rwanda.
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Planning a gorilla trek summer safari in Rwanda is easy if you follow the necessary steps and get more information about what is needed for a successful gorilla safari. You need to know when to book for the safari, the cost of the gorilla permit and safari, and what to bring for the safari.
The Rwanda gorilla permit
To participate in gorilla trekking in Rwanda, you must first pre-book a gorilla permit issued by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The Rwanda Development Board issues about 96 gorilla permits per day, so the booking needs to be done months before the day of travel.
The gorilla permit is the only document that will allow you to track and spot the gorillas, and below is the gorilla permit cost in Rwanda throughout the different seasons. Rwanda offers a 10% discount on the gorilla permit to tourists who have pre-booked to visit Akagera National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park.
After purchasing the permit, a copy will be sent, but you will not be assigned a gorilla family. but this will be done on the morning of the trek after the briefing. Last-minute gorilla permits are non-existent, and you might not be able to purchase one if you wait till the last minute.
Habituated gorilla families in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park currently has 15 habituated gorilla families that tourists can trek throughout the year; however, other families were set aside for research purposes, and these are the Mafunzo gorilla family with 15 members, the Muhoza gorilla family with ten members, the Pablo family with 24 members, Isabukuru gorilla family with 14 members, Ntambara gorilla family with 11 members and one silverback and the Musilikare gorilla family with 19 members.
The habituated gorilla families that are located within Volcanoes National Park include:
Kwisanga Gorilla group: Kwisanga is the newest gorilla family to be introduced in Volcanoes, and it was formed after splitting from the Kwitonda family around May 2021. Kwisanga has 18 family members.
Amahoro family: The Amahoro gorilla family has 21 members sharing the Mount Bisoke territory with the Umubano gorilla family. Despite the fact that the two groups live in the same territory, they live harmoniously with some individuals having siblings in another group.
Kwitonda gorilla family: With 17 members, the Kwitonda group returned to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in 3006 and can be found on the slopes of Mount Muhabura. The Kwitonda group in 2021 split into two, forming the Kigoma gorilla family with 20 members and Karevuro with 20 members. The group currently has 4 infants, 2 blackbacks, 8 females, 3 juveniles, and 2 silverbacks.
Susa group: The group has 19 members and is considered the most difficult gorilla family to access. It was once the largest gorilla family in the park with 40 gorillas, but it split into the Igisha gorilla family with 35 members and the Karisimbi group with 10 members. The hike to the Susa group is hectic, and remember that the Susa is located along the slopes of Karisimbi Mountain.
Other gorilla families found in Volcanoes National Park include the Sabinyo gorilla family, with 15 members led by Gishishamwosti, the Umubano gorilla family, with 14 members, Agasha group, also known as Group Thirteen with 26 gorillas and this is the most preferred family because of the laid back approach of the silverback, and the Hirwa group which was formed in 3006 with 13 gorilla family members.
The gorilla trekking experience
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is an unforgettable experience that starts early morning at the headquarters with a briefing from the guides at the visitor center. You will be prepared for the big day ahead by being reminded about the rules and regulations followed when trekking gorillas.
After the briefing and assigning of gorilla families according to the fitness of the trekkers, the wilderness tracking of gorillas begins.
The trek routes do not have the same terrain; one moment, you will be going through the flat areas, and the next, taking either steep slopes and going downhill. The trek has no time limit, and the amount of time spent is determined by the location of the gorilla family you are trekking.
Meeting the gorillas face to face is one of the most amazing moments due to the imposing size of the gorillas. Gorillas are always curious when they see humans, even though they have been habituated, and they tend to get closer. You need to leave a distance of 7 meters so they can freely move around.
Is gorilla trekking in Rwanda safe?
Gorillas are not aggressive primates; although they know how to defend themselves from danger, they rarely attack humans and only do so when provoked. Their diet does not consist of meat since they regularly feed on fruits, roots, vegetables, and roots. Some rules and regulations have also been set to protect the gorillas and the trekkers, making the activity safe.
How to book a summer gorilla track safari in Rwanda
Independent travelers to Rwanda can book and purchase their gorilla permit directly from the Rwanda Development Board and get it in a few. Still, the stress comes in securing other logistics like transport and accommodation even with all the information that is on the internet.
You can trust us to help you plan a tailored summer gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda. We have years of expertise in organizing the safari, and we will help deal with all the local logistics like accommodation, transport from the airport to the national park, and then back and manage your entire safari.
From booking and purchasing the gorilla trek permit to taking care of other local logistics within your budget, we will ensure you enjoy your summer holiday with the gorillas.
Rules for gorilla trekking in Rwanda
As you plan your summer gorilla trek safari to Rwanda, you must know and remember the trek rules and regulations the Rwanda Development Board made to protect the gorillas. The guide re-echoed These rules and regulations during the briefing on trek day, and all tourists are advised to adhere to them. These rules protect both the Mountain gorillas and the trekkers, and these include:
- The distance you should put between you and the gorillas after finding them is 7 meters. This distance gives the gorillas a chance to act naturally without being inconvenienced, and it is also a significant way of preventing infections from the humans to the gorillas.
- You will be placed in a group of 8 members only and this is reduced on overwhelming the gorillas. The limited number of people trekking a gorilla family per day also reduces the disease spread to the already endangered Mountain gorillas.
- All tourists who feel sick should avoid trekking, and if you feel like sneezing or coughing when with the gorillas, you have to cover your nose and mouth and turn away from the gorillas.
- Although you must carry snacks and water, you are not allowed to eat and drink with the gorillas.
- Tourists are advised not to make noise when trekking and with the gorillas, to turn off their phones, to put them in flight mode, and to reduce abrupt movements.
- Taking photos when you are with the gorillas is prohibited.
- Every group spends an hour with the gorillas, and this can be reduced in case the gorillas start acting out.
What to bring and wear for the gorilla safari
For gorilla trekking safaris, consider what you need to pack and the clothes to bring. Most things are needed for a gorilla safari and you want to be well-packed and pack necessary items.
- Clothing is an essential part of a gorilla trek safari, and what we recommend includes lightweight pants and not jeans, long-sleeved shirts in neutral colors (Khaki, brown, and green, among others), thick socks, gaiters, adjustable gaiters, sweatshirts, and jerseys if possible. You will be trekking through the jungle, so expect your clothes to be muddy or full of dirt.
- Hike boots should be strong, not heavy, waterproof, and ankle-length. You do not need to purchase a new pair as long as it is comfortable.
- Waterproof backpack to carry all your equipment and other things you might need on your trek. Some of the things that you can carry in the backpack include wet wipes, camera gear a camera, a refillable water bottle, snacks these are highly recommended because you are not sure about the time spent on the safari, insect repellent, sunscreen, energy bars, sunglasses, a sun hat, waterproof raincoat, warm sweater and any other personal items like toiletries.
- Your passport and the gorilla permit will be needed when checking in at the park.
- For extra protection for your hands, carry some garden gloves. You will be walking through thorny bushes and scratchy vegetation and might need a walking stick for stability. The garden gloves will protect you from scratches.
- Binoculars are optional if you are going for a gorilla trek safari only since they will be up close; however, they can come in handy if you have planned for other safaris like game drives, primate walks, and bird watching.
Other activities carried out in Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is a bird-watching destination with over 170 recorded bird species, 13 of which are endemic to Volcanoes National Park and 16 are endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains. some of the species to look out for include Archer’s round-robin, Ruwenzori Batis, dusky crimson-wing, strange weaver and Ruwenzori double-collared sunbird among others.
Golden monkey trekking is also carried out in Volcanoes National Park, climbing the Virunga ranges, which include Mount Karisimbi with the highest peak, Mount Bisoke with the beautiful crater Lake, and Mount Muhabura, participating in the Kwita Izina ceremony where baby gorillas are named in the presence of the president of Rwanda and other dignitaries, visit the villages where you learn more about the culture of the Rwanda people, visiting the Dian Fossey grave and cycling safaris among others. You will also be able to spot some wildlife, including forest hogs, black-fronted duikers, spotted hyenas, and buffaloes, among others.
Best time of the year to book for the summer gorilla safari in Rwanda
The best time is usually during the dry season, from June to September and December to February. However, you can still trek in the wet months of March to May and October to November. The rains sometimes make it hard to trek with the slippery and muddy routes, but the gorillas will still be available, and this is the best time to travel for tourists on a budget and those who prefer less crowds.
The best time to book the summer gorilla permit is at least 6 months or more before the trek date because the gorilla permits get sold out. Therefore, the best time is to easily secure a gorilla trek permit.
Where to stay during the summer gorilla trek safari
Volcanoes National Park has no accommodation inside and no camping facilities, but there are several accommodation facilities you can choose from spread across the towns near the park. The facilities are categorized into budget/basic, mid-range, and luxury accommodation facilities.
Some of the facilities we recommend include Bisate Lodge, which overlooks the Bisate village, One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Lodge, Amakoro Songa Lodge, and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge among others.
Contact us to plan your summer holiday trek holiday to Rwanda.