About Gorilla Trekking in Africa
After mountain gorilla numbers declined below 500 in the 1980’s due to habitat degradation and poaching, gorilla tourism was introduced in 1993. Many of the once poachers, have since changed their mentality towards the mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking is now provides funds for conservation projects and many benefits to communities living near mountain gorillas.
Since then, with no predators to speak of, the mountain gorilla population has been steadily growing. The population is believed to be over 1000 individuals and growing. The world’s largest primate – the silverback is stunning to watch. The biggest threat to mountain gorillas is now habitat loss and spread of infectious respiratory diseases like Ebola.
With outbreak of corona virus in 2019, the best is being done to protect the gorillas from being infected whilst still enabling visitors to encounter them in their natural habitat.
Where to see mountain gorillas in Africa
Mountain gorillas are found only in tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda and Rwanda are located in east Africa while DR Congo in central Africa. The equator passes through these countries, therefore enjoy a warm tropical climate all year round.
Generally, Gorilla trekking experience allows visitors to spend 1 hour with gorillas in the wild. However, you can spend 4 hours with gorillas through the gorilla habituation experience only available in Uganda’s Bwindi forest. Planning to visit the gorillas, the first thing to do is booking your gorilla permit with a genuine tour operator.
Uganda Gorilla Trekking
Overall, Uganda is where half of the world’s wild mountain gorilla population live. Over 500 gorillas are in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a UNESCO world heritage. Along with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda has two gorilla parks both located in southwestern part of the country.
Bwindi forest has 19 gorilla families that are habituated for tourism while Mgahinga has only one. In addition to gorilla trekking, Uganda offers gorilla habitation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. Habituation experience allows visitors to spend 4 hours with semi-habituated gorillas in the wild.
Bwindi forest has four different centers. One can visit gorillas in Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. On top making the experience more diverse. If you are only interested in gorillas and are not going to visit other places, 3 or 4 days are enough to visit Bwindi or Mgahinga for a memorable Uganda gorilla tour.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
Volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s home of mountain gorillas. The park has 10 families that are habituated for trekking. Rwanda offers a luxury gorilla experience.
A gorilla permit goes for $1500 per person for you to spend 1 hour with the gorillas. As a perfect accompaniment, volcanoes national park has some of the best lodges in the world with a very comfortable stay and quality service. Most importantly, the maximum number of visitors to see gorillas is reduced to six, giving visitors a more serene experience.
Another great advantage that Rwanda has over its counterparts is easy access to its gorillas. Volcanoes national park is just 2-hour drive from Kigali airport, making it a perfect 1 day Rwanda gorilla trip. On the other hand, it’s impossible to visit gorillas in a single in Uganda or DR Congo.
A day in volcanoes national park includes a chance to visit Ibyiwacu cultural village for a Rwanda cultural experience.
Congo Gorilla Trekking
Less known compared to Uganda or Rwanda, DR Congo is unique because it protects both mountain and lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park while lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Depending on the gorilla species you want to track, you need to have an idea of which park to visit before arrival. Do that with a trusted tour operator because organized trips have extra security from the tourism authorities. Virunga is set to reopen again for gorilla trekking mid-January 2021.
In Virunga National Park, there are 6 mountain gorilla families habituated for tourism. And gorilla trekking here is much more affordable with a permit at $400 per person. The park offers discounts during the rainy season (April to May). In order to visit, visitors must first make reservations with the one the lodges in the area.
In addition to gorillas, Virunga National Park features Africa’s most active volcano - Mt. Nyiragongo. Most visitors to Virunga hike and spend a night on the summit of Nyiragongo volcano for a complete experience.
Virunga lies in eastern DR Congo and most visitors access it from Rwanda. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the biologically diverse ecosystems in Africa. This diverse park requires at least to book a 5 day DR Congo safari that includes gorilla trekking and Nyiragongo hike.
Lowland gorilla trekking is done in Kahuzi Biega National Park located in Bukavu east of DR Congo.