What To Expect During Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Safari : Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular and beautiful African wildlife safari experiences. The gorilla trekking safari experience in Africa is popular in Uganda, Rwanda, and the D.R.C. This is what you can expect on the trekking day after finalizing everything with your tour operator / agent and now that your gorilla permit is ready, and you packed all the necessary gear such as gloves, trekking boots, long sleeved wear, rain jackets, snacks and packed lunch, walking stick (if necessary), and so on.
When you go to the park headquarters for an early-morning pre-tracking briefing with park officials, bring your passport with you. To confirm that you are the rightful owner of the permit, your passports and gorilla permits will be compared. The time it will take you to see these gorillas is currently unknown, so you are expected to be prepared with a packed lunch.
Before the ranger guide gives you advice on how to behave on this trek, a cup of tea or coffee is served while you enjoy the entertainment provided by the local traditional dancers. This will give you a good start to a demanding but exciting day. You will be divided into groups of no more than eight people, and each group will be assigned one gorilla family to trek with, following a brief briefing on safety precautions and what to expect throughout the day. Since there are 10 gorilla families in Rwanda, only 10 groups of 8 people are permitted to track on any given day.
The age and level of fitness of the visitors have a significant impact on group assignments. For instance, those over 45 and those who are less fit are given the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families that are close to the trailheads. However, even those with special interests in particular groups can let their guides know so they can work with the rangers to get placed in those groups as well.
Since they are wild animals in their natural habitat, things that seem simple to locate might not actually be because the animals may travel far distances in search of food, so there is no guarantee that they will be close by or simple to locate. Even those that are assigned to physically fit and active tourists, who are typically considered to be difficult to track, may be easily tracked on a particular day, which adds interest and unpredictability to the overall experience.
Each gorilla tracking team consists of a lead guide and two scouts, one of whom walks in front of the group while the other follows behind with an AK-47. Scouts who are armed guard against ferocious gorillas or wild elephants in the forest. When all other options, such as running away from such dangerous animals, have been exhausted, the scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first to scare the animals away. While the scouts frequently give the advice to hide or remain motionless until the animals leave, we haven’t heard of any instances in which such animals attacked tourists and the scouts had to fire shots to defend themselves. However, the National Park’s guiding principle is to err on the side of caution.
In addition, your group will have two trackers who will have been dispatched early in the morning (before you entered the park) to locate your particular gorilla family and determine their potential route. In order for the guide to choose the best strategy for meeting the gorilla family, trackers inform him of the gorilla’s movements.
TREKKING TO FIND THE GORILLAS
The time it takes to actually meet your gorilla family and the length of your gorilla safari in Rwanda are both said to be highly variable. Finding your gorilla family could take as little as 30 minutes or as much as five to seven hours.
There are no obvious hiking trails in the lush, muggy, and strangely light forest. You will need to pull yourself up steep grades by grabbing onto branches, plant roots, bushes, and other objects as you traverse the terrain’s many hills and steep volcano slopes. Take the guide’s advice on the best course of action and presentation. Tell your guide if you need a break. It’s also a good idea to bring some energy-boosting snacks and bottled mineral water with you to slake your thirst and boost your energy.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Trekking with gorillas is a real adventure. As you climb Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, you can anticipate getting covered in mud and sweat from following your guide as they carve trails through the undergrowth with a machete. Every hike starts in the lowlands and travels through farmland before reaching the jungle. The duration of the expedition will vary depending on the gorilla group you are tracking and their location, from one to seven hours.
There are no guarantees when trekking, even though most people who go to see gorillas do so. You could start out on an easy hike and end up trekking all day, or you could start out on a difficult hike and find gorillas within an hour.
After you locate a group of gorillas, you have an hour to watch them eat, move around, rest, play in tree branches, and possibly engage in other human-like behaviors. To enable you to get a clearer, closer view of these amazing mammals, your guide will probably clear the brush with their machete.
ACTUAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE GORILLAS
The timer starts once your group locates the gorilla family. In order to avoid agitating the gorillas, it is advised that you remain still, move slowly, and avoid making sudden movements. Instead, take a seat and try to avoid looking the gorillas in the eyes, as doing so might frighten them into thinking you want to fight them.
Looking a gorilla in the eye is not a problem, but if it charges at you, stand your ground and lower your eyes to show that you prefer submission to confrontation. Please remember to turn off the flash lights and noises before you get your cameras ready and start snapping away.
The gorillas may be feeding on vegetation on the ground, resting, moving around, or playing in the branches of trees higher up. Try to position yourself so you can take pictures while learning all of their behaviors. If they are moving, keep up with them, but keep a recommended distance of at least 7 meters. The most crucial thing is that you always stay close to your guide and obey his instructions.
Considering their enormous size, it is amazing how graceful and serene these animals are. When you see the silverbacks (mature males) stand up and move around, displaying control over the territory, you’ll be amazed.
HOW DIFFICULT IS GORILLA TREKKING?
The difficulty of a gorilla trek in Rwanda is that gorillas don’t stay in one place for long. They might spend the morning low in the mountains or travel nonstop all day through a dense jungle. Depending on whether you choose a short or long trek, you can choose which gorilla group you’ll track.
An average level of fitness is required for a Rwanda gorilla trek, but not necessarily. Expect to travel over challenging, uneven terrain in a humid environment. In order to navigate the difficult terrain, local porters are available to tourists.
WHY IT’S WORTH IT
Few tourists ever get to experience the magic of seeing gorillas in person, despite the fact that they are an icon of unity in Rwanda. In their natural environment, these enormous, graceful animals live in harmony. You can observe the intricate social dynamics between a mother and child, siblings, or an irritable older man. This up-close encounter with these highly intelligent animals is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view wildlife.
GORILLA TREKKING ALTERNATIVE: GOLDEN MONKEY TREKKING
There is a daily cap on the number of gorilla trekking permits issued. Although this is a successful conservation strategy, it can be challenging to obtain permits two days in a row. The second day can be spent with the golden monkeys of the Virunga Mountains for visitors who only have one day available for gorilla trekking. These smaller monkeys, which have a rust-colored coat and black limbs, are a playful group. In Rwanda, there are two troupes, each with between 80 and 100 members. You only have an hour to spend with the monkeys after you find them to watch them interact, play, chatter, groom, and move through the forest.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO IN RWANDA?
Since gorilla trekking is physically demanding, the majority of our visitors unwind at the lodge after their trek. Visitors who are passing through Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali have the opportunity to stop by the Genocide Memorial, where they can explore the interior exhibits and the lovely memorial gardens.
An unforgettable and mind-blowing experience, a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda immerses you in the world of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Memories that will last a lifetime are produced by the breathtaking encounters with these gentle giants, the captivating landscapes, and the rich cultural experiences. The protection of these amazing animals and their habitats is guaranteed by Rwanda’s dedication to conservation and environmentally responsible tourism practices. You not only embark on an amazing adventure by taking part in a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda, but you also actively help to protect this delicate ecosystem and the communities that call it home.