Are you planning for gorilla trekking tours in Africa? Visit Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. It is the oldest national park on the continent and has an excellent system in place, which balances the curious tourist alongside the critical need to preserve the mountain gorillas.
With 20 gorilla families in the park (10 for research, 10 for tourists), travelers have a varied experience even if you go more than once. Each family had a different composition and dwell in different areas of the park. So the scenery will be different and their interaction with one another as well as with you will also be unique each time you see them. Tourists on a gorilla trek in Rwanda are allocated to a gorilla group on the D-day and there are choices to choose from soft to medium and hard treks.
Here are some important tips and advice for trackers planning to take a safari in Rwanda:
1) Be flexible and go with the flow
We had a “medium” level trek to see the Susa family a bit further out. The gorillas moved so we had to move along to catch up with them which turned into a 2.5 to 3 hour trek up steep, rocky terrain. If they had stayed in place, it probably would have been a 90 minute trek to see them, but hey, they’re animals! And so they can do whatever they want and we mere humans must comply.
2) Wear proper gear
We did a lot of research on the Internet (thanks fellow trip advisor posters) and also had good advice from our tour company Nature Adventure Africa Safaris. Gloves, a waterproof rain jacket and pants, and appropriate hiking boots were all key to comfort during the long trek. We actually wore willies vice rain boots and that came in particularly handy during our second trek was through a rain soaked bamboo forest. The gloves and long sleeves also helped protect against the foliage including stinging nettles. You’ll need the gloves to better maneuver thru the thick plants and trees when following the gorillas.
3) Go during the low/early rain season
The gorillas tend to be closer so you will have shorter treks and there aren’t as many people competing for the different gorilla families.
4) Get two permits
Sure you can live with seeing them once, but honestly, we were so glad we had two treks to enjoy vastly different experiences. It’s worth the money.
5) Get a porter
You may not bring a lot of stuff with you (water, a light snack, hand sanitizer, on your trek, but the main bonus of having a porter is that he will be key in helping you maneuver thru some of the rougher parts of the trek. We were immensely grateful for ours and it’s only ten bucks (but it doesn’t hurt to add an extra five bucks as tip).
6) Please tip the trackers too
We made sure that the trackers, who spend the day with the gorillas, and look for them, were tipped upon our departure. We did USD 20 for the 3-4 trackers and then 20 for our guide who escorted us thru the entire process. It may not seem like much, but shows appreciation for the tough but amazing job they do.
7) Put the camera down
Yes, you will take bazillion photos trying to capture this most magnificent experience with these creatures, but sometimes it’s worth just putting down the camera and taking it all in. At one point I saw a young gorilla with two older females playing with a butterfly. Watching the older female gently push away the younger one’s hand, and then try to figure out what this winged creature was all about, was truly amazing. And it was that much better seeing it directly vice thru a lens.
I’m sure there are other bits of advice you will find elsewhere, but those were our main takeaways for this adventure. It truly was a lifetime opportunity and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as we did! And visit their website and choose a package of your choice!