Gorilla trekking is one the epitome of African tour activities on the continent. This activity is so prized and envied by both resident and international guests due to the significance it holds. Gorilla trekking is where visitors dive into the dense tropical rainforests of D.R. Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to trek the last population of the fascinating mountain gorillas. This experience is testified as one of the glamorous memories anyone must have by guests who undertake it.
The mountain gorillas are great apes that to the genus Gorilla which is split into two species of the western gorilla and eastern gorillas. These two species are further split into four subspecies. The eastern gorilla species is divided into the Mountain gorillas and the Eastern Lowland gorilla while the western gorilla species is split into the Western Lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla.
Both species of gorillas dwell in the subtropical and tropical zones of Africa. They are simply a few differences between the two species of the eastern and western gorillas. These are generally their size with the eastern gorilla being bigger than its counterpart the western gorilla. Also, the facial structures differ like the eastern gorilla has a smaller nose, has darker and more fur than the western gorilla plus they differ by the tones used when communicating.
The two species without any doubt have share one thing in common. Both the western and eastern gorillas are greatly endangered and are just a few steps from being wiped from the face of the world due to the massive destruction of the natural environments they call home. Among all the four subspecies, mountain gorillas are the most famous and the term gorilla trekking is often used to refer to them.
Mountain gorillas' life is only supported in the Virunga Mastiff and Bwindi impenetrable forest. This stretch of blessed land is located in the western branch of the great East African rift valley and is a mountainous expanse of land with a chain of 8 interesting volcanoes. Five of these mountains are dormant and have not displayed activeness in a long time while three of them are very active for example Mount. Nyiragongo and Mount. Nyamuragira.
Mountain gorillas reside on the slopes of some of these volcanoes and have been habituated so that visitors interested in encountering these fascinating but endangered primates can get a lifetime opportunity to experience them before they might be wiped out on the face of the world. The Virunga ranges are also shared by the 3 countries of Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda. This has made the 3 nations vibrant tourism hotspots in the region.
Four national parks have been established within the tropical rainforests of the Virunga Mastiff and Bwindi impenetrable to conserve the mountain gorillas and probably ensure their survival and recovery so that even hundreds of years of future generations can also witness these beautiful giant apes. Mountain gorilla trekking can only be done in these four national parks and guests can choose from any one park of their choice.
The four national parks are the Virunga national park in DR Congo, Mgahinga national park and Bwindi impenetrable in Uganda, and lastly the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. The mountain gorilla trekking experience is more or less the same in all the 3 destinations gorilla adventures are done with only a few differences like rates, distance, and time you take trekking among others.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the few still unspoiled and blossoming tourism destinations in Africa. On top of being home to one of the biggest rainforests and rivers in the world, Congo is also home to mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking is done in the Virunga national park. This is the oldest national park and is found in the eastern part of the country. The park derives its name from the Virunga Mountains which it encompasses.
The mountain gorillas reside in the lower slopes of mount. Nyiragongo, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. D.R. Congo has the cheapest gorilla trekking permits, each valued at only US $450. This makes it an ideal place for trekking especially for people planning to travel on a budget. Congo has also an additional edge over its neighbors as it's the only place with the eastern lowland gorillas. Visitors can trek the biggest gorilla subspecies in the Kahuzi Biega national park.
Mountain gorilla trekking is carried out in two national parks of the Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national park. These two are found in the mountainous southwestern part of Uganda. This region is referred to some as the Switzerland of Africa, due to the striking resemblance it has with the Alps. A road trip to the gorilla habitats in this region will provide an exhilarating experience even before the real adventure kicks off.
Uganda is blessed to be home to more than half of the last surviving gorilla population in the world. There are 14 fully habituated mountain gorilla families found in the country. Twelve groups are open to the public for gorilla trekking while two are exclusively for research and more study on the gorillas. Mgahinga national park only has one gorilla family (Nyakagezi Gorilla Family) while the rest are found in Bwindi which also serves as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its rich biodiversity.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda goes for the US $700 per person and offers one of the best gorilla trekking adventures as it has some of the most captivating gorilla families to be visited. Some of them include the Bitukura group, Oruzogo and the Kyaguriro family one of the most loved groups in the Bwindi and Uganda.
Rwanda gorilla trekking is done in the fascinating Volcanoes national park found in the northern section of the country. The park holds much importance to the current survival of the mountain gorillas. This is because Dian Fossey escaped to the park after failing to work in D.R. Congo because of the unrest that was going on there at the time. She set up her research base at Karisoke until the day she was murdered while still doing what she loved dearly.
Her grave can be visited at Karisoke near Mount. Bisoke when trekking the Susa family group. This is one of the hardest to trek as it normally resorts to the higher altitudes of the mountain and for guests who desire a more challenging trek this group is highly recommended to test your hiking abilities and perseverance.
Rwanda has emerged as the best luxury gorilla tourist destination with its permits at the US $1500. However, due to the covid-19 pandemic, Rwanda has offered discounts on permits. For now, East African nationals can secure a permit at US $200 per person while it's US $500 for Rwandan foreign residents while International tourists (Non- African Citizens) will still be charged the US $1500 unless when visiting all other 3 national parks or attending a conference in Kigali city where a 15% discount or more is offered.
The discounted gorilla trekking permits however are guaranteed to stay until 31st December 2022. After this date, the rates will go back to the previous US $1500 for each gorilla permit for anyone wishing to participate in trekking the mountain gorillas.
These countries are blessed with probably the best climate conditions on the African continent. This is because due to their alignment on the equator for Uganda and Congo plus Rwanda just being a short distance below it these countries receive a balanced climate throughout the whole year. This makes these nations all year round gorilla trekking destinations.
However, they are a few months that are better than others for gorilla trekking. These are June through August (the dry season). This is considered the peak season for gorilla trekking and it is the fairest time to book your mountain gorilla trekking adventure in any of the 3 destinations. This is followed by January to February. The dry season comes with better viewing opportunities, limited or no rain on your trek plus moderate temperatures.
The rainy season from March to May is majorly characterized by heavy rains. Gorilla trekking is tougher in this season with trails becoming more muddy and slippery, chances of getting drenched when trekking rise in addition to more irritating insects. However rainy seasons arrive with the advantage of discounted prices on permits, lodging, and transportation.
It is very crucial to keep in mind to book your mountain gorilla trekking permits in advance like a period of 3 to 4 months to the date you plan to trek the gorillas. This is because mountain gorilla trekking permits are always in high demand which makes them automatically limited and tough to secure.
Therefore guests are reminded to plan better and book their permits earlier to prevent any inconveniences caused by last-minute booking like learning all gorilla permits and you have to wait for another time to encounter the magical Mountain gorillas.
Book a gorilla trekking permit to either Uganda, Rwanda, or DR Congo and embark on an exhilarating adventure of lifetime to encounter the mighty but gentle giants in their natural habitat.