Beginner’s Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Africa

About African Gorilla Trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking is an exceptional safari adventure to do while on safari in Africa. The gorillas are distributed into different sections and subspecies namely; the Mountain Gorillas, Eastern Lowland Gorillas, Western Lowland Gorillas, and Cross River Gorillas.

African Gorillas are found in Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park, DR Congo’s Virunga National Park, and Kahuzi Biega National Park.

Watching the Gorillas is exceptional in their natural forest vegetation habitat is exceptional for a period of 3 to 5 hours and after a while trekking along the trails, you meet the Gorillas and stay in their presence taking photos for an hour.

Gorillas are one of the most endangered animal species in the world due to increased human settlement and encroachment on habitat, illegal hunting, etc hence travelers from all over the globe should not miss out on visiting these countries to trek and watch the Gorillas in their natural vegetation habitat.

When to Go Gorilla Trekking in Africa

African gorilla trekking takes place all year round. However, the best time to trek gorillas is in the Months of July and August as there is not much rain, and the hiking trails are navigable and offer clear photography.

Things to consider when choosing a Gorilla trekking destination

When going for gorilla trekking in Africa, you have to choose a destination you prefer to trek the gorillas as these range from Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. These differ in terms of budget, habitat, and hiking distance/terrain.

  • Price

The prices to watch the gorillas vary from one country to another. A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda costs US $1500 per person, US $700 per person in Uganda, and US $400 per person in DR Congo.  

It is important to get enlightened about the price you prefer to watch the gorillas and this should be within your planned budget hence making it easier for you to trek the gorillas in your preferred destination on vacation holiday.

  • Vegetation Habitat

When interested in watching the gorillas in their natural vegetation habitat, you should consider looking into the vegetation habitat type as this is similar in all destinations. Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo although slightly vary in terms of distance, and hiking challenges as you follow differing trails in the green forest searching for the gorillas, for instance, the vegetation habitat of Bwindi Forest National Park is thick and impenetrable requiring all travelers to be physically fit, determined, and focused to get to watch the gorillas. In the thick forest, you follow through thick routes, traversing rivers and wetlands, especially in the valleys making watching the gorilla trek in Bwindi Forest very difficult and challenging despite the fact that when you get to them, the trek is worthwhile.

Mgahinga, Volcanoes Natio, Virunga, and Kahuzi Biega National Parks, have navigable vegetation habitats as you follow different trails as the vegetation in the park is not thick and comprised of Bamboo regions which are fond to inhabit the gorillas as the juveniles are found playing and swinging along the branches here.

If you are a traveler looking for clear photography while watching the gorillas, these National Parks are your best gorilla trekking destinations in Africa.

  • Gorilla Trekking Families

When considering choosing a destination to go gorilla trekking, look out for a destination with multiple gorilla families habituated for tourism purposes. There are destinations with many habituated gorilla groups, for exaple, Bwindi gorilla Park with 19 habituated Gorilla families, Volcanoes National Park with 10 habituated gorilla groups, Virunga National Park with 8 groups whereas Mgahinga National Park has only one gorilla group hence limiting your adventure.

  • Time it takes to meet the gorillas

When planning to go gorilla trekking in Africa to the destination of your choice, make sure to consider the time it takes you to trek and meet the gorillas in their natural habitat. In some sectors of Bwindi National Park like the Nkuringo Sector, the gorillas stay in the hills/high in the mountainous forest hence very challenging for all travelers. In Bwindi National Park, watching the gorillas is quite challenging, making it almost unachievable to watch the Gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking Destinations in East and Central Africa

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Park is located in southwest Uganda with four different sectors namely; Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija, and Nkuringo Sectors.

The 19 habituated gorilla groups are visited in these sectors in groups of 8 with a lead park ranger who takes you into the thick jungle to trek the gorillas for 3 to 5 hours and in an hour, stays in their presence taking photos to keep.

Gorilla watching is the most popular adventure in Bwindi and this requires you to transfer to the Park offices for a briefing about the activity, then you make groups of 8 people (maximum), allocated to a gorilla family and the hike begins right away with the accompaniment of armed rangers, tour guides, and porters.

Other things to do at Bwindi Forest National Park

Other than gorilla trekking, travelers that visit Bwindi National Park can engage in different Activities which include;

  • Gorilla Habituation Experience

Gorilla habituation is exceptional to do at Bwindi Forest National Park’s Rushaga Sector. This experience gives you a chance to stay in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas longer.

On your Gorilla Habituation Experience, you get to the park offices for a briefing about the activity, then after, you make groups of 4 persons with a lead park rangers, porters, and tour guides. The hike takes 4 hours or more in search for these gentle giants.

You stay longer in the presence of the mountain gorillas (4 hours) hence getting an exceptional encounter around them as they take you through their daily way of life.

On your adventure, you move with researchers who inform you more about these primates, their ways of life as well as their vegetation habitat. On this, photography is clear due to the candid numbers as well as extended time with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

The Gorilla Habituation Experience Permit costs US $1500 per person interested in watching the gorillas extensively for 4 hours at Rushaga Sector of Bwindi.

  • Bird Watching

Bwindi Forest National Park is perfect for all bird watchers from all over the globe interested in watching birds. These include; Common Bulbul, African Emerald, cuckoo, African blue, White-tailed blue, Flycatchers, African green pigeon, African harrier hawk, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Crowned hornbill, Giant kingfisher, Kiev gerund thrush.

  • Batwa Cultural Experience

Bwindi Forest National Park offers unique Batwa Cultural Experiences as you get to watch the unique Batwa Cultural People who introduce you to their unique cultural traditions and norms through performances like Music, Dance, and Drama.

When you meet them, engage in various traditional dances and practice an encounter very incredible and entertaining.

  • Hiking and Nature Walks

Bwindi Forest National Park is perfect for all travelers looking for hiking and nature walk adventures through the thick green vegetation habitat with a skilled park ranger guide. You follow the various trails watching wildlife, primates, and bird species flying around the Park. The Hiking Trails in Bwindi National Park include;

  • The Ivy River Trail- this is a 7 kms walk along a murram road with rain forest along the edges and river on the left. You watch monkeys, duiker, birds and stunning butterflies.
  • The Kashasha Trail- this is the most direct route through the forest and it is 13 kms long. It starts at the Nkuringo Park office and to the park buffer zone. En route, watch monkey species, and birds.
  • The Munyaga River Trail- this is found out of the park taking you 40 minutes beginning at the end of Buhoma Road following the Bizenga River hence perfect for bird watching.

Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga National Park is situated in the South Western Part of Uganda close to the busy town of Kisoro. The Park is famously known to offer amazing gorilla trekking adventures to all travelers just like in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Mgahinga National Park is prominently known to inhabit the rare species of mountain gorillas with the Nyakagezi Gorilla Group that is trekked here. The gorilla trekking process starts at the Park offices where you are briefed about the activity, then divided into groups of 8 people, accompanied by armed rangers, park guides, and porters for a safe and fantastic hike to search for the gorillas.

Follow the varying trails in the forest then after a while, you shall meet the Gorillas and stay in their presence taking photos for an hour.

Other than Gorilla Trekking, travelers to Mgahinga National Park can do these activities below;

  • Bird Watching
  • Batwa Cultural Encounters
  • Hiking and Nature walks
  • Golden Monkey Tracking
  • Mount Volcano Climbing

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is located in the Ruhengeri, north of Rwanda, 2 hours from Kigali Airport. You follow the rolling hills with deviating canopies that are covered with mist due to frequent rainfall. Later, you shall reach the Park.

Other activities are done in the Park and these include;

  • Bird Watching
  • Golden Monkey tracking
  • Mountain/Volcano Climbing
  • Iby’iwachu Cultural Encounter
  • Musanze Caving
  • Dian Fossey Hike

Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is located a few kilometers off the busy town of Goma and is known to offer mountain gorilla trekking tours in Congo to all travelers from all over the world.

Other safari adventures in Virunga National Park Include;

  • Bird Watching
  • Hiking and Nature Walks
  • Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (Tongo forest)

Kahuzi Biega National Park(Home to Eastern Low-Land Gorillas)

Kahuzi Biega National Park is located in the South Province of DR Congo after the busy town of Bukavu. The Park is known to offer amazing Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking Adventures.

Each gorilla permit costs US $400 and must be booked in advance.

Other than Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in the Park, there are other safari activities carried out in the park.

  • Bird Watching
  • Chimpanzee Habituation at Lwiro Sanctuary
  • Camping Safaris in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
  • Community Cultural Tours
  • Hiking and Climbing Mountains Kahuzi and Biega
  • Boat cruise on Lake Kivu