Insight Safari Holidays welcomes you to Rwanda, the home of the mountain gorillas. Find the best popular gorilla trekking in Rwanda packages as well as travel tips, costs and booking information.
Rwanda Gorilla Safari Packages
Rwanda, a country located in East Africa is known for being the home of the mountain gorillas. These incredible creatures can be found in the Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes that span across Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Rwanda they reside within Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) which’s a protected area covering approximately 160 square kilometers.
In the wild there are 1,063 mountain gorillas with, about half of them making their abode in the Virunga Mountains. Please note that these numbers may have slightly changed over time. These amazing primates live within family groups led by a male known as a silverback due to its silver hair on its back.
An exciting activity that attracts tourists to Rwanda is gorilla trekking. This adventure involves guided hikes through mountainous jungles to observe these gorilla families thriving in their habitats. Its estimated that 30,000 visitors take part in these treks every year—a number that has been steadily increasing.
One significant aspect of gorilla trekking in Rwanda is the management of access to these endangered creatures. Every trekker must obtain permits for their journey. There are limitations on how many permits are issued each day to ensure minimal impact, on the gorillas well being.
In the year of 2023 there are 96 permits granted daily for gorilla trekking. Each permit carries a cost of $1,500, which is utilized to support conservation efforts, within the park. Additionally a portion of this funding is reinvested into the communities.
Rwanda boasts twelve habituated gorilla families that have grown accustomed to presence and are open to tourist visits. These groups vary in size. Typically consist of a silverback multiple adult females, juveniles and adorable infants. However it’s important to note that each group can only be visited by one set of tourists per day for a duration of one hour.
Visitors exploring Volcanoes National Park also have the opportunity to partake in activities. These include engaging in golden monkey trekking adventures embarking on hikes through the Virunga Mountains paying respects at the tomb of Dian Fossey—a primatologist who dedicated her life to studying and protecting mountain gorillas—and immersing themselves in local village experiences.
The gorilla conservation program implemented in Rwanda has been hailed as a success story. Despite their susceptibility to diseases and ongoing threats from poaching and habitat loss the population of mountain gorillas within the Virungas has steadily increased over time due to protective measures.
As per the information provided by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2023 mountain gorillas are classified as endangered—an improvement, from their previous status as critically endangered.
The change, in status occurred because the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo along, with conservation organizations put effort into conservation.
Best Time To Visit Rwanda For Gorilla Trekking
The best time to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda is typically, during the seasons, which usually span from mid December to February and from June to September. These periods are characterized by little rainfall making the trekking paths less muddy and easier to navigate.
However it’s important to note that Rwandas weather can be unpredictable due to its location and high elevation. During the seasons rain can occur at any time of the year. The average temperature in Volcanoes National Park ranges from 46 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (8 to 24 degrees Celsius) throughout the year. Mornings and nights can be particularly chilly.
With drier conditions it’s worth considering that humidity remains high in the Virunga Mountains averaging around 70 85%. Trekking during these times may be physically demanding due to the altitude and dense vegetation.
During both seasons (mid February to June and October, to mid December) the vegetation becomes lush providing abundant food for gorillas. As a result they may not venture far from their areas.However the trails might get slippery due, to the rain, which could make it a bit more difficult to observe the gorillas.
Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Cost
The Price of Gorilla Trekking, in Rwanda
Gorilla Trekking Permit; The permit cost forms a part of the budget for gorilla trekking. In 2017 the Rwanda Development Board raised the price of the gorilla permit from $750 to $1,500 per person. This permit grants you an opportunity to spend one hour observing a gorilla family in their habitat alongside a group of no more than eight individuals.
Transportation; The expenses associated with traveling to Rwanda and reaching Volcanoes National Park vary based on your starting point and preferred mode of transportation. Kigali, which serves as Rwandas capital is located 2 3 hours away from the park by car. If you opt for hiring a vehicle and driver you can expect to pay around $100 $200 per day.
Accommodation; There are accommodation options near Volcanoes National Park catering to different budgets. High end lodges may cost of $1,000 per night while mid range lodges typically fall within the range of $150 $300 per night. For those on a budget there are also lodging options available for under $100 per night.
Food and Drink; The expenses incurred for meals will depend on your choice of dining establishments. Many accommodations include meals as part of their rates. However if that is not the case dining, at restaurants will generally be more cost effective compared to high end lodges.
Safari Tipping; Remember, it’s customary to show appreciation to your guides, porters and drivers by giving them a tip. As a guideline you can allocate, around $10 for your guide, $5 for your tracker and $5 per bag for the porters.
Safari Insurance; When it comes to travel insurance it’s crucial to include it in your plans for this kind of adventure. The cost of travel insurance may vary based on the provider and the specific details of your trip. However it’s an aspect to consider.
While you’re, in Rwanda there are activities exploring too. You might want to try golden monkey trekking (a permit costs $100) visit Dian Fosseys grave ($75) or even take on the challenge of climbing Mount Bisoke ($75).
How To Get A Gorilla Permit in Rwanda
If you’re planning a safari vacation, to the mountain gorillas in Rwanda it’s very important to know how to obtain a rwanda gorilla trekking permit. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) offers two options for purchasing gorilla safari permits. It is possible to visit their offices in Kigali or Musanze. Contact them via email at email@example.com. When buying directly from RDB you’ll need to provide your desired safari trekking dates and make a payment of $1,500 per permit. Once the transaction is complete they will send you a permit via email.
Alternatively many tourists prefer using registered tour operators for purchasing permits such as Insight Safari Holidays. These operators usually include the permit cost in their package prices. Handle all arrangements on your behalf. There are tour operators available offering comprehensive packages that include transportation, accommodation and additional activities. It’s advisable to choose one registered with the Rwanda Tourism Board.
Keep in mind that gorilla trekking permits are highly sought after and there is a limit of 96 permits issued. To secure your permit during the peak season it is recommended to book several months, in advance.
You will be granted a permit that allows you to spend one hour with the gorillas. However please note that the group size should not exceed eight individuals.
What To Wear During a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda
If you’re planning on gorilla trekking, in Rwanda it’s important to consider what clothing to wear. The dense forests and high altitudes make it physically demanding. Here are some recommendations;
Opt for sleeved shirts and trousers to protect yourself from scratches and insect bites. It’s wise to choose drying fabric just in case it rains or you come across areas.
Make sure you have a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots since the terrain can be steep, muddy and uneven.
Given Rwandas unpredictable weather, packing a lightweight and waterproof rain jacket or poncho is a smart move.
Don’t forget a hat to shield yourself from the sun along with sunglasses to protect your eyes from its glare.
Consider bringing a pair of gardening gloves as they can come in handy for protection against stinging nettles or when you need support by grabbing onto vegetation.
To avoid ants and other insects crawling up your legs some trekkers suggest tucking your trousers into thick socks.
Lastly dressing in layers is recommended as mountain conditions can change rapidly.
These clothing suggestions will ensure that you’re well prepared for a gorilla trekking experience, in Rwanda.To ensure your comfort during the trek its recommended to begin with a base layer that wicks moisture from your body followed by a middle layer such, as a fleece. Top it off with an layer for protection. Don’t forget to have pants with pockets or a small backpack handy for access to essentials, like your camera, water, snacks and other necessities. When it comes to clothing colors it’s best to avoid hues or camouflage patterns that might disturb the wildlife. Opt for earthy tones if possible. Also remember to check the weather forecast before deciding what to wear on your gorilla trekking adventure.
Budget Gorilla Safari in Rwanda
Looking for affordable gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda can be a challenge especially considering the cost of the gorilla permit itself which amounts to $1,500. However there are ways to make your trip more budget friendly while still enjoying this experience.
Accommodations, on a budget; Fortunately there are lodges and guesthouses near Volcanoes National Park that offer rates. Places like The Garden Place Hotel or Kinigi Guesthouse provide comfortable rooms with rates below $100 per night. While they may not offer amenities like high end lodges do they compensate with hospitality.
Transportation savings; Hiring a driver or taxi from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park can be quite expensive. To cut down on costs you can opt for public transportation options like buses even though it might not be as convenient.
Self catering convenience; If your chosen accommodation provides self catering facilities you can save money by preparing your meals. Otherwise exploring restaurants or food stalls can be an affordable alternative compared to dining at upscale lodges or hotels.
Group tours for cost sharing; Another way to reduce expenses is by joining group tours offered by operators. By sharing transportation and guide costs with others in the group you can significantly bring down the cost per person.
Luxury Gorilla Tours Rwanda
If you’re looking for a gorilla trekking experience, in Rwanda there are several options to consider. Here are some highlights that you might find in a luxury gorilla safari;
Accommodations; You’ll have the opportunity to stay at some of the lodges near Volcanoes National Park, such as Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Bisate Lodge and One&Only Gorillas Nest. These lodges offer service, gourmet dining, breathtaking views and all the comforts you’d expect from a luxury stay. Depending on the season and specific lodge rates can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per night.
Private Transportation; In a luxury tour you can expect transportation with your personal driver guide. Traveling in a end 4×4 vehicle ensures comfort and convenience during the journey from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park.
Personalized Service; Luxury tours go above. Beyond by offering services tailored to your needs. This could include trekking experiences with access routes personal porters available during your trekking adventure, as well as special private dining experiences.
Additional Activities; Besides gorilla trekking luxury tours often incorporate activities. You might have the chance to embark on golden monkey trekking expeditions or visit the resting place of Dian Fossey. Exploring culture through community visits is another possibility. Additionally select lodges may provide on site activities, like rejuvenating spa treatments or interactive cooking classes that allow you to delve into traditions. Some lodges even offer conservation experiences.
If you’re looking for a experience certain tour operators provide helicopter transfers, from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. This allows you to enjoy breathtaking views of Rwandas landscape while also saving a significant amount of travel time.
Moreover luxury safari operators often give you the opportunity to extend your trip beyond Rwanda. You could consider options, like going on a safari in Tanzanias Serengeti National Park relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar or even exploring Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve. This way you can make the most out of your journey.
Things to Travel With To Rwanda
When preparing for your trip, to Rwanda particularly if you’re planning on gorilla trekking there are an items that you should include in your packing list. Here’s a comprehensive rundown;
Travel Documents; Make sure to bring along your passport ( for least six months after your trip) any necessary visas, travel insurance information and vaccination certificates like the Yellow Fever certificate if you’re arriving from or transiting through a country with a Yellow Fever risk.
Money; It’s advisable to carry cash for expenses although credit cards are widely accepted in many places throughout Rwanda. Additionally having a combination of US dollars and the local currency (Rwandan Francs) for expenses is recommended.
Clothing; Pack sleeved shirts and trousers for gorilla trekking as well as a rain jacket or poncho. Don’t forget hiking boots, a hat and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun, warm clothing for evenings and casual attire for relaxation times.
First Aid. Medications; Bringing along a first aid kit with supplies is highly recommended. If you have prescribed medications ensure that you have a supply for the duration of your trip and carry a copy of the prescription well.
Insect Repellent and Sunscreen; Given Rwandas tropical climate it’s crucial to have insect repellent, on hand to protect against mosquito bites. Also remember to pack sunscreen to shield yourself from the suns rays.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun. When it comes to toiletries you might want to pack essentials, like toothpaste, soap and shampoo although many hotels usually provide these items. Also consider bringing some wipes as they can be a real lifesaver during treks.
For capturing those moments make sure you pack your camera. If you’re interested in wildlife viewing binoculars could enhance your experience more.
Staying hydrated is crucial during treks so having a reusable water bottle is essential. It not helps keep you refreshed but also contributes to reducing plastic waste.
Having some snacks like energy bars can come in handy during treks when you need an extra boost of energy.
Remember to bring the chargers for your devices and check if you need an adapter or converter as Rwanda uses Type C and J sockets with a standard voltage of 230V. Additionally having a flashlight can be useful for moving at night in your accommodation.
Make sure to have an waterproof backpack for carrying all your essentials during the gorilla trekking adventure.
Is Uganda or Rwanda Better For Gorilla Trekking?
When it comes to choosing between Uganda and Rwanda for gorilla trekking there are factors to consider such as cost, accessibility, travel experience and other attractions you may want to explore during your trip. Lets compare these aspects;
Cost; Currently in 2023 the cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda is $700, which’s significantly lower compared to Rwandas price of $1,500. For those on a budget Uganda might be the choice.
Ease of Access; In terms of reaching the starting point for gorilla trekking Rwanda offers access. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda is a 2 3 hour drive away from Volcanoes National Park where the trekking takes place. On the hand Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is approximately an 8 10 hour drive from Kampala (the capital). However domestic flights within Uganda are available. Can reduce travel time.
Landscape; Both countries boast landscapes. With some differences. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda lives up, to its name with its volcanic terrain adorned by bamboo forests.
On the hand Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Uganda is a rainforest that is filled with dense vegetation, which can add a bit of challenge but also makes the trekking experience more rewarding.
If you’re interested in exploring beyond gorilla trekking Uganda has more to offer. You can discover primates like chimpanzees. Enjoy traditional savanna safaris where you can spot lions, elephants and antelopes. The country also boasts wonders such as Murchison Falls and the majestic Nile River.
In contrast Rwanda is often praised for its cleanliness, safety and organized tourism industry. Additionally it provides opportunities, for golden monkey trekking and cultural tourism experiences.
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda known as “Parc National des Volcans” (PNV) locally holds importance as a gem. Situated in the part of the country it shares borders with Ugandas Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Democratic Republic of Congos Virunga National Park. Together these parks form the Virunga Conservation Area, which serves as a habitat for mountain gorillas.
Covering an area of 160 kilometers Volcanoes National Park encompasses five out of the eight volcanoes within the Virunga Mountains range; Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. The park boasts altitudes ranging from 2,400m to 4,507m.
The park is renowned for its biodiversity. Serves as a haven for about 200 bird species. Among them are at 13 species that’re unique to both the Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains regions. Apart from being to mountain gorillas Volcanoes National Park also supports various other mammals such, as golden monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti) spotted hyenas buffaloes elephants black fronted duikers and bushbucks.
The gorilla population, in the Virunga Massif, which includes Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in the DRC is estimated to be around 604 mountain gorillas as of 2021. This region is home to half of the worlds endangered mountain gorillas. They live together in 41 groups along with 14 males.
For those in gorilla trekking the park offers guided tours with a limit of eight visitors per group per day to minimize any disruption. Currently there are 12 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park that tourists can visit.
Apart from gorilla trekking there are activities available for tourists visiting the park. These include climbing the Visoke and Karisimbi volcanoes exploring the Musanze Caves paying respects at Dian Fosseys tomb (a primatologist) and observing the golden monkeys.
To foster community engagement and benefit communities the park has implemented a revenue sharing program where 10% of its tourism income is reinvested into community projects. This initiative has resulted in improvements such as infrastructure development, healthcare initiatives and educational programs that contribute to both welfare and conservation efforts.
Over time there has been an increase in visitor numbers to the park. According to reports from the Rwanda Development Board for 2018, than 15,000 people trekked mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
Ecotourism has emerged as a source of income, for the country making a contribution of millions of dollars each year, to the national economy.
Rwanda Gorilla Groups
There are a total of 12 mountain gorilla groups, in Rwandas Volcanoes National Park that have been habituated for tourism visits. Let me give you an overview of each group;
1. Susa Group; This group has a history having been originally studied by Dian Fossey. It is one of the largest families. Is known for its playful twins, Byishimo and Impano. The group was named after the Susa River that flows through their habitat.
2. Sabyinyo Group; Led by the silverback named Guhonda this group is relatively easy to trek as they inhabit the slopes between Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga.
3. Amahoro Group; The name “Amahoro” means “peaceful” in Kinyarwanda. Led by Ubumwe this group tends to stay up in the mountains making it a bit more challenging to trek.
4. Agashya Group; Initially led by a silverback called Group 13 Agashya took over leadership through challenges. Emerged victorious. After securing their dominance Agashya moved the group up the mountain to ensure their protection against potential threats.
5. Kwitonda Group; Named after its silverback Kwitonda (which means ” one”) this group migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They have quite a range. Can be challenging to track due, to their movements.
6. Umubano Group;
There was a group that initially belonged to the Amahoro group but eventually separated due, to conflicts between Ubumwe (the leader of Amahoro) and Charles, who is now the leader of the Umubano group. The word “Umubano” means “neighborliness” or “living together.”
The Hirwa group, which consists of families from Group 13 and Sabyinyo formed with the meaning of ” one.” This particular group is well known for its prevalence of twins.
The Karisimbi Group, also known as Susa B is currently the group residing in Volcanoes National Park. It split from the Susa (Susa A). Can be found on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi.
Named after its silverback Bwenge, which translates to “wisdom” or “enlightenment,” the Bwenge Group has encountered challenges but has shown remarkable resilience.
Located in the Karisimbi area of Rwanda, the Ugenda Groups name means “being on the move.” This group is recognized for its mobility making it somewhat difficult to track their whereabouts.
The Titus Group derives its name from a silverback named Titus. During Titus reign, as leader this particular group became a subject of research studies.
Lastly we have the Muhoza Group…This particular trekking group, in Rwanda is relatively new. Its called Muhoza, named after its silverback.
Best Hotels and Lodges During Your Gorilla Safari in Rwanda
Rwanda presents a variety of lodging choices, near Volcanoes National Park catering to budgets and preferences. Here are some rated options that span from affordable to luxurious;
Bisate Lodge (Luxury); Bisate Lodge is renowned for its architectural design inspired by traditional Rwandan palaces. Its six villas offer breathtaking views of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes. The lodge places importance on conservation efforts. Engaging with the local community.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (Luxury); Situated near the park boundaries Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge provides awe inspiring views of the Virunga Mountains. It offers cottages and suites that ensure comfort, impeccable service and delectable cuisine.
One&Only Gorillas Nest (Luxury); Nestled amidst a eucalyptus forest this opulent resort offers captivating vistas, roomy accommodations, exceptional dining options and a range of wellness facilities. It serves as a sanctuary after a day of gorilla trekking.
Volcanoes Virunga Lodge (Mid range, to Luxury); Renowned for its panoramic views of the Virunga volcanoes and the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhonda this lodge provides comfortable bandas (cottages) coupled with excellent service.
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (Mid range); This lodge is well loved for its cozy chalets, each featuring a veranda.
Here are a few lodging options to consider if you’re looking for a balance of value, comfort and proximity, to the park;
1. Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge (Mid range); This lodge features cottages designed in the style of Rwandan homes. It offers a experience while still providing comfort and affordability.. Its conveniently located near the park headquarters.
2. Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel (Budget to Mid range); Situated in Musanze town this hotel is a choice for those seeking rooms, a restaurant and a bar. It serves as a base for gorilla trekking adventures.
3. Kinigi Guest House (Budget); Run by the community this guest house provides yet clean and comfortable accommodation options. The income generated from your stay goes towards supporting community projects.
These options cater to budgets. Ensure that you can enjoy your stay without compromising on comfort or convenience while being close, to the park.
Other Activities To Do Before Or Africa Your Gorilla Tour in Rwanda
When visiting Rwanda gorilla trekking is often considered a highlight. However there are attractions and activities that allow travelers to experience the countrys diverse culture, history and wildlife. Here are some suggestions, for activities you might be interested in;
Golden monkey trekking
Similar to gorilla trekking visitors to Volcanoes National Park can embark on a journey to track monkeys. These beautiful and endangered creatures can only be found in the high altitude forests of the Virunga mountains.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Rwanda
Explore chimpanzee habitats; Nyungwe National Park, located in Rwanda is home not to habituated chimpanzees but also 12 other primate species. The park boasts sightings of animals such as L’Hoests monkeys and playful colobus monkeys.
Birding in Rwanda
Enjoy hiking and birdwatching in Nyungwe National Park; Aside from its primate inhabitants Nyungwe offers hiking trails for nature enthusiasts. It’s also a birdwatchers paradise with over 300 species of birds including the Rwenzori turaco and handsome francolin.
Rwanda Cultural Experience
Immerse yourself in Rwandas culture through tours; Engage with the culture by participating in activities like visiting the Iby’Iwacu cultural village in Musanze. Here you can learn about lifestyle, local cuisine. Enjoy traditional dances. Another option is exploring the Ethnographic Museum located in Huye which is widely regarded as one of East Africas museums.
Visit Kigali City
Discover Kigali, on a city tour; Rwandas capital city, Kigali stands out as one of Africas safest cities exploring during your visit.
Make sure to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial explore the Kimironko Market and indulge in the citys dining options.
A Wildlife Safari in Akagera
Take on a safari at Akagera National Park situated in Rwanda. This remarkable savannah park is not the protected wetland in central Africa but also boasts an abundance of wildlife including the iconic “big five” game animals; lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants and buffalos.
Lake Kivu Boat Ride
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy boat trips on Lake Kivu—the lake in Rwanda. Relax on its beaches observe tropical birds in their natural habitat or simply take in the breathtaking views. You can also hop on a boat. Explore the islands go fishing with fishermen or unwind while witnessing a stunning sunset.
Dian Fossey Trek
For those fascinated by gorilla conservation history in Rwanda, a trek to Dian Fosseys tomb is highly recommended. Dian Fossey was a primatologist who dedicated her life to studying and protecting mountain gorillas.
Musanze Cave Exploration
Discover Musanzes captivating caves by exploring their 2 kilometer network of caverns. These caves offer a glimpse into both wonders and historical significance of the area.
Nyungwe Forest Canopy Walk
Indulge yourself with an experience at Nyungwe Forest—the place, in East Africa where you can walk among treetops on a canopy walkway. This elevated walkway stands 50 meters above ground level. Offers awe inspiring views of the parks wildlife and picturesque scenery.