This Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Guide Includes:

  • What is Gorilla Trekking?
  • Best Time of the Year for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
  • What Is The Trek Like In Rwanda?
  • How Difficult is Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda?
  • How to Book Gorilla Trekking Permits in Rwanda
  • Rwanda is Best for Traveler Types Who…
  • Best Places To See Gorillas In The Wild

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

The African continent is renowned for its once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings and encounters. However, few are as highly sought-after (or as frequently featured on traveler bucket lists) as coming face-to-face with Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.

Listed as one of Africa’s critically endangered species, there are approximately 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild. These mountain gorillas can be found in the area known as the Virunga Mountains, and live in:

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
  • Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
  • Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to nearly half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas. Carefully protected in the Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi, this esteemed national park is one of only three places in the world where travelers can see these remarkable and rare critically endangered mountain gorillas in the wild.

WHAT IS GORILLA TREKKING?

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

Imagine this: You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your hiking gaiters. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group – it’s time to move forward, slowly, with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you’ve been longing to hear: ‘There they are’.

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking is an extraordinary bucket-list worthy adventure where you hike, bushwhack, and trek deep into Africa’s Virunga conservation region and Bwindi impenetrable forest in search of rare mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Trekking into their native forests is the only way to see these critically endangered gorillas, as they cannot survive in captivity. Trekking for gorillas in Africa’s emerald rainforests and observing the everyday interactions of these vulnerable primates is arguably one of life’s greatest privileges and most powerful wildlife experiences.

Follow gorilla families as they go about their daily lives. Observe how a mother tenderly feeds her young while being cognisant of the cautious stare from a 200kg (440lbs) silverback as he keeps a protective eye over his troop. Locking eyes with a distant relative is a profound experience that makes spending time with gorillas in Africa an unsurpassable wildlife encounter.

Gorilla trekking is best early in the morning. Typically trackers who know the gorillas well will head off into the jungle at first light to look for their gorilla family. Once they find them, they will radio through to the rangers, who will be waiting for you at the start point – This is when the gorilla trekking adventure begins!

There are a number of different gorilla families you can visit, living in various areas around the Virunga Mountains. In Uganda there are 19 habituated (meaning they are used to humans) gorilla families in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga. In Rwanda there are approximately 10 habituated gorilla families.

**Important Note: In order for you to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and/or Rwanda you need to apply for a gorilla trekking permit. These permits can be rather costly. The cost of a gorilla trekking permit various from one country to the next.

BEST TIME OF THE YEAR FOR GORILLA TREKKING IN RWANDA

  • Best time: Rwanda’s Dry Months | June – September | December – February

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is deemed one of the top year-round wildlife experiences in Africa. Despite it being an incredible experience year-round, Rwanda’s dry seasons are without a doubt the best time to go gorilla trekking.

Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May. The long dry season then kicks off in June and lasts until about mid-September – this is generally the preferred time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda. October to November sees a shorter rainy season, which is followed by a brief dry season from December to February. This is also a good time to see gorillas in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s dry seasons also offer travelers much easier hiking conditions as well as the lowest risk of malaria.

WHAT IS THE TREK LIKE IN RWANDA?

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

As Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is substantially smaller than Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, the mountain gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda is generally shorter and less difficult; however, Volcanoes National Park is at a higher elevation.

**Extra Tip: Rwanda is a little more open and therefore it is easier to get a good view.

HOW DIFFICULT IS GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA & RWANDA?

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

While extremely exhilarating, gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda can be pretty tough. The trekking journey can become incredibly challenging, especially if the gorillas are constantly on the move. Mountain gorillas are remarkably fast and move through the jungle with great ease and speed, so trying to keep up with them takes quite some effort. For this reason, a moderate to high level of fitness is typically required to take on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

If you’re not exactly in tip-top gorilla trekking shape and your fitness level isn’t quite where it needs to be, you can request at the gate to be put in a group that will be trekking one of the nearer gorilla families. While it’s not always possible, it is certainly worth asking.

Regardless of your fitness level, it is important to keep in mind that you are literally trekking ‘through’ the jungle (which in itself is beyond impressive and an INCREDIBLE feat), with the rangers sometimes having to navigate and cut their way through in order to create a path. You need to remember that these are called ‘mountain’ gorillas for a reason and the terrain is pretty steep and can be slippery, especially in the rainy season. Good hiking shoes/boots are essential.

If you need help or require some assistance, you can hire porters to help you either by carrying your bag / bags, providing you with support, or assist you in navigating the hard and challenging sections of the trek.

If you have limited mobility, you can also hire a ‘gorilla chair’ and the porters can carry you through the jungle on your gorilla trekking journey – There is absolutely no reason why anyone, irrespective of their abilities, should miss out on this truly extraordinary experience.

WHICH IS BETTER FOR GORILLA TREKKING – UGANDA OR RWANDA?

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Both Uganda and Rwanda are renowned for their bucket-list worthy gorilla trekking experiences, offering visitors spectacular sightings of these remarkable and critically endangered mountain gorillas in the wild.

However, in the great Uganda vs. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla battle, Rwanda claims the title of being Africa’s most accessible gorilla trekking destination. Not only is Rwanda smaller than Uganda (which means there is less square footage for the mountain gorillas to roam), the mountain gorillas in Rwanda are deemed easier to trek, spot, and get to than the Ugandan mountain gorillas. Rwanda also has more than twice the number of habituated mountain gorilla groups than Uganda and so permits are generally more easily available.

**Important Note: In order for you to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and/or Rwanda you need to apply for a gorilla trekking permit. These permits can be rather costly. The cost of a gorilla trekking permit various from one country to the next.

HOW TO BOOK GORILLA TREKKING PERMITS IN RWANDA

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

 

In order to apply for and book your gorilla trekking permits independently, you can do so through the following channels.

You can arrange, purchase, and secure your Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Permit independently via the IREMBO website. Alternatively, you can email the Rwandan Development Board on [email protected].

Similar to Uganda, if you are booking your Mountain Gorilla Trekking Permit via a company or on a tour, your chosen tour operator will navigate the entire process for you.

RWANDA IS BEST FOR TRAVELER TYPES WHO…

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

If you have limited time to travel, then Rwanda is exactly where you need to go to see gorillas in Africa. You can simply land in Kigali, be driven to your lodge, go mountain gorilla trekking the next day and leave for the airport the following morning. This way it’s possible for you to wrap up your gorilla trekking trip in five days or less.

Best Places To See Gorillas In The Wild

How To Go Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda

Here is a guide outlining where the best places in Africa are to see gorillas in the wild:

Uganda

Rwanda

Congo

Gorilla Species Mountain gorillas Mountain gorillas Western lowland gorillas
Best gorilla trekking destination Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Volcanoes National Park Odzala-Kokoua National Park
Best time to go All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February
Trekking time Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families
Trekking terrain Hiking at altitude through thick forested slopes Hiking at altitude through thick forested slopes Hiking on ground level through thick rainforest
Time allowed with gorillas (excluding trekking time) 1 Hour 1 Hour 1 Hour

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

The African continent is renowned for its once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings and encounters. However, few are as highly sought-after (or as frequently featured on traveler bucket lists) as coming face-to-face with Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.

Listed as one of Africa’s critically endangered species, there are approximately 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild. These mountain gorillas can be found in the area known as the Virunga Mountains, and live in:

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
  • Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
  • Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to nearly half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas. Carefully protected in the Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi, this esteemed national park is one of only three places in the world where travelers can see these remarkable and rare critically endangered mountain gorillas in the wild.

The Virunga Mountains is essentially the point where the boundaries of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) meet. Each country has its own national park in the Virungas, including the Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and Virunga National Park. Of these, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is considered the best option for gorilla trekking.

What is Gorilla Trekking?

 

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Imagine this: You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your hiking gaiters. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group – it’s time to move forward, slowly, with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you’ve been longing to hear: ‘There they are’.

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking is an extraordinary bucket-list worthy adventure where you hike, bushwhack, and trek deep into Africa’s Virunga conservation region and Bwindi impenetrable forest in search of rare mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Trekking into their native forests is the only way to see these critically endangered gorillas, as they cannot survive in captivity. Trekking for gorillas in Africa’s emerald rainforests and observing the everyday interactions of these vulnerable primates is arguably one of life’s greatest privileges and most powerful wildlife experiences.

Follow gorilla families as they go about their daily lives. Observe how a mother tenderly feeds her young while being cognisant of the cautious stare from a 200kg (440lbs) silverback as he keeps a protective eye over his troop. Locking eyes with a distant relative is a profound experience that makes spending time with gorillas in Africa an unsurpassable wildlife encounter.

Gorilla trekking is best early in the morning. Typically trackers who know the gorillas well will head off into the jungle at first light to look for their gorilla family. Once they find them, they will radio through to the rangers, who will be waiting for you at the start point – This is when the gorilla trekking adventure begins!

There are a number of different gorilla families you can visit, living in various areas around the Virunga Mountains. In Uganda there are 19 habituated (meaning they are used to humans) gorilla families in Bwindi and 1 in Mgahinga. In Rwanda there are approximately 10 habituated gorilla families.

**Important Note: In order for you to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and/or Rwanda you need to apply for a gorilla trekking permit. These permits can be rather costly. The cost of a gorilla trekking permit various from one country to the next.

Best Places To See Gorillas In The Wild

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Here is a guide outlining where the best places in Africa are to see gorillas in the wild:

Uganda

Rwanda

Congo

Gorilla Species Mountain gorillas Mountain gorillas Western lowland gorillas
Best gorilla trekking destination Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Volcanoes National Park Odzala-Kokoua National Park
Best time to go All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February All year round, but driest from June to September and December to February
Trekking time Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families Up to 5 hours, depending on weather, fitness levels of guests, and proximity of gorilla families
Trekking terrain Hiking at altitude through thick forested slopes Hiking at altitude through thick forested slopes Hiking on ground level through thick rainforest
Time allowed with gorillas (excluding trekking time) 1 Hour 1 Hour 1 Hour

Best Time of the Year for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

  • Best time: Uganda’s Dry Months | June – September | December – February
  • Budget-conscious: Uganda’s Low Season | March – May | October – November

Uganda experiences two dry and two wet seasons in a year. Although a Uganda gorilla trekking expedition is considered a year-round activity, most visitors and wildlife enthusiasts prefer the drier months of June to September and December to February, when trekking conditions are more favorable.

However, as gorilla trekking in the forests of Uganda are great, and equally thrilling, right throughout the year, many travelers prefer to visit Uganda during its low season – March to May and October to November. Not only will you be able to tick an unforgettable gorilla trekking experience off your bucket-list, but Uganda’s parks are less crowded and accommodation facilities are far more affordable due to the fewer visitors during the low season.

Uganda’s low season is regarded as the best time for budget-conscious visitors interested in a Uganda gorilla trekking trip.

Best Time of the Year for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

  • Best time: Rwanda’s Dry Months | June – September | December – February

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is deemed one of the top year-round wildlife experiences in Africa. Despite it being an incredible experience year-round, Rwanda’s dry seasons are without a doubt the best time to go gorilla trekking.

Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May. The long dry season then kicks off in June and lasts until about mid-September – this is generally the preferred time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda. October to November sees a shorter rainy season, which is followed by a brief dry season from December to February. This is also a good time to see gorillas in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s dry seasons also offer travelers much easier hiking conditions as well as the lowest risk of malaria.

What Is The Trek Like In Uganda?

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

As the mountain gorillas cover large territories in Uganda tracking time can vary greatly from day to day. The time it takes to trek gorillas is completely unpredictable and can take anywhere from one hour to nine hours or in some cases even longer.

**Extra Tip: Be sure to communicate your fitness level to your tour operator so they can recommend the best trek based on endurance.

What Is The Trek Like In Rwanda?

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

As Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is substantially smaller than Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, the mountain gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda is generally shorter and less difficult; however, Volcanoes National Park is at a higher elevation.

**Extra Tip: Rwanda is a little more open and therefore it is easier to get a good view.

How Difficult is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda & Rwanda?

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

 

While extremely exhilarating, gorilla trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda can be pretty tough. The trekking journey can become incredibly challenging, especially if the gorillas are constantly on the move. Mountain gorillas are remarkably fast and move through the jungle with great ease and speed, so trying to keep up with them takes quite some effort. For this reason, a moderate to high level of fitness is typically required to take on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

If you’re not exactly in tip-top gorilla trekking shape and your fitness level isn’t quite where it needs to be, you can request at the gate to be put in a group that will be trekking one of the nearer gorilla families. While it’s not always possible, it is certainly worth asking.

Regardless of your fitness level, it is important to keep in mind that you are literally trekking ‘through’ the jungle (which in itself is beyond impressive and an INCREDIBLE feat), with the rangers sometimes having to navigate and cut their way through in order to create a path. You need to remember that these are called ‘mountain’ gorillas for a reason and the terrain is pretty steep and can be slippery, especially in the rainy season. Good hiking shoes/boots are essential.

If you need help or require some assistance, you can hire porters to help you either by carrying your bag / bags, providing you with support, or assist you in navigating the hard and challenging sections of the trek.

If you have limited mobility, you can also hire a ‘gorilla chair’ and the porters can carry you through the jungle on your gorilla trekking journey – There is absolutely no reason why anyone, irrespective of their abilities, should miss out on this truly extraordinary experience.

Which Is Better For Gorilla Trekking – Uganda or Rwanda?

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Both Uganda and Rwanda are renowned for their bucket-list worthy gorilla trekking experiences, offering visitors spectacular sightings of these remarkable and critically endangered mountain gorillas in the wild.

However, in the great Uganda vs. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla battle, Rwanda claims the title of being Africa’s most accessible gorilla trekking destination. Not only is Rwanda smaller than Uganda (which means there is less square footage for the mountain gorillas to roam), the mountain gorillas in Rwanda are deemed easier to trek, spot, and get to than the Ugandan mountain gorillas. Rwanda also has more than twice the number of habituated mountain gorilla groups than Uganda and so permits are generally more easily available.

**Important Note: In order for you to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and/or Rwanda you need to apply for a gorilla trekking permit. These permits can be rather costly. The cost of a gorilla trekking permit various from one country to the next.

How to Book Gorilla Trekking Permits in Uganda & Rwanda

In order to apply for and book your gorilla trekking permits independently, you can do so through the following channels.

Uganda

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

The only way to book, purchase, and obtain your Uganda Mountain Gorilla Trekking Permit is via the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA). This can either be done in person at the office in Kampala, via email or telephone. Once your permit is confirmed, you will need to make a bank transfer to the UWA to secure your permit.

In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, there are 4 locations, Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo, so just be aware that it is best to book your permit close to where you will stay (as it’s quite far and expensive to travel between locations, especially as the treks start at 8am).

They only issue permits from the Kampala office, so if you are booking your permit independently / by yourself, you will need to pick up your permits in Kampala. This is fine unless you were planning on flying into Kigali. If that’s the case, it will require you to travel far out of your way in order to collect your permit from Kampala. For this reason, you’re best flying into Entebbe and/or passing through Kampala overland.

If you are booking your Mountain Gorilla Trekking Permit via a company or on a tour, this won’t be an issue as they will pick up your permits for you.

Rwanda

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

You can arrange, purchase, and secure your Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Permit independently via the IREMBO website. Alternatively, you can email the Rwandan Development Board on [email protected].

Similar to Uganda, if you are booking your Mountain Gorilla Trekking Permit via a company or on a tour, your chosen tour operator will navigate the entire process for you.

Uganda is Best for Traveler Types Who…

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Where lions stalk their prey through grasslands, hippos soak lazily in the shallows, mountain gorillas move purposefully though tangled forests, and calm waters of Lake Victoria transform into the thundering rapids of the River Nile as it makes its way across Africa – Uganda is a country and wildlife safari destination unlike any other.

It offers wildlife enthusiasts and adventure travelers the opportunity to go on a thrilling Uganda gorilla trekking adventure as well as enjoy an exciting safari experience in one of Africa’s best wildlife and safari destinations – Experience the very best of both worlds and the greatest Uganda has to offer.

**Added bonus: Thanks to Uganda’s low cost of trekking permits, it’s a great choice for travelers looking for budget-friendly options to see gorillas in Africa.

Rwanda is Best for Traveler Types Who…

How to Go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

If you have limited time to travel, then Rwanda is exactly where you need to go to see gorillas in Africa. You can simply land in Kigali, be driven to your lodge, go mountain gorilla trekking the next day and leave for the airport the following morning. This way it’s possible for you to wrap up your gorilla trekking trip in five days or less.

Rwanda is considered as one of the smallest countries of Africa. It is located just a few degrees south of the equator. The country is bordered by Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mutilated by perhaps the most ruthless post-war genocide and political drama of the 20th century, Rwanda has come a long way since its rough past. Today, despite many claims of low-key exploitation and human rights abuse, the country remains a reinforcement of hope for other central African countries trying to recover from an agonizing past.

Rwanda is considered Africa’s kick ass come-back country. Two decades after the genocide, the country has made extensive effort to promote harmony and opulence amongst the people, inspire clean streets, and enrich the country back to its illustrious natural beauty.

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, captivating wildlife, and lush green forests — it’s impossible not to fall in love with the place. Here’s our top travel picks for Rwanda:

Kigali Memorial Centre Genocide Memorial

The Kigali Memorial Centre is not a very scenic site but holds great historic significance. The somber building with gardens and a concrete mass of graves marks one of the largest massacres sites. You should consider visiting it to truly understand the impact of Rwanda’s terrible past, and how the country has recovered from it.

Kigali Memorial Centre Genocide Memorial

The display is thought-provoking, depicting the horror of the three-month long genocide, which wrecked the country in 1994. Personal photography, film footage, and personal accounts of the historic moment were all captured. 99.9% of the population was affected by the genocide — a painful past that makes the present kindness and positivity of the locals more significant.

Congo Nile Hiking Trail

One of the best ways to experience Rwanda in all its natural beauty is through a quick hike. The Congo Nile Hiking Trail is a famous route taking you to the edge of the country’s most alluring stretch of crystal clear water, Lake Kivu. While on the trail, you will experience thick forest vegetation, intense landscapes and rolling hills, which is how Rwanda got its nickname, “Land of a Thousand Hills”.

Volcano National Park

The Best Places to Visit in Rwanda - Volcano National Park

If you want to experience seeing mountain gorillas up close, Volcano National Park is an excellent choice. This small park is considered the safe haven for these critically endangered animals. The park is home to 10 habituated gorilla families existing in different parts of the park. Other than the mountain gorillas you will also get to see over 75 species of different mammals like buffaloes, elephants, giant forest hogs, bush bucks, and spotted hyenas.

It is also home to over 180 species of birds and 26 of these you can find in the Rwenzori and Virunga mountains. Other than wide variety of animals you’ll see in this park there is also the Dian Fossey Grave, Mount Bisoke, and Mount Karisimbi.

Related: Interesting Facts About Mountain Gorillas

King’s Palace Museum

This palace was the residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa until his death in 1959. It’s located in Nyanza, about 88km south of Kigali City. It was built by the Belgium Government in 1932. The museum is considered a cultural center that sheds light on Rwanda’s monarchy practice of the past 200 years.

King’s Palace Museum

Inside, tourists can view the king’s traditional seat. Unfortunately many of the other objects and materials of tradition were destroyed or stolen in 1994 during the genocide. In order to rebuild it back to its former 19th century state, other materials of traditional heritage had to be added. These include traditional cows also known as “lnyambo”, which represents the Rwandese culture. The museum also allows you to view the burial grounds of King Mutara III and his wife Rosalie Gicanda on the neighbouring hill of Mwima.