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Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

JOURNAL > AFRICA > Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Face to face encounters with mountain gorillas in the wild is undoubtedly a humbling experience – their distinctly human qualities, especially with regards to their social structures, are immediately obvious whilst their scarcity – just over 1,000 left in the wild – makes the chance to see them is limited to a handful of lucky people each day.

Today there are two countries left in Africa where you can trek to see mountain gorillas – the east African neighbours Rwanda and Uganda. Whilst it should be noted that overall the experience in the two countries is largely the same as you are trekking to see the same animals in the same ecosystem (the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda are one continuous area, just called different things) there are distinct differences between the overall experience which should be noted prior to planning a trip. The tendency is for trekking to be slightly easier on the Rwandan side and more challenging in Uganda, however this is very much determined by the location of your allocated group, as well as the underfoot and weather conditions.

Best time to visit the Gorillas

Broadly speaking, Gorilla trekking is a year-round experience, with permits offered 12 months of the year in both Rwanda and Uganda. Naturally the weather plays a significant role in dictating both the conditions for trekking and the location of the various gorilla groups on the mountainsides. Both Rwanda and Uganda receive their seasonal rains in April and May (long rains) and November (short rains). Whilst these are less favourable months to visit the area (especially April and May) hardier travellers do still like to visit as it is much quieter and the treks are generally shorter with the gorillas’ food sources lower down the mountains.

Restrictions on Gorilla Visits

It is worth noting that permits for gorilla trekking are extremely limited. Rwanda issues 96 gorilla trekking permits per day and Uganda 152. Permits must be paid for in full at the time of confirming your trip and, as they cannot be “held” in the way we can hold space in lodges, they are subject to availability at the time of booking. Outside of the rainy season months there is almost a 100% take up on permits in both countries, so we recommend booking gorilla trekking trips well in advance – ideally 8-12 months, especially for the most popular times.

Visiting Time

The maximum permitted time with gorilla groups is 1 hour and this is strictly enforced by the guides. Groups are allocated on the day of the trek at the respective park HQ so trekking times can never be guaranteed, but walks can last for anything between 1 and 4 hours each way, so a good degree of fitness is required. Trekking groups are permitted to approach gorillas to within 10 metres, but on occasion gorillas will come closer than this so please listen to the instruction of your guides in the event this occurs as they may ask trekkers to move back.

Fees and Age Limits

Permit costs do vary across the two countries.

Rwanda permits are $1500 per person (minimum age of 15).

Uganda permits are $700 (minimum age also 15).

Visitors to Uganda are also able to book permits for a longer gorilla habituation experience, which lasts for 4 hours. Again the minimum age is 15 and the cost is $1500 per person.

Accommodation prices vary depending on which country you choose to visit, however accommodation options in Rwanda are more exclusive and in-line with the permit prices.

Gorilla Trek

About the Author

About the Author

"I started travelling to Africa as a young and ambitious golfer in 2002 when I headed to South Africa’s beautiful Eastern Cape for a few months. It was there that a now 20 year (and counting) love affair with the continent began."



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