Gorilla Trekking, Volcanoes Nat’l Park, Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking is the top reason visitors come to Rwanda. An unforgettable experience that, although super expensive at $1500 per person, rarely disappoints. To ease the cost keep in mind that much of the revenue generated from the price of the gorilla trekking permit goes into the conservation and infrastructure of the area. Think of it as a donation.

The Hike

The day begins at the National Park headquarters where we also met for the golden monkey trek. Here you are asked your preferences for the length of the hike and the kind of gorilla family you would like to visit. With tourism down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were about 40 guests when normal capacity is 80-90, we had a better shot at getting our first pick. We asked for a medium hike, which turned out to be about an hour climb up a fairly steep narrow muddy track through the jungle.

Our guide, Felicien, was a humorous guy who stopped frequently to explain how to behave with the gorillas including how to speak gorilla, demonstrating the sounds they make as a greeting or more importantly when you do something they don’t like. It’s also important to get out of their way when they starting moving. You don’t was to be run down by 500lb silverback.

The Gorillas

Our family, Agasha, had 24 members including 2 silverbacks, 7 adult females and 5 babies (1-3 years).

On the way up Felicien was in contact with the trackers who track the gorillas every day and know where they left them the previous evening. After the hour climb through the jungle we left our walking sticks and backpacks, turned the corner, and before us, still in the dense jungle, was one of the silverbacks busily feeding on the bushes. We watched him for a long while, standing about 12 feet in front of him. One of the babies also passed through.

During our visit the silverback moved to a more open area and other members of the family showed up. They spent a lot of time eating. The younger ones climbed the bamboo to feed at the top of the bushes. One playfully swung from a vine before it broke and he came crashing to the ground unhurt.

Quarters were fairly cramped in the jungle setting and I was happy that our group was only 5 today – our friends and one other young man from the UK. They limit groups to 8 visitors.

The visit with the gorillas lasts an hour. For me, photographing them with a canon 100-400 lens on a monopod, this was plenty of time to get some satisfying shots. With our proximity it was nice that other members of our group had different lenses and that some were taking video to get a variety of perspectives.

This was my second time visiting the gorillas, having done this same trip in 2013. Both experiences, while a bit different, were excellent. This is such a privilege that it’s hard to imagine that you would have anything other than an extraordinary experience.

September 4, 2021

For links to all the posts in this series see the East Africa Safari page.

For a review of the tour company we used see Review of Amahoro Tours.

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