There are some African animals you just can’t see from the comfort of a safari vehicle. One particularly rare species hides itself deep in the Virungu mountains, amid the lush equatorial rainforest that skirts Lake Edward – the mountain gorilla. The gorillas found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo are both an elusive and rare breed and few ever get a chance to see them. If you’re fortunate enough to get the opportunity to see this endangered species in the wild on a gorilla trekking safari, you’ll see them entirely in their natural habitat, completely unspoilt by human interaction.
Trips to Uganda’s Bwindi Reserve in the Northern Virungu range, or the Volcanoes National Park in Burundi, are regularly arranged by our passionate team of specialist consultants and provide one of the most unique and unforgettable close animal encounters in Africa.
Rwanda offers the more accessible and comfortable experience, although Uganda has more to see. A cosy and luxurious lodge awaits in both and is all part of the experience of being in this tropical Eden.
Typically it takes a full day to reach and return from the depths of the jungle, trekking for up-to six hours, depending on which family of gorillas you are assigned to. There are a certain amount of groups of these endangered animals usually tracked and the guides know where in the forest they are likely to be. Hiking can be quite strenuous, so you should ensure that you are reasonably fit.
There are fewer than 700 of these gentle but occasionally grumpy primates reckoned to be alive today, precariously close to extinction and on the endangered species list. Highly intelligent and only two evolutionary steps away from Homo Sapiens, the gorilla spends its day foraging for food, socialising or sleeping. A troop, which you will come across, comprises some half dozen animals, with one silverback dominant male.
You will spend about an hour with the gorillas when doing a trek whilst the guides ensure that the animals feel no threat despite your close-up encounter. Then it’s time to return to the camp.
Tips For Gorilla Trekking
Pack light but warm clothing, moisture wicking garments, some good walking boots and a light rain-jacket. November can be wet, in fact, it rains a lot in this part of the world and can become cool at altitude. It can be equally uncomfortable on humid days.
Although porters can be hired for $20 a day, you should carry a pack prepared for all weather, including a pair of gloves suitable for grasping at the vegetation. A packed lunch is given out before you leave, and plenty of water should be taken along.
Flash photography is not allowed, whilst a good digital camera with high ISO or low F/stop is recommended for best results in the shadows of the jungle.
These are limited, so book well in advance. They are $600 in Uganda and $750 in Rwanda. They can be cancelled at short notice due to security or weather issues, and refunds are only given if the National Park makes the cancellation.
Where to stay in Rwanda: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
This recently built set of 30 thatched cottages sits on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park amid lush landscape and is an incredible experience in itself. It is comfortable with a lovely fireplace and lounge (it can get cold up at this height) is convenient to get to and has incredible views of the surrounding extinct volcanoes.