Getting the chance to see an animal who shares 98% of our DNA in the wild is an amazing and unforgettable experience, and seeing gorillas in Rwanda is the perfect place to experience it. The Mountain Gorillas, can only be found in three countries, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic Of Congo. They are classified as critically endangered, as of 2016 there are only 880 left in the wild. A Gorilla trek in Rwanda will be done in the Virunga mountain range, in Volcanoes National Park where there are 10 family groups found throughout the park, the largest of which, The Susa group, has 33 members. To help with the conservation efforts, the park only offers 80 trekking permits per day, with a max group size of 8, so booking early and paying up front will guarantee you a spot. Proceeds from the sale of trekking permits go back into the community towards various projects aiming to educate locals on the importance of gorillas and conservation. Trekking permits also provide funds to employ park rangers, and anti-poaching efforts. Having a consistent flow of tourism throughout the park has had a very positive impact on reducing the amount of poaching occurring. Only one group is able to visit each family per day, and only one hour is spent with the Gorillas once you find them to limit their contact with humans, and to minimize the risk of passing viruses to the Gorillas.
When you sign up for a trek, the difficulty depends largely on where the family group you are tracking is. Trekkers will be assigned a group that is catered to their physical abilities, so if a 5 hour hike isn’t something you are able to do, you may be given a closer group and still have the chance to see these wonderful creatures. Rain is also a major factor in the difficulty of the hike, during the rainy season (April-May and November), the rain can make the hike more arduous. There is a popular phase when it comes to the Rwanda Gorilla Trek “Gorillas in the mist, Muzungus (tourists) in the mud” so be prepared for some muddy, slippery trails if you chose to go during these times of the year!
Volcanoes National Park provides groups with their own guides and trackers once you are in the park, however you will need to hire a tour company to provide you with transportation into the park. Even though these tour companies won’t be doing the actual trek with you, choosing a good tour company is still necessary. Do your research into the companies to ensure you chose one who’s right for you. Happy trekking!