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Great Rwanda Trip to See Gorillas

Great Rwanda Trip to See Gorillas

The unique opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat is unforgettable, some even say life changing. Encounters with gorillas as they go about their daily lives are carefully managed, with expert trackers and guides leading small groups of tourists up bamboo-covered slopes to spend a precious and awe-inspiring hour just a few feet away from the gentle creatures.

Gorilla trekking is Rwanda’s unrivalled main attraction, and the Volcanoes National Park is where to stay in Rwanda to do it. Its mountainous terrain and dense forests make for tough walking conditions, but the rewards are matchless: butterflies, birds and primates, headlined of course by families of habituated mountain gorillas. If you’re aiming to seek out one of these majestic creatures, visit over the dry months.

No other wildlife encounter in Africa matches the astounding experience of spending time face-to-face with wild gorillas. Trekking takes place in a handful of far-flung locations, adding a layer of exotic adventure to these safaris that is hard to match on any other itinerary. The fact that gorillas as a species are on the brink of extinction and treks are a highly restricted activity, encountering wild gorillas is considered a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.

For a Rwanda gorilla trek to be memorable, you need to be fairly fit, equipped for the humid, muddy conditions of a rain forest hike, and in good health – gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses but don’t have our immunities, which means a common cold can be deadly to a whole family of gorillas and you won’t be permitted to trek if you are unwell. Even in the dry season, the rain forest is a challenging environment: it’s humid, wet and muddy with some steep slopes, plenty of insects and thick vegetation. It is absolutely worth the effort to spend time with gorillas in the wild, but be prepared to exert you on the trek.

Your professional guide and tracker lead you into the forest’s secret paths, looking for a habituated gorilla family. Once found, you’ll approach the gorillas quietly and settle down to observe them from between 7m and 10m away. You’ll spend an hour with the gorillas, watching the adults forage and groom each other while the babies tumble and play. You’ll be under the watchful gaze of the great silver back patriarch, whose soft brown eyes constantly sweep over his family protectively. Witnessing gorillas express typically human gestures and emotions is a truly profound experience and one of the reasons that gorilla trekking is such a life changing encounter.

Volcanoes National Park is the site of primatologist Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Station, where she led a team to study gorillas in the wild. You can undertake about a 2-hour hike to her tomb, which is – like so much in Rwanda – both moving and inspiring, or discover more about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The hike is considered one of the best, most intimate tours in Rwanda, and offers a great opportunity to look out for primates, hogs, forest elephants and a plethora of bird species.

There are a few troops of habituated golden monkeys, whose antics are great fun to watch. Golden monkeys are endangered, and permits are required for trekking.

It is always worth understanding more about the indigenous culture of the area you are visiting. If you’re wondering where to go in Rwanda, take a guided community walk to Iby’Iwacu village where you can experience traditional dancing, discover beer brewed from bananas, and visit a local healer.

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