You have probably encountered different wildlife species in your lifetime but if you haven’t come face to face with the mountain gorillas, then you haven’t lived. The feeling of standing close to these giant Apes cannot be described in just words but have to be experienced by you. Anyone who has participated in a gorilla trekking safari in the land of a thousand hills will concur that no experience can surpass staring in the eyes of some of the world’s largest Apes. However, remember that every good thing comes with a price, of course not a difficult one.

Firstly, there are over 880 mountain gorillas left in the jungles of only four National Parks that include Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks in Uganda, Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. You will travel the whole World and encounter different animals but these Giant Apes are found in only these three countries in the whole World. Yes zoos, sanctuaries and Wildlife Reserves offer shelter to gorillas (probably the lowland gorillas) but not the mountain gorillas. This is why you cannot afford to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to track them. Currently, 10 habituated families can be tracked hence 80 permits are available per day (only 8 persons are allowed to visit a group or family per day). You will therefore be assigned to one of these groups; Susa A, Susa B (Karisimbi), Agashya/group 13, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Sabinyo, Ugenda, Umubano, Amahoro and Bwenge.

Normally the process of gorilla trekking takes between one and six hours to sight a gorilla family but tourists are allowed to spend only one hour taking photographs and learning about their behavior.

Cost of gorilla permits

Gorilla permits for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park cost only $1500 per person for all tourists to spend up to one hour interacting with these precious and adorable primates. This price sounds exorbitant but it is absolutely worth it because the experience is totally unbeaten and few places offer such an adventure. I will tell you why Rwanda is preferred to Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo. For the case of the former, the two National Parks for the activity are over 8-10 hours’ drive away from Kampala and yet it is only 2 hours’ drive from Kigali to Volcanoes. For the latter, rates are lowest but the eastern side of the country is insecure due to rebel activities hence you will be left with Rwanda as your next destination for this exciting activity.  The other interesting thing is that special packages are also offered and these include $15,000 for exclusive access to an entire gorilla family with personalized services and $30,000 Behind the Scenes for a minimum of three tourists for three consecutive days

Gorilla permits can be booked either directly from the Rwanda Development Board or indirectly by using the services of tour operators who charge a commission  for their administrative costs (if you are not booking for the entire safari) although is hurdle free. If you wish to go for the direct method, you just have to contact the Reservation Office by calling +252 57 65 14 or sending an email to to confirm for availability of permits for the day you wish to enjoy this activity.

What to carry and wear for gorilla trekking

As earlier mentioned, such an interesting activity comes with a price one of which is dressing in a particular way. Appropriate dressing for this unforgettable adventure involves wearing long sleeved shirt to protect your arm from scratches and insect bites. Just an insect bite or being injured can ruin the entire experience, thus do your best to avoid the worst from happening during the gorilla trekking safari.

Also wear long trousers to protect your legs from being scratched by thorns and grasses or being bitten by insects especially safari ants. Avoid wearing shorts although you can always pack them for other activities within the Safari Lodge.

Carry enough drinking water and packed lunch because gorilla trekking is strenuous thus you will need to keep hydrated or replenish your energy during the activity.

Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes respectively from the effects of the scotching sun.

Pack a rain jacket whether you are tracking during a rainy or dry season because the possibility of it raining or not may sometimes not be accurately predicted.

Carry a waterproof backpack for your packed lunch, drinking water, camera and binoculars, sweater and rain jacket.

Strong waterproof hiking boots with enough ankle support are handy for climbing through different terrains. You will cross through areas of thick vegetation and slippery trails hence the boots are ideal for these kinds of places.

The most important thing not to miss in your list is the gorilla permit because it is the pass to allowing you venture in this jaw-dropping activity of a lifetime.

Gardening gloves are very important to protect your hands from being injured because in the process of hiking, you will require to support yourself with tree branches which may have thorns or may touch unpleasant plants such as the stinging nettles.

Gorilla trekking etiquette to follow while on a Rwanda gorilla safaris

Mountain gorillas are very vulnerable animals, which is why strict guidelines have to be followed during tracking and these include;

The number of tourists to track a particular gorilla family is strictly limited to 8 persons per day hence only 8 permits are sold by the Rwanda Development Board.

After sighting the gorilla family, maintain a distance of 7 meters away from them because they are vulnerable to a number of human diseases, the fact that they share 98.2% of their DNA with mankind.

Similarly, tourists that are sick with colds, flu or influenza are cautioned against visiting these Giant Apes, mainly because they are susceptible to these diseases. When you need to cough or sneeze, turn your mouth away and use a handkerchief to avoid spreading germs to the mountain gorillas.

Viewing time is strictly one hour to take photographs and learn more about these primates. It may seem less but you will learn a lot and adore them even more and once your time is up, you walk back to the safari Lodge to relax or engage in other activities as per your itinerary.

Do not make rapid and swift movements because it may startle mountain gorillas or make them aggressive hence ruin the entire experience.

When with these animals, keep your voices low because noise scares them hence end up running away or worse still may become aggressive.

Avoid direct eye contact and in case they charge, don’t run but stand still and avoid staring directly into their eyes because that means you want to confront them. Turning away is a sign of submission.

Pack it in, pack it out. It is always important to avoid littering within the National Park but instead keep your rubbish in the bag to dispose in dust bins within the Park Headquarters or the Safari Lodge.

Do not eat or drink while near the mountain gorillas but you can always do that away from them. Besides that, avoid smoking in the National Parks.

Avoid using flash cameras for photography because these also frighten the mountain gorillas.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking is a once in a lifetime opportunity for tourists who visit Africa for a holiday or vacation. Meeting face to face with the Giant Apes is hundred times more rewarding and unforgettable than any other wildlife experience.