What is the best time for a gorilla trek and 18 other questions about tracking gorillas


Silverback Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda

Trekking to see gorllas in Africa requires a lot of planning. Permits are expensive, hard to come by and the trek is no walk in the park. When you plan your trek to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, here are 19 questions you will want to ask about gorilla trekking in Africa. 1) Where can I see gorillas in East Africa? Mountain gorillas can be seen in Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-west Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in north-west Rwanda, and Virunga in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The populations in Rwanda and Uganda are the ones most often visited and chances of seeing them in the wild are high. There are also lowland gorillas, which can be found in many countries in Central Africa, however, these are not often visited by travellers and chances of seeing them are not as high as in Rwanda and Uganda. 2) What is the best time to do a gorilla trek in Uganda and Rwanda? While you can trek to see gorillas any time of the year, the driest months are June through February in Uganda and June to September as well as from December through February in Rwanda. 3) Will I be guaranteed a gorilla sighting in Uganda and Rwanda? While sightings of mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda can never be 100% guaranteed, we have never heard of anyone who did not see them. 4) Do I have to be fit to a do a gorilla trek in Africa? Conditions are hot and humid and you will be walking up and down hills, which sometimes are slippery, as well as through bushland and dense forest. If you live a normal active life you will be able to do the trek. For those who are not as mobile, there is the option to hire porters and a stretcher at an extra cost. 5) How much does a gorilla trek cost? The main expense on the ground is the gorilla permit, which currently go for US$1500 per person per trek in Rwanda and US$600 per person per trek in Uganda. In addition to this, you will need accommodation, transportation to and from the park, food and a guide. You should budget at least US$2000 per person for your gorilla trip, but that would mean staying in budget accommodation in low season. In high season and using comfortable accommodation, your cost is more likely to be US$3000 per person. 6) Is it worth the expense? Definitely. Being with mountain gorillas and seeing how they behave and interact is an unforgettable experience. 7) How much time do I need for a gorilla trek in Rwanda and Uganda? You typically need three days. Your first day will be your arrival day, your second day your trekking day and your third day your departure day. As Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is much closer to the international airport, you can often arrive later in the day on day 1 and depart earlier on day 3. In Uganda many people opt to drive from the airport to the park and back, which takes a full day day each way. This means you may have to spend a night near the international airport in Entebbe on either side of your 3-day gorilla trip. 8) How do I get to the park to do a gorilla trek? In Rwanda you fly into Kigali Airport, from where you will transfer to your accommodation in Ruhengeri. This will be your base for your gorilla trek for two nights. In Uganda it takes a full day there and a full day back to get from the airport in Entebbe (near Kampala) to get to either Bwindi or Mgahinga. You can opt to take a charter flight instead, but most people will make their gorilla trek part of a longer safari in Uganda and visit other parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park. 9) How long is a gorilla trek? Most treks only last a few hours, but as gorillas move around, you should come prepared to spend an entire day trying to find them. 10) How long will I spend with the mountain gorillas? Time with gorillas is strictly limited to one hour a day per group of gorillas. Only 8 humans can visit in one day to minimize the risk of disease transmission from human to gorilla. 11) Is it safe to go on a gorilla trek? While no activity involving wild animals is 100% safe, I have not heard of any negative encounters between humans and gorillas. Your guide will instruct you prior to your gorilla trek how to behave once you are in the vicinity of the animals. The main points to remember is not to come between a mother and her baby, not to look a gorilla in the eye and to not make distracting noises or use flash. Rwanda and Uganda are currently safe to visit, but we do recommend travellers read up on the latest travel advice published by their government. The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently not safe to visit. 12) What are the conditions like on a gorilla trek in Uganda and Rwanda? Conditions in the forest can be hot and humid, even in the dry season. There will be flies, bees, mosquitoes and other biting insects. You will walk up and down slopes, some of which may be steep and slippery. You will have forgotten all this by the time you have returned from your gorilla trek and the memories of the encounter with these wonderful animals will last you a lifetime. 13) Do I need to wear hiking boots As you will be hiking up and down slopes, some of which may be steep and slippery, you should bring a good pair of walking shoes. Good ankle support and sturdy anti-slip soles are recommended. Rubber boots are not provided. 14) What clothing should I wear Bring anything that is cool, loose-fitting and comfortable. Muted colors are recommended. For more information on what to bring on your African safari, please click here. 15) Do I have to wear a surgical mask on my gorilla trek? It is recommended visitors wear surgical masks when in the presence of gorillas. This limits the transmission for diseases from humans to apes and vice versa. Surgical masks are mandatory in Virunga in Congo DRC. 16) Do I need to bring insect repellent? Yes. There will be flies, bees, mosquitoes and other biting insects. 17) What kind of camera gear should I bring? You are likely to find the gorillas deep inside the forest. While the human eye will adjust to the low-light conditions, your camera will not. As the available light is down to about 10% of that on a sunny day, you should make sure your camera can take good quality photos in low-light conditions (try to shoot photos in a low-lit room without flash). Flash photography is not permitted when in the vicinity of gorillas. Be sure to bring converters and adapters to recharge your camera, as well as enough batteries and memory cards.

18) Do I need a visa for Rwanda or Uganda to go on a gorilla trek

Yes, most nationalities need a visa to enter Rwanda or Uganda. Consider getting an East African Tourist visa which gives you access to both those countries as well as Kenya. 19) What vaccinations do I need to visit East Africa.

The following diseases - among others - can occur in East Africa: zika virus, cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, meningitis, Rift Valley fever, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and yellow fever (regional). We suggest you check with a travel health clinic for advice before your trip. You can also find more information here. In order to enter Rwanda and Uganda you must have a valid yellow fever shot. Due to a global shortage of this vaccine you should plan to get this well ahead of your travels.

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