Volcanoes National Park

The most famous and hot spot destination in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans Kinyarwanda: Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), and spans 160 km2 covered in rainforest and bamboo.

Gorillas, of course, pay no heed to borders and are known to cross between the countries, although most habituated groups are to be found in Volcanoes National Park. The massif is home to around half of the world’s precious mountain gorillas – some 400 of them – making Rwanda probably the best place in Africa for a tracking safari.

Volcanoes National Park also has a historic connection with gorilla conservation. It was the base for the ground-breaking work of primatologist Dian Fossey which started in the late 1960s and is evocatively portrayed in the book and film Gorillas in the Mist.

History

The park was first gazetted in 1925, as a small area bounded by Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno, intended to protect the gorillas from poachers. It was the very first National Park to be created in Africa and it’s known as the oldest park in Africa attracting quite a huge number of tourists in Rwanda. Subsequently, in 1929, the borders of the park were extended further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to form the Albert National Park, a huge area of 8090 km2, run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies. In 1958, 700 hectares of the park were cleared for a human settlement.

After the Congo gained independence in 1765, the park was split into two, and upon Rwandan independence in 1962 the new government agreed to maintain the park as a conservation and tourist area, despite the fact that the new republic was already suffering from overpopulation problems. The park was halved in area in 1969. Between 1969 and 1973, 1,050 hectares of the park were cleared to grow pyrethrum.

Flora

Vegetation varies considerably due to the large altitudinal range within the park. There is some lower montane forest (now mainly lost to agriculture). Between 2400 and 2500 m, there is Neoboutonia forest. From 2500 M to 3200 M Arundinaria alpina (bamboo) forest occurs, covering about 30% of the park area. From 2600 M to 3600 M, mainly on the more humid slopes in the south and west, is Hagenia-Hypericum forest, which covers about 30% of the park. This is one of the largest forests of Hagenia abyssinica. The vegetation from 3500 M to 4200 M is characterised by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii and covers about 25% of the park. From 4300 to 4500 m grassland occurs. Secondary thicket, meadows, marshes, swamps and small lakes also occur, but their total area is relatively small. Nature walk or a hike within the park, will give you a great opportunity to encounter some of these fauna within the park.

Fauna

The park is best known for the mountain gorilla and golden monkeys as being the major attraction of visitors to the park. Other mammals include: black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted hyena and bushbuck. The bushbuck population is estimated to be between 1760–7040 animals. There are also reported to be some elephants in the park, though these are now very rare. There are over 200 recorded bird species, with at least 13 species and 16 subspecies endemic to the Virunga and Ruwenzori Mountains.

Major Tourism activities within the park.

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) runs several activities for tourists, including:

Gorilla visits – as of January 2015, there are ten habituated gorilla groups open to tourists, allowing for a total of 80 permits per day thus maximum of 8 people per group. Each permit costs $1500. Tourists report at the park head office by 7:00 for a pre-tracking briefing. Once tourists meet the gorillas they spend an hour with them. However expensive the permits are, the demand worldwide is quite high, you need to book through your tour operator in advance in order to secure the permits, otherwise you may fail to get one since it’s not possible to secure it individually. You need to secure it through a reliable registered tour company since this is a huge sum of money when it come to individual or group booking, Rwanda Eco Company and Safaris is one of the leading registered and licensed domestic tour company that could help you easily book your gorilla permit to give you a wonderful safari alongside gorilla trekking.

Other activities include;

  • Golden monkey visits.
  • Climbing of Karisimbi volcano – this is a two-day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 m.
  • Climbing of Bisoke volcano – one day.
  • Tour of the lakes and caves.
  • Visiting the tomb of Dian Fossey.
  • Iby’Iwacu cultural village tour

The majority of revenue from tourism goes towards maintaining the park and conserving the wildlife. The remainder goes to the government and (around 10%) to local projects in the area to help local people benefit from the large revenue stream generated by the park.

About Dian Fossey

The park later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. She arrived in 1967 and set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. From then on she spent most of her time in the park, and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. Her 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist, combines her scientific study of the gorillas at Karisoke Research Center with her own personal story. She was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, a crime often attributed to the poachers she had spent her life fighting against. Fossey’s life later was portrayed on the big screen in the film Gorillas in the Mist, named after her autobiography. She is buried in the park in a grave close to the research center, and amongst the gorillas which became her life. Called one of the foremost primatologists in the world, Fossey, along with Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas, were the so-called Trimates, a group of three prominent researchers on primates (Fossey on gorillas; Goodall on common chimpanzees; and Galdikas on orangutans). The three were sent by Leakey to study great apes in their natural environments.

During her time in Rwanda, she actively supported conservation efforts, strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats, and made more people acknowledge sapient gorillas. Fossey was brutally murdered in her cabin at a remote camp in Rwanda in December 1985. It has been theorized that her murder was linked to her conservation efforts. Unlike the gorillas from the Congo side of the Virungas, the Karisoke area gorillas had never been partially habituated by Schaller’s study; they knew humans only as poachers, and it took longer for Fossey to be able to study the Karisoke gorillas at a close distance. Before her death, Dian Fossey extracted a journal in which she emphasized, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of future”. She started a Dian Fossey gorilla fund project, which has continued to help in the conservation of mountain gorillas and promoting gorilla tourism in volcanoes national park. History tells that the campaign by Dian Fossey against poaching generated hatred and negative attitudes by poachers who revised all means to assassinate her.

Fossey strongly opposed wildlife tourism, as gorillas are very susceptible to human anthroponotic diseases like influenza for which they have no immunity. Fossey reported several cases in which gorillas died because of diseases spread by tourists.

On three occasions, Fossey wrote that she witnessed the aftermath of the capture of infant gorillas at the behest of the park conservators for zoos; since gorillas will fight to the death to protect their young, the kidnappings would often result in up to 10 adult gorillas’ deaths. Through the Digit Fund, Fossey financed patrols to destroy poachers’ traps in the Karisoke study area. In four months in 1979, the Fossey patrol consisting of four African staffers destroyed 987 poachers’ traps in the research area’s vicinity. The official Rwandan national park guards, consisting of 24 staffers, did not eradicate any poachers’ traps during the same period. In the eastern portion of the park not patrolled by Fossey, poachers virtually eradicated all the park’s elephants for ivory and killed more than a dozen gorillas. Fossey helped in the arrest of several poachers, some of whom served or are serving long prison sentences.

While gorillas from rival gang groups on the mountains that were not part of Fossey’s study had often been found poached five to ten at a time, and had spurred Fossey to conduct her own anti-poaching patrols, Fossey’s study groups had not been direct victims of poaching until Fossey’s favorite gorilla Digit was killed in 1978. Later that year, the silverback of Digit’s Group 4, named for Fossey’s Uncle Bert, was shot in the heart while trying to save his son, Kweli, from being seized by poachers cooperating with the Rwandan park conservator. Kweli’s mother, Macho, was also killed in the raid, but Kweli was not captured due to Uncle Bert’s intervention; however, three-year-old Kweli died slowly and painfully of gangrene, from being brushed by a poacher’s bullet.

The Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield during the Rwandan Civil War, with the park headquarters being attacked in 1992. The research centre was abandoned, and all tourist activities (including visiting the gorillas) were stopped. They did not resume again until 1999 when the area was deemed to be safe and under control. There have been occasional infiltrations by Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in subsequent years, but these are always stopped quickly by the Rwandan army and there is thought to be no threat to tourism in the park.

Visitors can pay homage to the legendary scientist and gorilla advocate Dian Fossey with a hike to her tomb or a visit to the Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund that continues her legacy of research and advocacy to this day. Hiking to the graves is not as easy as you may think, but it’s quite short lasting for roughly 1-3 hours from the starting point. The hike is not as strenuous as hiking the Virunga volcanoes but it’s quite tiresome requiring one to be physically fit and committed. To ease the movements, travelers are also reminded to wear hiking boots to overcome the muddy and slippery grounds especially in the rainy season. Similarly, dress in long trousers, which you will tack into stockings to prevent bites from ground insects and being hurt by stinging nettles.

Gorilla groups at Volcanoes National Park.

Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park today has a number of 10 fully habituated gorilla groups for visitors to encounter and one set aside for research purpose for the study of the gorillas by the researchers. The group is known as Kwita Izina from which baby gorilla naming ceremony are selected. This means, a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorillas on a single day since only 8 individuals are only allowed per day to visit a single group of the gorillas. The gorillas live in what is called a family, and as this family grows up to big numbers, they form a group. Each member from a group are related, and a group is lead by one single dominant silver back, once the silver back dies, the group splint and joins another group as females, needs a mature dominant silver back for reproduction of strong genes and protection of their babies and territories. However, a group can have more than one silverback.

Surprisingly, each gorilla group has distinct and unique characteristic quiet different from another. However, the tracking experience from each group is the same; some time may vary depending on your encounter, weather and other factors. But, all in all, the experience of trekking the gorilla, is once a life time experience at you hike deep, in the jungle covered by mist.

Below are the gorilla groups available;

Titus Family

The Titus group is the original family named after the Silver back Titus which was born during the days of Dian Fossey’ research at Karisoke which was the gorilla group Dian Fossey was studying. Titus the your gorilla lost his family to poachers including his father, uncle and brother and his mother and sister,  joined other families leaving Titus to be raised by an unrelated male gorillas. According to Dian Fossey Titus the infant seemed “underdeveloped and spindly” and had difficulty breathing, but Titus overcame these difficulties.

Susa group (Susa A)

This is the most popular family with previously 42 members before the split. Well known for being the group studied by Diana Fossey during her time in Rwanda from 1967 to 1985. In 2008 the group of 42 individuals split into 2 as it had become so large and food was becoming competitive. The breakaway group was later known as Susa B or Karisimbi group. Susa A group is well known for its playful twins of Byishimo & Impano and was named after the Susa River that drains through their home range. The group is composed of 33 members including 2 silverbacks and inhabits the forests on the lower slopes of Mt. Karisimbi.

Karisimbi group (Susa B)

This is sometimes referred to as Susa B and is the group which split from the original Susa in 2008. It is made up of 16 members including 2 silver backs. The group is the hardest to track as it inhabits the upper slopes of Mt. Karisimbi at an altitude of 4507m. The group has established their home high in the upper slopes and is suitable for trackers interested in serious hiking. Tracking this group is sometimes difficult as they go further high though RDB rangers will first locate the group a day before.

Amahoro group

Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda word to mean serenity, as the name goes, the family is known for its peacefulness and congeniality which on the other hand has caused its silver back Ubumwe to lose some members into another group called Umubano. Amahoro means ‘peace’ and the group has lived to the expectations of her name and is regarded as the most peaceful group. It is composed of 18 members including 2 silver backs and is a bit strenuous to track as one has to endure a hike up Mt. Bisoke slopes where the group established their home.

Umubano group

This family broke away from Ubumwe silverback as a result of constant battles between Charles and Ubumwe the two head silver backs; Charles consistently challenging the supremacy of the leader Ubumwe. Charles eventually succeeded in breaking away with some members hence forming Umubano group. The group is composed of 13 members including 2 silver backs and its name means ‘living together’.

Sabyinyo group

The nearest gorilla family and easiest to track inhabiting the gentle slopes between Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Gahinga. The group is popular for its giant silver back known as Guhonda which has kept its main challenger, Ryango out of the family to remain as a lonely silver back. The group is composed of 13 members including one silver back after another was exiled from the group. The commander of the group; Guhonda is the largest silver back in the park weighing about 220kg. The group was named after the Sabinyo volcano that means the ‘old man’s teeth’.

Agashya group – Group 13

This group is named after the initial family individual who were 13 at the time of habituation. The group was initially led by a silverback called Nyakarima but was later over thrown by Agashya meaning the ‘ News’ which is now the leader and the family was named after him. Today the family has grown to 27 members including one silver back (Agashya). The group occupies the same territory with Sabyinyo group but sometimes Agashya takes the family deeper into the mountain when it senses danger

Kwitonda group

This is a migrant group from Democratic Republic of Congo which was named after its dominant silver back called Kwitonda which means the ‘Humble one’. Because of its migration background, the group wonders in the lower slopes of Mt. Muhabura and like Karisimbi group, it is onerous to track as it sometimes moves to the upper slopes. The group is composed of 23 members including 4 silver backs.

Hirwa group

This family was formed in 2006 by some members of Sabyinyo group and others from 13 group (Agashya). More gorillas joined in and now the group is composed of 16 members including one silver back. The group derived its name from its formation process that was out of luck. Hirwa means ‘the Lucky one’ and as luck has it, the group got twins in 2011. Hirwa group inhabits the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo to the side of Mt Gahinga.

Ugenda group

This is a Kinyarwanda word ‘Ugenda’ to mean ‘on the move’ or ‘mobile’. The group was named after its unique behavior of roaming from place to place. It consists of 11 members including 2 silver backs and wonders around Karisimbi area hence very difficult to track since it has no particular home.

Bwenge group

This group was formed as early as 2007 by Bwenge, and named after him the group’s dominant silverback, after he had left his Natal group and was joined by females from other groups. The group occupies slopes of Karisoke volcano between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains and had witnessed dark times when its 6 infants died. The group has however recovered and now has 11 members including one silver back. Bwenge is a Kinyarwanda word which means ‘Wisdom’ and it’s no wonder that this was the group that featured the Movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.

In a nutshell, with the description given, you should have a good picture of the characteristics and nature of each gorilla group and are in position to choose which gorilla family to track on your Rwanda tour while in Volcanoes national park. However, booking a gorilla group is on first come first serve basis, as the demand for the permits is quite high, early booking with your tour operator may guarantee you to book the group of your choice depending on the availability as said before, each group is entitled to only 8 members per group. Rwanda Eco Company & Safaris, registered local tour company, can help you make all the arrangements for your gorilla and wildlife safari tour.

How to get to Volcanoes National Park.

Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans Kinyarwanda: Pariki y’Igihugu y’Ibirunga) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys.

To get to Volcanoes National park is quite easy as you have choice of options. You can decide to take a private means from the city center of Kigali or airport probably by a tour operator or take a pubic means to Musanze. Musanze is the most convenient gateway point to volcanoes. However, public means do not proceed to the park areas where the trekking starts. You will have to hire another private means will connect you between Musanze and the park at Kinigi. In case you used a tour operator, you need not to worry, since they know all the routes and procedures necessary for one to get to the park at Kinigi. All activities start at 0700 hrs in the morning. For a tour operator, they are aware of this. So in case your trekking the same day, it’s better to take a night public means that will get you to Musanze early so as to make a quick connection to the park or travel a day before the trek to Musanze and connect the next day. There is no public means from Musanze to the park headquarters; you will have to take a cub. However, we do not recommend you to use the public means, if you wish too, it’s on your own risk.

How far is the park from Kigali?

Volcanoes National Park is about 105 kilometers (65 miles) away from the Country’s city and Airport (Kigali), which is roughly a 2 hours drive. We highly recommend booking through a tour operator, probably Rwanda Eco Company & Safaris, who will easily make all the possible arrangement for you with no hustle for your gorilla trekking experience at Volcanoes National Park. In case you’re interested in car hire, we do own number of flight vehicles ranging from small jeeps to extended land cruiser, which are very comfortable for your transportation.

Kwita Izina: Rwanda’s Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

As it is in human, for many parents, naming their child is one of the most important considerations they have to make. From looking through family members and relatives, to consulting family members, to perhaps drawing straws because a mother and father can’t decide between Leigh and Lee. Naming is always based on seasons, situation at hand and family ties. Names have always been something that carries great significance and meaning, from religious icons to fictional characters in your favorite novel.

The same to gorillas, naming is always done based on some habits, situations and factors that are considered for a baby gorilla.

The Kwita Izina is Rwanda’s annual event where the newly born mountain gorillas are given names for purposes of conservation.

The gorilla naming ceremony started way back in 2005 as a small occasion that has recently become a big event in Rwandan tourism industry, attracting a lot of tourists worldwide to take part in the baby gorilla naming ceremony. Thousands and thousands of people find their way to the foothills of the Virunga Mountain.

The ceremony’s main goal is in helping monitor each individual gorilla and their groups in their natural habitat. It was created as a means of bringing attention both locally and internationally about the importance of protecting the mountain gorillas and their habitats in Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains in the north of the country. This event has become Rwanda’s cultural and traditional practice for each year at Kinigi at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters.

About 239 mountain gorillas have been named over the course of the Kwita Izina ceremonies. The Kwita Izina event seems to be a vibrant conservation measure. In 1985, there were fewer than 300 mountain gorillas that thrived in the natural environment compared to the 900 that are estimated to be living today in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The event was celebrated under the theme “Conservation and sustainable tourism, a foundation for future generation.” Volcanoes National Park lies in Musanze village which is also famous as Ruhengeri.

What to carry on your gorilla trekking adventure

Gorilla trekking pack list

As you wake up in the early morning, thinking on how you’re going to meet and smile with these gentle giants in their own habitat – the forest. Remember to at least not to leave behind one of the followings that may be of great importance to make your gorilla trekking experience easy and memorable. We do recommend a number of things to our clients to include on their gorilla pack list to avoid any discomfort during the trekking so as to make your trekking as enjoyable as you wish too. However, this does not mean you empty your woo drop and pack everything for your safari. We do recommend only what is very important and relevant to the safari to reduce on your luggage, and hustle of packing and unpacking.

What can I carry?

Tough Gardening Gloves:

Gardening Gloves – no you are not going gardening but on a gorilla trek and the gloves allow you to pull yourself up on vines, branches and not get scratched.

Some tree branches or stems have thorns, that your hand may land on the unknowingly, this will help to keep you safe. Other plants have itching substance that when you get into contact with your hands may cause discomfort.

Those that use them are quite glad that they did since you often go off of the trail and simply enter the bush where the gorillas are in order to spend your hour with them.

You can take your gloves off when you are with the gorillas in order to take pictures.  Gardening Gloves – bring them along – they might come in handy.

Carry a hut:

Have a hat, not only because of the sun, but because sometimes ants can fall on your head or a hat can save you from hitting your head against a low branch.

At the least wear a baseball cap, but it does not protect your neck against the tropical sun that comes out after the morning mist has lifted in the mountains.

You do not need an expensive Tilley Hat, a good wide-brimmed hat will d and you can wear it on the plane coming to Uganda or Rwanda.

The alternative is a baseball hat or purchasing a hat in Uganda or Rwanda and there is a wide-range available in local markets including Craft Markets.

Insect repellant:

You will definitely need this, as there are numerous ants there waiting for as you encroach their territory, they tend to react. The repellant will keep your skin safe. You will also need to apply sun block to your body that is exposed.

Sun glasses:

They may be of great importance to protect your eyes in case you’re heading off trail to protect your eyes from flying insects, and falling pieces of wood.

Light Rain-Jacket:

You are trekking Gorillas in the Rainforest and often in the morning, there is that “Gorillas in the Mist” feel to it all where a rain jacket comes in handy.

Rain Forest also means that in spite of you coming in the Dry-Season Months of the year, it can rain at any time, after all, you are in a Tropical Rainforest and at times it does rain for a spell in the morning, yet the sun comes out each day to dry the ground.

A Poncho can also be used and is often worn by Rangers, Trackers, and Porters.  Use a light one that you can fold or roll up and put into your Daypack until the time that you need it.

A sweater:

It’s always cool over their especially in the early morning and late evening, you may need this to keep you warm for some time. That for Tropical, Equatorial Africa is cool, for visitors to the area it may just feel right.

Waterproof Daypack:

You will need a good waterproof day pack in which you can pack the things you will be bringing along.

Wrap Camera Equipment in Ziploc Bags or Shower Cap to protect it, a small first aid kit with band aids, insect repellent – during the day there may be a lot of flies present.

Binoculars: Will not be necessary unless you are a Birder.

Your packed lunch and at least two liters of water – some granola or energy bars may come in handy. On a Gorilla Habituation Experience, you will need 3 liters of water.

Pack a light rain jacket or poncho – you are tracking Gorillas in a rainforest.

Extra things – Swiss-Army Knife – First-Aid Kit- Insect Repellent mostly for flies –  Sunglasses may come in handy.

 

Use Ziplock Bag to cover anything you are trying to protect from water, plus to keep the Deet Based Insect Repellent from spilling in the bag, other items.

Gators with wool stockings underneath should also be carried to keep you dry.

Energy Giving snacks

Gorilla trekking can take from 30 minutes to eight or so hours and that’s why a certain level of fitness is required. To add on that, we advise that you carry some energy giving snacks as supplements. Before departing from your lodge, you need to carry your packed lunch and lots of drinking water as you never know when you will return. Energy giving foods can be bought in Uganda or Rwanda so contact or ask your guide to take you to a nearby super market.

A money belt is also helpful for carrying money in case you need to buy souvenirs and tipping tour guides.

Safari Gadgets like a pair of binoculars that will be important during birding, cameras with enough memory and extra lenses for capturing all the interesting and breathtaking moments during your trekking, rechargeable batteries with a charger (for the camera), smart phones because Wi-Fi is available in most lodges, torches (LED torches have a good battery life and are of lightweight). Remember to carry enough extra batteries, since you will need to take as many photos as you can.

Porters for your gorilla trek

This is an extra optional item and we advise all our clients to take a porter for their gorilla trekking. As earlier noted, gorilla trekking can be strenuous and thus you will need someone to give you a push or a pull on the way to the gorillas. These porters go for a fee but it is worth it. You may feel too exhausted during the trekking; they are there to give full support.

Now as you have known and well conversant with what is needed for your gorilla safari in Africa, you can go ahead and make a booking with Rwanda Eco Company & Safari, so that they may make all the necessary arrangements, and permits for your gorilla trekking safaris in Africa.

See you do a successful and a wonderful life time experience in one of the amazing country with great people, full of number of attraction that will leave you, in need of revisiting the area again, Rwanda Eco Company & Safari, you do not need to worry, they have a long time experience with this, with some of our guides, have been once guides at the park.

What To Expect On Volcanoes NP Gorilla Safari

There is no doubt that Volcanoes National Park gorilla safari is a humbling experience, which happen once in lifetime. The credibility of a gorilla trek in Africa is proved by millions of travelers who flock gorilla destinations every day to have a face-to-face encounter with the gentle and incredible mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.  While planning to go for a gorilla safari in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, expect a variety of things along the way, during and after the incomparable thrilling adventure in the jungles.   A gorilla safari in Africa can only be done in three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo meaning that a traveler who intends to see gorillas must travel to any one of the three countries. In the course of a safari, various happenstances take place, which you should be ready for. To ensure a smooth flow of your gorilla safari experience, we offer you a highlight of things you should expect from the start to the end of the trekking session.

On the day of trekking, you will have an early morning breakfast and transfer from the hotel/lodge to the headquarters of the respective national park for a simple briefing at as early as 7:00am. You will be introduced to the dos and don’ts to ensure safety while with the endangered species. Still there, you will be joined in groups of eight people and then allocated a particular gorilla family. All responsible government bodies in gorilla destinations legally allow 8 people as a maximum number of travelers to interact with each gorilla family. These bodies are the Uganda wildlife (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Institute of Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC respectively.

What can I carry along?

You must carry a valid gorilla permit along with other travel documents such as passports for clarification.  The permit comes along with the receipt bearing the names of the trekker and the sector of the national park Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija or Buhoma for the case of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.  Without a permit, no one is allowed to trek gorillas and is valid for an hour.  Rwanda Eco Company & Safari guide, will be having all you documents and the permits, and will help to carry out all the necessary process for the gorilla trekking,, you only have to sign where necessary.

For interested visitors on safari to Rwanda, gorilla families are divided into two; research and tourism purposes and the ones that only accessible by scientists and researchers, they include the Pablo’s Shida’s and Beetsme gorilla family. Rwanda has more than 15 gorilla families but only 10 (ten) have been set for tourism where only 8 (eight) visitors are assigned to track one family each day. The group includes; Susa gorilla group, Amahoro gorilla group, Umubano gorilla group, Karisimbi group, Sabyinyo gorilla group, Kwitonda gorilla group, Hirwa gorilla group, 13 group, Bwenge gorilla group.

When to book the gorilla permits?

Due to high demand for gorilla permits, travelers are always reminded to book for the permits at least 6 months before the actual date so as to avoid disappointments at the last hour. This will also help you to get the permits on the exact dates that do much your travel dates.

For more information, get in touch with Rwanda Eco Company & Safaris, they have all the answers to your query and are more than ready to assist you.

What to wear on a gorilla or golden monkey trekking safaris.

Both trekking activities are very adventurous, and challenging.

The right Clothing and Footwear on a Gorilla Trek protects you from Nettles, Thorns, Branches, pesky flies, soldier ants, spiders, and more. Going Gorilla trekking is not a trip to a park for a picnic – it takes some forethought and planning, especially when it comes as to what to wear and bring while going on a gorilla trek.

You are not hiking on comfortable paths, but small trails or “no trails at all”, some of them freshly blazed by the Rangers – you have to wear the right clothing for your protection against thorns, nettles, underbrush, insects including soldier ants, flies and at rare times even wasps.

It doesn’t really matter which activity you will choose, it will be steamy, it may be warm and raining or hot and sunny. There might be big ants trying to get to your ankles. There probably will be mud and steep hills. You will get dirty. All you need is to always make sure your pants are tucked in!!!. Wear long trousers.

Sounds like adventure, doesn’t it? Yes of course it is!!

So, wear something from natural fabrics, like linen or thin cotton, ideally have 3 layers – a t-shirt, long sleeve fleece and a rain jacket, which you can pack away if you’re too hot.

Have a hat, not only because of the sun, but because sometimes ants can fall on your head or a hat can save you from hitting your head against a low branch.

Wear leggings or long trousers, they are ideal and put your socks over them to avoid ants getting into your shoes – their bites really hurt! And probably you already know that, but just to remind you, wear shoes that you know are comfy – don’t try to pull it off in your new trekkers or gumboots. Trekkers must wear waterproof pants on top of their normal trousers.

Chose colors for your clothing’s that are nature friendly, shouting colors are not recommended for primate trekking as they tend to irritate the gorillas and lead them to charge. Go with greens, greys and browns in lightweight material that wicks moisture. Avoid camouflage – it is illegal for civilians to wear in many areas. Do not wear animal print as the gorillas may become alarmed at seeing a ‘leopard’, for example.

High ankle shoes are best, but it’s not a big deal if you have normal walking shoes – some of our clients’ did strenuous treks in their low ankle shoes and they were fine.

A pair of shorts. These are important when you are relaxing within your lodge, especially after trekking.

Thin moisture-wicking socks covered by thicker cotton socks will help prevent blisters.

Pack as lightly as you can. You may have to take a light aircraft to get your lodge or camp, which will have strict baggage size and weight limits. If you are going elsewhere after your gorilla trek, ask your African Safari Expert to make arrangements to have your extra luggage stored safely.

When to Visit Volcanoes National Park.

You can visit the volcanoes national park for gorilla trekking and other activities at any time of the year, though it would be good if you considered the seasons like from March to May, it’s a long rainy season and this means that this time of the year doesn’t favor those that are intending to visit places like volcanoes for gorillas and golden monkeys and other forest activities since the rain is very heavy and insistent , and gorilla trekking becomes so challenging as the tracking trails are not easy and you may not be able to see many wildlife species as you would do in the dry season. This means the floor would be very wet and sleepily. June to Mid-September and December to February

This time of the year is usually dry and the best time to visit Rwanda. For those who want to trek and do canopy walks this is the best time because the trails are dry and passable. However most of them are is a tropical rain forest especially PNV and so you definitely have to carry a jacket and boots just in case, nature here is unpredictable. Being I the tropical zone, this means any time you could face a rain fall. Being a dry season is not a guarantee of no rain.

Hiking is also easier during this season, since the trails may be a bit drier and not so boggy as in wet season whereby they are so sleepily and boggy, hard to move over.

However, the wet season too has some advantage as it gives you best chance of seeing specific mountain gorilla families of the Virungas might want to plan your primate trip in one of the wet seasons. During the rains, the climate at the higher elevations is cooler and the gorillas prefer to remain on the lower slopes; here, it is easier to track and spot them. In addition, food is more plentiful in this season and the gorillas don’t have to wander too far to find their favorites, which include tender bamboo shoots, stinging nettles, wild fruits, wild celery, and other vegetation. You might just be able to find your assigned and preferred gorilla family within an hour or two of departing for the hike; though, the trails can be challenging to traverse due to wetness. During the rains, the reserve is also green with fresh vegetation, making it all the more beautiful.

For the birders, still rainy season is the perfect one for you, as there is plenty of food, and for any clear day without rain, it will give you the great chance to spot a number of species.

For the photographers, you know how nature and a cloudy day do it well for a clear coverage, as the plants will look all green in your shots.

One advantage of visiting during the rainy seasons is that fewer people choose to come during these periods, making it a tourism low season, so some accommodations in Volcanoes Park offer rate discounts via your Rwanda Eco Company & Safari booking. In a nut shell, It’s enjoyable to vacation in this stunning locale at any time of the year, since each experience is magical and different to every tourist. All in all not matter the weather; you will still have a great chance to see the gentle giants. Book through Rwanda Eco Company & Safaris for your life time dream gorilla trekking safari experience.