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3 Days Gorilla Tracking in Parc National des Volcans

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park Gorilla Safari Guide

Spanning Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, the impressive Virunga Volcanoes are among the most inspiring sights to be enjoyed in East Africa. Dian Fossey long ago wrote that “You are so high up that you shiver more than you sweat”!. The rough series of 8 peaks projects so high to a height of 15,000 feet in some areas, and 5 of these peaks are sheltered within Rwanda. The bottom of each is sheltered with dense rainforest, which later gives way to the stunning grassland as well as alpine moorland as you move higher.

A small amount of experiences can equate to that of being face – to – face with the peaceful eyes of any of the Mountain Gorillas, as they chew on bamboo shoots; and actually, it is almost certainly one of Africa’s undeniable best travel things to see. There are 8 habituated Gorilla groups living in the Volcanoes National Park, each as charmingly chaotic as well as unforgettable as the rest of them, although the walks to find them may vary considerably. Trekking through the verdant foothills of these Virungas, also be on the watch for the uncommon Golden Monkeys, an overabundance of vivid birds, as well as the scent of the hard to pin down Buffaloes plus Elephants.

Mountain Gorilla Tracking in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

This interesting activity today remains the most prominent in this park, with a sum of close to 40 gorilla permits being issued every day, with 8 assigned to each of the 5 habituated groups.  however Volcanoes National Park is not only focuses on gorilla tracking, but also conducts additional activities such as trekking and hiking which today are well organized, varying from 2 day ascent of the impressive Karisimbi to a non – tiring nature walk to a group of stunning crater lakes, although the most thrilling innovation is that today tourists can actually visit the habituated groups of the endemic golden monkeys.

Hiking in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

Fortunately, Hikes today are being offered to the various visitors that come to this park.  Climbing the Karisimbi is a 2 day expedition priced at US$150; ORTPN offers guides though trekkers must have appropriate clothing as well as camping equipment.  Nonetheless a shorter alternative priced at US$50 is the climb of Mount Visoke all the way to its stunning crater lake found at 3,711 meters; the ascent goes for close to 2 hours.  For the less physically fit walks of close to 2 or 3 hours priced at US$30 to the closer crater lakes as well as in the verdant forest are quite enjoyable and in addition will be mostly rewarding to those interested in watching birds.

In addition, it is probable to stopover at Dian Fossey’s burial place as well as the nearby gorilla cemetery found at the previous Karisoke Research-Camp.  This particular trek is priced at US$50 per individual and involves a half an hour’s drive from the headquarters of the park to the beginning of the trail followed by a 10 minutes’ walk to the boundary of the park.  From here, you will climb through the verdant forest from 90 minutes to close to 3 hours, basing on your physical fitness as well as how many stops you will make to enjoy the beautiful scenery, whereas the plunge lasts about 1 to 2 hours.  Additionally to the prices mentioned above, all the activities demand a daily park-entrance fee of US$25.  All preparations for all these activities can be made directly through the ORTPN-offices, it be in Kigali, Kinigi or even in Musanze (in case you are interested in making payment by MasterCard you can do so while in Kigali).  Remember that all the hikes start from the headquarters of the park at Kinigi at about 0730 hrs (with the check-in time being 07.00), this is actually the similar departure time as for all gorilla tracking activities, meaning that visitors can participate in just a single activity each day within this park.

How To Get There ?

The usual foundation for visiting the fascinating Volcanoes Park is Musanze previously well-known as Ruhengeri, which can simply be accessed by public transport starting from Gisenyi or Kigali on the very day of your tracking. You will be required to arrive at the headquarters of ORTPN in Kinigi, at the park entrance, by 7:00 am, although this is not a very dependable option for those who hope to arrive by public transport.  However, there isn’t any public transport from Musanze to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi.

Where to Stay on Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda ?


The park possesses no accommodation as well as overnight camping is not allowed.  You can inquire with ORTPN concerning the camping possibilities close by.  For persons on a limited budget, the finest alternative is to spend a night in Musanze, although smarter and far convenient accommodation facilities are available close to the headquarters of the park at Kinigi or at the greater though more far-away Virunga Lodge that overlooks Lake Burera.  It is actually probable to alternatively be accommodated in Gisenyi or in Kigali the night prior to the trek, although this is not so reasonable at present day since the time for assembly was changed from 8:00 am to 7:00 am, yet you require at least 2 hours for the somewhat lengthy drive from the capital Kigali as well as ninety minutes from Gisenyi, meaning that you are likely to be late in case of a puncture or even a breakdown.

Gorilla Safari Frequently Asked Questions

Gorilla safaris aren’t as different as the basic safaris although there are a couple of differences worth knowing

For instance most of your trip will be enjoyed on foot because of the nature of the landscape that the gorillas stay in . Even so trying to see the gorillas is not as tiring as you can think of.

Do I have to be fit to take part in tracking the gorillas?

Gorillas stay up In the montane forest therefore trekking them is done on the higher altitude that offers  a diversified vegetation and landscape.

You’ll need a good fitness level as well as the will to climb the slippery slopes through the dense undergrowth.


In which months should I visit these mountain gorillas?

You may visit them throughout the year, however, due to the rainforest climate, it may rain any day in the year, therefore, there isn’t a particular time that you should not trek

Is there guarantee that I will always see the gorilla?

It is not 100% guaranteed seeing them but also important to say is that we have not had cases where visitors do not see the gorillas during their trek. To make sure that you see them trackers leaving at day break to establish their location and then they radio the gorilla’s GPS co-ordinates to the park head offices such that by the time you set off the guide has an idea of where the gorillas are. These trackers follow the gorillas even as they move.

What kind of clothes must I wear while trekking the gorillas?

When going to track expect to be hit by rain and traverse muddy paths, therefore carry a raincoat.

Bring layered clothes to keep you warm, wear long trousers to protect your legs from insect bites as well as long sleeved tops/ t-shirts.

Have a water-proof back pack to carry your camera, snacks plus drinking water. For a small price, you can hire porters to carry your backpack and assist you on the sheer slopes.

What is the minimum and maximum age for trekking gorillas?

The minimum age for gorilla trekking is 16 years and this is the standard limit. It applies in Uganda as well as Rwanda and it is strongly enforced in all the National Parks. However there isn’t a maximum age for trekking.

How to get A Gorilla Tracking Permit to Rwanda?

Yes you have to get a permit in order to track gorillas and each day, 8 people are allowed to visit a single gorilla family so the permits are limited

A tour agent will secure a permit for you in advance at least 4 months to your intended day of trekking.  Currently the permits go for US$600 per individual and you will have an hour to spend with the gorillas.

The proceeds obtained are used in the conservation of the gorilla sanctuary, fight poaching as well as educate the surrounding local communities there.

Is this going to be covered by my travel insurance?

Certainly you need to check with your insurance company to make sure that you are well covered although they might ask for an extra premium payment.


How challenging is tracking gorilla in the world? What is the most challenging or the easiest group of gorillas to track?

Which is the hardest group of mountain gorillas to track within Rwanda, what gorilla group is popularly tracked, for how long do you have to trek before finding the gorillas in Rwanda? Umahoro, Susa, Sabinyo or Kwitonda?

This is among the most regularly asked questions concerning Rwanda gorilla tracking. And it is as well possibly the hardest to answer. There are many variables involved, and in case they all connive against you, you may be in for a really tiring outing (indeed on uncommon occasions, the guides have at times have to carry the tourists). However in case everything is in your favour, the voyage will be rather very demanding than the well-known walk inside the park.

The trek to see the gorillas has two distinct phases. The first is the hike from the closest car park to the forest and national park boundary, which usually takes 30-60 minutes depending on the speed of the party and the group they are visiting. The second is trek into the forest in search of the gorillas, which will usually have been located by the advance trackers by the time reach the forest edge.

The initial half of the trek is conventional, and it is in general quite flat as well as unchallenging unless when going to check out the Susa (Susa-A), that involves a lengthier and sheer ascent. The other part is rather challenging to predict, since it will mainly depend on the particular location of the gorillas day, as well as on the sheerness of the landscape along the way. Other factors to determining how challenging it is includes the thickness of the vegetation (you will have to bend and crawl in the jungle and all this may be really tiring particularly if you need to dodge nasty nettles and if it has rained lately, and in such conditions it is muddier and more slippery.

At the threat of stating the apparent, age as well as physical fitness levels are major factors in how challenging the trek will be. Besides the Susa Group, reasonably fit people below 40 years seldom feel several important twists, however a high number of trackers are normally in 50s and 60s, so the hike could be somewhat. Just as one of the trekker previously mentioned in Bradt Guide-Rwanda: ‘We believe you under look how tiring the gorilla tour is. I and my partner are 61 but physically fit and ok, however we had to take continuous stops since we were having challenges breathing. Although this activity is somewhat challenging, it is worth trying out

A significant way to know how challenging the hike is will depend on the location of the group you are assigned to. As a key rule, the trek to Susa Group is the somehow demanding (however the most rewarding, with over 40 gorillas), the Sabinyo Group is on the other hand the most reliably undemanding to arrive at. The walks to Kwitonda, Hirwa as well as Group 13 are as well normally less challenging, while the hikes to Amahoro Umubano Groups are normally really challenging, however not as challenging as Susa Group.


Sadly, these things aren’t set in a stone, and all the groups may be strangely demanding to reach on a terrible day. In addition, no one can guarantee the exact group you will be assigned to before. Nonetheless the guides found at Kinigi make a mindful endeavor to match people to the most appropriate group, particularly in case they are requested to. In general the family of the Susa (Susa-A) comprises of the under 30s, whereas the opposite is true for the Sabinyo family.

There are two other factors: the not level underfoot vegetation as well as the high altitude. The majority of visitors that come in Africa stay in towns plus large cities that have nice roads as well as paved sidewalks, and the parks have neat footpaths, therefore they are idle to walking on the less irregular as well as seasonally slippery paths typical of the incline paths as well as the forest floor. It will greatly help in regards to wearing sturdy waterproof shoes or even hiking boots with a nice tread and good ankle support. In addition, in case you think you will struggle in the muddy conditions, there’s so much to talk about this to avoid the rainy months, especially from March to May, as the conditions then are very muddy.

Don’t under look the tiring altitude effect. The trek is conducted at an altitude of 2,500m to 3,000m over sea level, although not very high for altitude sickness but adequate to make you really tired regardless of your physical fitness particularly if you have just come from a lower altitude. Because of that, tourists spending some time in Rwanda might look at doing the gorilla trek after they have spent some time in the country to allow better acclimatization. Most of the country lies over 1,500 meters, and most of Rwanda is actually much higher – spending a number of days in Nyungwe, found over 2,000 meters, would be nice preparation for these Virungas. similarly if you’re traveling from other parts of Africa, plan your tour itinerary in a way that allows you to spend your days before going to Rwanda at a moderately high altitude: for instance, were you traveling in from the neighboring Kenya, some days in Nairobi which is at 2,300 meters or in the Maasai Mara at 1,600m would be a nice way to prepare instead of being down at the coast.

The Guides will avail you with walking sticks at the beginning of this hike, and, although you normally reject such support, we recommend that you take them since they will offer you additional support as you traverse the slippery paths in the mountain paths. In case you have some luggage, you can hire a porter as well. When on this trail, remember to take it slow, and don’t be scared to ask the guide to stop for some minutes if you feel exhausted. Take a lot of water as well as have some quick snacks like biscuits as well as chocolate which can be purchased from the supermarkets within Ruhengeri. Fortunately, the majority of the tourists that track mountain gorillas find this hike to be less challenging than they thought it would be, and 99 percent of cases, whatsoever exhaustion you may feel as you ascend uphill will disappear with the change in adrenalin levels that comes up once you set eyes on the silverback for the very first time.

The national park covers an area of 160 sq km and it shelters the Rwandan part of the Virunga Mountains, 6 extinct and 3 active volcanoes that overlap the borders of Rwanda with Uganda plus the DRC. The impressive Volcanoes Park is a section of the adjacent 433 sq km Trans border conservation area that in addition comprises of the Virunga National Park as well as Mgahinga National Park, which shelters the Ugandan plus the DRC fraction of the Virunga ranges respectively. The 3 national parks are actually managed disjointedly today. At independence time, Rwanda’s newly elected leaders established that they would certainly maintain the mountain gorillas which are today already being famed internationally regardless of the urgent difficulty of overpopulation. the Volcanoes National Park has an altitude that ranges from 2400 km to 4507 km. the chain of sheer, all free-standing mountains is connected by fertile lumber which were actually formed by hardened  lava flows , and is among the most thrilling and unforgettable sights in the whole of East Africa .

The Karisimbi is the most elevated mountain on this chain and is situated on Rwanda’s border with DRC. traveling eastward, you will find other major peaks in the national park among which are the Visoke on the border of DRC; Sabinyo at the meeting of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, and the Gahinga as well as Muhabura on the border of  Uganda. The Volcanoes National Park is renowned to the exterior world as the destination where nearly for 20 years Dian Fossey an American primatologist conducted her ground-breaking studies about the behavior of the mountain gorillas. 3 years following her death, Dian Fossey’s work was uncovered to a crowd audience with the launch of “Gorilla in the mist”, a cinematic story of her impressive life filmed right on location within the Volcanoes Park. The “Gorilla in the Mist” attracted international attention to the troubles of the mountain gorillas and created unparalleled awareness in the gorilla-tourism programme which had been launched in the park about 10 years earlier. Back in 1990, the impressive Volcanoes Park was actually the most organized as well as most popular mountain gorilla habitats in the whole of Africa and so gorilla tourism was perhaps the leading earner of Rwanda’s tourist revenue.

In the month of June 1993, The Park was re-opened to tourism although in 1994 in the month of April the park was evacuated due to the genocide.  Towards the finish of 1995, it again re-opened to the tourism industry, and unfortunately close few months afterwards.  Gorilla tracking was at last recommenced permanent in the month of July 1999, and since then, the number of visitors traveling to the Virungas had greatly increased.  You will find additional details about gorillas as well as gorilla-tracking in this very section. Other than Gorillas plus golden monkeys, primates are not well represented as compared to other forested areas in Rwanda as well as Western Uganda.  Less details about the current standing of large mammals is available, although more than 70 species have actually been recorded in the adjacent Mgahinga National Park found in Uganda, most of which perhaps are only found in the bigger Rwanda part of the Virungas.  Elephants plus buffalos are still somewhat uncommon; basing on the sum of spoor met on forest paths, although is very shy and rarely observed. In addition present are huge forest hogs, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, black-fronted duikers and bushbucks, in addition to a number of various small predators.  Latest extinctions, most likely resulting from deforestation, include the leopard plus the yellow-backed duiker.Birds in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda 

Time spent tracking and observing at close quarters a family of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas is unforgettable. The mountains and volcanoes of Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans, world famous for the work conducted there by Dian Fossey, are home to some of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas and there are two days tracking included in the programmer. A good level of general fitness is recommended. Tracking is conducted in small groups of no more than eight.

Day 1 Arrive Kigali

Arrive into Kigali, the Rwandan capital, where you will be met by a representative of Smile to Africa adventure and transferred to your hotel.

Kigali Serena Hotel (Prime Room)

Day 2 Kigali - Parc National Des Volcans

This morning enjoy a short Kigali City tour. See the craft Centre, the Kandt House Museum of Natural History and the memorial for victims of the genocide of 1994, a moving experience. You will make a short stop for refreshments and a briefing before driving to your luxury accommodation in the Parc National des Volcans, just ten minutes from the Park Headquarters (B, D).

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (Standard Cottage)

Day 3 Parc National Des Volcans

The park protects the Rwandan side of the Virunga volcanoes, a range of six extinct and three live volcanoes which shelter some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. This park gained world notoriety for the work Dian Fossey conducted here. After an early breakfast, drive to the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters where you will be allocated a gorilla tracking group. After a briefing by your gorilla tracker/guide, the tracking begins.

Today's hike may take anything from an hour to five to reach the gorillas depending on the location of the family. You'll walk through farmland, bamboo forests, through stinging nettles and rainforest. Upon sighting the gorillas, you will stay with them for a magical hour as they go about their daily habits, feeding, foraging, playing, resting and attending the young. Afterwards, return to base where your driver awaits. Lunch is back at the lodge and this afternoon enjoy a scenic drive to view the twin lakes, Ruhondo and Burera, whose deep blue waters are ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls with the spectacular backdrop of the Virunga Volcanoes (B,L,D).

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (Standard Cottage)

Day 4 Parc National Des Volcans - Kigali

Today is another opportunity to head into the park in search of the mountain gorillas. You will most likely be allocated a different group, the terrain may vary but the experience will certainly be unforgettable. After lunch, return to Kigali and later enjoy dinner at a local restaurant (B,L,D).

Kigali Serena Hotel (Prime Room)

Day 5 Depart Kigali

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your departure flight (B).

Airport welcome, assistance with luggage, and transportation by private vehicle with driver/guide - All meals at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge - Gorilla Tracking Permits for two days - Medical evacuation service - Exclusive use of 4WD vehicle and services of professional trackers/ guides. 


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