Trekking up the steep sides of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park to stand face-to-face with a mountain gorilla is unforgettable and one of Africa's great wildlife encounters.
You will wake up early in the morning and be driven down from your mountain lodge to the registration area. Please note that this drive can take up to 45 minutes, depending on your lodge. Here, you will be presented with fresh Rwandan coffee and some traditional dancing.
Once you have met your guide and had your full briefing, you will climb back aboard your vehicle, which will drive you to a forest access point as close as possible to your gorilla group. This dive can take around 45 minutes, depending on where your gorilla family has decided to forage that day.
Once you have reached your gorilla family, watch as they lounge in the vegetation, eating bamboo shoots or foraging for stinging nettles with uncannily human movements. Youngsters play chase in a clearing, and babies clamber on their mother's back, providing endless photographic opportunities. The trek to reach the gorillas can take anywhere from an hour to up to five hours, with the duration depending on the time of year and which gorilla group you have been assigned to visit. The lower slopes change from farmland to dense bamboo forest, moving through stinging nettles and lush rainforest vegetation. More often than not, you are not on a set trail, instead following the guide through untouched forest, sometimes clambering over fallen tree trunks, all heightening the sense of adventure and anticipation. You are permitted one precious hour with these fascinating apes, and this time flies by! Soon you'll be returning to your lodge, filled with a lifetime's worth of stories and memories of this incredible experience.
Gorilla permits cost $1500 per person per permit, and specific gorilla groups cannot be pre-booked; rather, the park rangers choose which group you will see on the day. Please chat with your guide about your physical activity level. It is important to note that a more strenuous trek does not mean a better experience with the gorillas.
Your gorilla permit(s) are linked to your passport. Please carry your passport with you for each trek. Upon arrival at park headquarters, your guide will collect your passport(s), secure your permit(s), and assist in choosing a trekking group for your party.
There are strict gorilla tracking rules, which include a maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioural disturbance for the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases. There is also a minimum age requirement of 15. People are also not allowed to trek with the gorillas if they are sick.