Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Explore the wonders of Rwanda gorilla trekking. Trek through the forests and see the rare mountain gorillas. Our guided safaris allow you to watch the gorillas in their natural homes. Rwanda safari holidays are perfect for nature fans and adventure lovers. See the beautiful scenery and help with conservation. Book your Rwanda safari vacation now for a special meeting with these great animals.

The Best Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Safaris 2024

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Trekking gorillas in Rwanda

Rwanda, the tiny nation of a thousand hills, is famous for its stunning landscapes, friendly people, and the opportunity to meet mountain gorillas face-to-face. This bucket-list experience draws wildlife lovers from all corners of the globe to hike misty forests and sit with gentle giants.

In this mega-guide, we cover everything you need to know about planning your own unforgettable gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda. From when to go and how to get permits, right through to what happens on the day itself – we’ve got you covered. So sit back, grab some coffee (or tea) and let’s do this!

Why choose Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking?

Rwanda is one of only three countries where tourists can see these majestic animals in their natural habitat (the other two are Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Yet Rwanda comes out top thanks to:  

 • Volcanoes National Park – One of Africa’s oldest national parks.
 • Reliability – twelve groups live here permanently.
 • Infrastructure – The country has built up a solid tourism industry that accommodates everyone from backpackers through midrange travelers up to high-end VIPs.
 • Permits! – A visit won’t come cheap, but it will be worth every penny.

When is the best time for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?

One really great thing about Rwanda is that it’s so close to the equator that temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year. For example, average daytime highs hover around 75°F (24°C) all year round. You can basically go any time you like!

However, there are two dry seasons (short & long) which are generally considered best for trekking due mainly to trail conditions and photography clearness:

Short Dry Season: Mid-December through early February
Long Dry Season: June through September

Rainy season also has its advantages. You’ll pay less for your hotel and permits, plus the rain doesn’t normally last very long so you can still get a good trek in. The only real downside is that it won’t be as pretty out there, but when you’re standing next to a gorilla, do you really care about that?

No matter what date you choose however, make sure to book your permit far in advance; they run out quickly! More on permits below.

Where should I go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s most famous national park and the primary destination for trekking gorillas. It takes up the entire northwestern corner of the country and offers over 60 square miles of montane forest & bamboo habitat. This entire park falls under the greater Virunga Conservation Area which includes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda) and Virunga National Park (DRC).

Within Volcanoes National Park there are several areas where visitors can start their treks. Each one has its own groups, trails and terrain:

 • Kinigi – Most popular for Susa group & Karisimbi group

 • Karisoke (trailhead for the Karisimbi and Amahoro groups)

 • Bisate (trailhead for the Amahoro and Umubano groups)

 • Kwitonda (trailhead for the Hirwa and Kwitonda groups)

Each section has its own character, but they all will give you that wonderful experience. The gorillas really steal the show no matter where you go. You can choose which section to visit depending on your lodge’s proximity or which family has available permits.

Speaking of lodges, Volcanoes National Park has an excellent selection of accommodations to fit any travel style or budget. From treehouses at rustic Five Volcanoes to Singita’s ultra-luxurious forest villas, there is a place for everyone here. Many lodges also include extras like guided forest walks or traditional dance performances.

Securing Your Gorilla Trekking Permits

The first step in planning your Rwanda gorilla trekking adventure is securing permits. Each day requires one permit, and there is a strict limit of 96 permits per day (12 groups of 8 trekkers each). Since they often sell out months in advance, it’s never too early to start planning.

To obtain a permit:

 1. Book directly through the Rwanda Development Board website

 2. Go through a registered tour operator or travel agent

 3. Have your lodge or hotel assist you with the process

Booking with a tour operator or lodge is usually easiest because they are expert navigators of the system and can ensure everything is perfectly prepared before your arrival. Brilliant Rwanda knows how to get things done efficiently in this country.

If you become ill on your trip, you will not be allowed to trek as that would put the health of these critically endangered animals at risk. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance coverage so that you may cancel if need be without losing your permit cost. Permits are non-refundable but can sometimes be transferred to a later date.

What to Expect on Your Gorilla Trekking Adventure

The day of your trek will start early, usually with a 7am briefing at park headquarters. You’ll be assigned to a group of 8 trekkers and introduced to your guides and porters. The guides will go over the rules, precautions, and etiquette – like maintaining a distance of 7 meters and not using flash photography.

After the briefing, you’ll drive to the trailhead and start hiking into the forest. The length of each trek varies depending on where the gorillas are that day; some visits take as little as 30 minutes while others involve 3-4 hours of strenuous hiking.

The guides and porters help you every step of the way. If you need a boost or some encouragement, they’re there for it. Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the trek! Just take breaks. There’s no rush. You’ll want to take in all of the sights and sounds.

When your group gets close to the gorillas your guide will tell you to leave behind any bags or walking sticks. Once you approach slowly and quietly, you’ll be face-to-face with these majestic mountain gorillas – maybe it’ll be a giddy juvenile or a 450-pound silverback male. Either way, it’s an incredibly humbling experience.

For one hour, observe as these gorillas do their thing – foraging for food, playing around and grooming each other. Your guide will teach you about each individual gorilla too! They might be curious about you, but most of the time they’ll act like you’re not there.

Once your hour is up and your presence has been noted by the gorillas *pictures please*, make your way back down through the forest with a packed lunch in hand. Most groups return to park headquarters by early afternoon with endless stories and photos from this unforgettable adventure!

Preparing & Packing for Your Trek  

To ensure that you get the most out of this experience, come prepared with necessary gear and clothing; but don’t overpack! It’s important that we find that perfect balance.

Here are some must-bring items:

 • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support

 • Moisture-wicking hiking socks

 • Lightweight, quick-drying hiking pants or shorts

 • Long-sleeved shirt to protect from sun/insects

 • Waterproof jacket or poncho

 • Gardening gloves (to protect hands when grabbing vegetation on trail)

 • Wide-brimmed hat

 • Sunscreen and insect repellent

 • Camera and extra battery (remember, no flash!)

 • Binoculars (optional but nice to have)

 • Refillable water bottle and snacks

 • Walking stick (usually provided by the park)

 • Some cash to tip your guides/porters

Most lodges offer complimentary loan of key items like gaiters, gloves, and walking sticks, but check what’s available when you book. Don’t worry about packing too many clothes. Comfortable, technical fabrics in neutral colors are perfect!

In terms of physical preparation, just know that gorilla trekking does require some fitness. You don’t need to be an athlete by any means, but it’s best if you’re confident hiking for several hours and climbing over uneven terrain. Chat with your doctor before booking a trek if you have any injuries or health concerns.

Note that the minimum age for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is 15 years old. There is no official upper age limit, but anyone over 65 may be asked to provide a doctor’s note stating they are fit to trek. If you feel physically capable then go for it! Listen to your body.

Supporting Gorilla Conservation

What’s so special about Rwanda’s gorilla trekking? A huge plus is that your dollars are going directly toward conservation. Every permit sold includes a fee that helps protect the gorillas and their habitat, as well as funds community development projects.

Over the past few decades, Mountain gorilla numbers have increased from a low of around 250 individuals to over 1000 today, split between Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC. This is one of the rare wildlife conservation success stories, and travelers like you play a vital role.

There’s no end to how you can support these magnificent creatures:

– Book your trip with responsible tour operators and lodges that give back

– Obey all park rules and regulations during your visit

– Never touch, feed or interfere with the gorillas (or any other animals)

– Educate others about the importance of gorilla conservation

– Support organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund or WWF

Despite being small acts in sum total they make a big difference! So do your part.

Adding on More Adventure to Your Trek

Not all fun has to be centered around mountain gorillas – though it’s hard for anything else to compete. But before or after your trek there are countless things for you to do in Rwanda. Doing more will not only enrich your experience but also allow you to see different sides of the country.

Here are some popular options:

 • Track golden monkeys in a separate section of Volcanoes National Park

 • Visit the moving Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn about Rwanda’s history

 • Explore the vibrant markets and nightlife of Kigali city

 • Go chimp trekking in nearby Nyungwe Forest National Park

 • Take a scenery boat ride or try paddleboarding on Lake Kivu

 • Volunteer with a community project or village initiative

Rwanda combines well with other East African countries too – like Uganda, Kenya, or Tanzania. If you’re interested in doing an additional big game safari or Great Migration experience then Brilliant Rwanda can help you with a nice itinerary that will match your interests perfectly and allow you to make the most of your time there.


FAQs on Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Here are some final tips and frequently asked questions to help you plan your gorilla trek in Rwanda:

When should I book my trek or tour?

You really want to book your permits early, especially if you have a specific date in mind. If you’re traveling during peak season (June–September), it’s not uncommon for all the permits to be sold out months ahead of time. In low season, it’s still best to book at least 6 months in advance.

Can I do a half-day trip to see the gorillas?

No, every trek is a full day. Because Volcanoes National Park is so remote, just getting there can take up to 2 hours each way.

What happens if I pay for a permit but don’t see any gorillas?

This almost never happens; over the years, sightings have become so frequent that refunds are extremely rare. But if you do happen to miss out on spotting any gorillas, you will receive 50% of your permit fee back.

Can the gorillas hurt me?

The last tourist fatality caused by a mountain gorilla was in 1998 in Uganda. So while they may be massive and intimidatingly strong, their presence shouldn’t scare you too much—especially since you’ll be closely monitored by park rangers who know how to read their behavior.

How much should I tip my guide or porter?

Tipping is always appreciated! Just like anywhere else in Africa (and around the world), $20-25 per day for your guide and $10-15 per day per porter is customary. But remember: Tipping standards are ultimately dictated by what feels right based on the quality of service provided.

Is it safe for me to go trekking even though I’m pregnant?

For safety reasons, no pregnant women are allowed on treks. Not only would you risk falling on the slippery slopes—and therefore putting your baby in danger—but the sheer physical exertion required could also cause harm.