What you need to know to prepare for gorilla trekking in Rwanda
What you need to know to prepare for gorilla trekking in Rwanda : Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is one of the best activities you can do during your visit in Rwanda. To prepare for gorilla trekking, you need to have booked accommodation a night before the day of gorilla trekking because the gorilla trekking adventure starts early with arrival at the Kinigi park headquarters in Volcanoes National Park at 7:00am for a briefing from one of the park rangers, there after you will be allocated a gorilla family to trek depending on your abilities. You will begin your search for a gorilla family around 8:30am, and expected to return by at least 6:00pm depending on the location of the gorilla family tracked. One of the key elements in determining which gorilla family you will trek to see is the duration and difficulty of the trek you wish to undertake. Your trek could last anywhere from one hour to nine hours, depending on the exact location of the specific gorilla family which you’re tracking. You don’t have to be super-fit, however it does help if you have a reasonable level of fitness to enhance your overall enjoyment of the experience. The park’s professional guides and trackers will lead you through the forest trails in search of your gorilla family. The conditions in the forest can be slippery and muddy even in the dry season and it can also be very humid under the forest canopy. The trek is fairly challenging and you may find it tough as you pass through the dense undergrowth. The high altitude and the steep, slippery trails can make the trek exhausting, but it’s definitely worth the effort to spend time with mountain gorillas in the wild. When you finally find these gentle giants you will have the opportunity to spend up to one hour in their company, before returning to your lodge to reflect on your moving and magical encounter with the wild mountain gorillas of Rwanda.
Once you find a trekked gorilla family allocated to you, the rangers advise that you to keep a good distance of about 7 meters away from the mountain gorillas although for the gorillas, this does not apply to them as some of them walk close to people. In such an incident where the gorillas walk up to you, you are advised to stay and not walk away or even chase it away, the gorilla will eventually walk away on its own.
When you meet the gorillas, you are also advised during the 1-hour time with them to keep quiet while observing them in their natural habitat or you should talk in a low voice while you are with the them and you must try not to make any loud noises or sudden movements. Of course you are going to be excited, but you should try to express this quietly. This is because the gorillas tend to be closer a few meters away from you going about their daily lives, feeding and interacting with each other, under the watchful gaze of the silverback.
You are also not allowed to touch the mountain gorillas under any circumstances however close they come next to you. Even though the gorillas are used to seeing people on a daily basis, they are still wild animals and they can sometimes react unexpectedly. It is essential that you listen to the instructions from your guides and trackers at all times.
Trekking mountain gorillas more than once has never been boring or the same. The second or third trek offers the opportunity to track a different family in a different area of the park. On a second trek you’re more likely to put the camera down, relax and enjoy the experience as one of What you need to know to prepare for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Taking photographs of gorillas is challenging because of the light conditions and the fact that the distance between you and the gorillas is quite. Given that your time with the gorillas is limited, you should ensure that you are well prepared to get the best photos.
Your choice of camera is completely up to you because there are some excellent photos which were taken with iPhones, however a DSLR that can shoot at a high ISO is recommended. As you are required to be at least seven meters from the gorillas, a 70-200mm lens is ideal. A 2.8 lens is even better as the light in the forest can be very poor at times.
Flash photography is not allowed so make sure that you disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone before you get to your group of gorillas. Your time with the gorillas is precious so you should plan your shots rather than shooting away wildly. Therefore, you must find a balance between absorbing this incredible experience and simply taking pictures.
Don’t spend the whole time looking through your camera lens, you should focus on the experience as well as taking your photographs. Therefore, make sure that your batteries are fully charged and you have plenty of space on your memory cards. You should also make sure that you have waterproof bags or covers for your camera as the rainforest climate means it can rain any time.
Gorilla Permits in Rwanda
Visiting mountain gorillas in Rwanda is strictly managed to protect these critically endangered animals in their natural habitat and increase their chance of survival therefore, a permit is required to trek with gorillas in Rwanda. As there are only 12 habituated gorilla families available to see, and only 8 people who can visit each gorilla family each day, the gorilla permits are strictly limited to 96 per day. Rwanda gorilla permits sell out months in advance, so you will need to obtain your permit early to secure your preferred dates, especially during the busy months. Although the rainy season of April to May and October to November are not as competitive, the dry seasons of December to March and June to September are extremely popular and permits sell out quickly.
Gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda are still at a cost US$1500 per person. Your tour operator can help to purchase and book your gorilla permit in advance as its required to book permits at least 5 months before departure. The price includes park entrance, expert guides and trackers, the security of a tourism police force in the parks, and one precious hour of time with the gorillas.
If you are showing signs of illness, as you will not be allowed to track the gorillas if you are declared unfit by the Warden in Charge. Gorillas can be easily infected by human diseases, and as they don’t have the necessary immunity to fight these diseases, any sick people can be a huge threat to the gorilla population. Due to safety reasons, you must be at least 15 years of age to track gorillas in Rwanda.
What to pack for a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda?
It is important to come well prepared for the incredible experience of tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda and it is also What you need to know to prepare for gorilla trekking in Rwanda, however you do not need to over pack with too much gear. Note that domestic flights usually have luggage limited to 20 kilograms per person and it’s best to use a soft case or holdall to maximize space. Here are some of the recommendations on what to pack for a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda;
- You need well-made and comfortable waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support. Make sure your shoes are well worn-in before departing to avoid any nasty blisters.
- Light, breathable, waterproof jackets and trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. It’s important to wear light, long layers due to the variable weather and to avoid any bites from insects.
- Warm layers for the chilly mornings and cold nights.
- Long, lightweight woolen socks.
- Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
- Toiletries such as sun cream, insect repellent, after-sun, bite relief cream and lip balm.
- Garden gloves to protect your hands as you grip the vegetation during your trek.
- A small backpack to carry your water, lunch, extra clothes, binoculars and camera.
- Camera with extra lenses and batteries. Bring more memory than you think you need.
- Binoculars to have a clear view of everything and to spot other wildlife such as birds and monkeys.
- Snacks – the trek can be quite strenuous, lasting anywhere from two to nine hours, so bring some snacks for extra energy.
- A reusable water bottle to limit waste – you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water on your trek.
- Multi-way travel adaptor. Rwanda uses plug types C (two round pins) and J (two round pins and a grounding pin), and operates on a 220V supply voltage and 50Hz standard frequency.
- Supplies for local community projects. You can bring to donate and drop off at partnering hotels, lodges and schools.