With less than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world, gorilla trekking is an awe-inspiring trip you’ll want to be sure to add to your bucket list.
As a bonus, you’ll also find yourself immersed in some of the most spectacular African forests in the world, making this a tranquil getaway as well.
Stronger than about 20 adult humans combined, these massive primates are typically shy and reserved, and often referred to as gentle giants.
Before you’re trek, you’ll be well-versed in protocols for all scenarios possible by your guide (which is required), but the gorilla families you visit will be comfortable and accustomed to seeing tourists. In fact, they pencil you in on their daily schedule.
These are habituated gorillas, meaning they have been carefully exposed to humans in the wild. Seeing the other guy as non-threatening goes both ways.
With your guided gorilla trekking, there’s a mutual understanding between man and these sweet gentle creatures. Considering gorillas share 98% of our DNA, we are all basically family here, just out to enjoy another fine day.
What Are The Best Countries For Gorilla Trekking?
Gorilla trekking is confined to East Africa and these excursions can be booked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Rwanda.
Uganda and Rwanda are where you’ll find the mountain gorillas and the Congo for the lowland gorillas. The mountain gorillas are the larger species, with the darker black coats and the rarest.
Because of its rare beauty, Africa is home to some of the most luxurious lodges in the world.
Within these countries, there are four national parks where the gorillas can be found. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In order to gorilla trek, a permit is required.
How Much Is A Permit For Gorilla Trekking?
All countries require a permit and the number of permits is limited. They get booked quickly so be sure to plan in advance.
Rwanda gorilla permits are US$1500 for each person per day, and Uganda is US$700. The Congo permit is around US$400 per day, but this country may have stability and security issues so be sure to research this thoroughly before making a decision.
It’s also harder to get to the gorilla families in the Congo so the costs about even out when all is said and done.
Each permit is good for one day of trekking and spending 1 hour with the gorillas. 80% of the money raised is to conserve the gorilla surviving population with the rest divided up between the local communities around the parks.
The permit fees also include park entrance fees, advance trackers, ranger fees, and your one spectacular hour of hanging with the gorillas.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Located in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you’ll be just 15 from the park’s main entrance and headquarters. This will be your trek starting point.
As Rwanda’s first community-owned lodge, you’re also doing right by staying here, supporting socio-economic and conservation initiatives in the communities adjacent to the National Park.
With wonderful wonderful views of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge comprises 0f six cottages, two suites, and one family cottage.
Each cottage is spacious, with a fireplace, and the main building has a restaurant, bar, and library. and games room and, outside, The cottages also have a sheltered balcony so you can relish the views while relaxing.
You’ll find this oasis located in the Virunga National Park in the DNC. With active volcanoes and lush jungles, there’s plenty of scenery to marvel at.
The grounds consist of the park’s headquarters and 12 bungalows built with lava rock walls and thatched roofs and a private deck. Inside, you’ll find a spacious bathroom and a lounge area centered around a cozy fireplace.
As you enter the main lodge you’ll find a spacious lounge and bar. Adjacent to the lounge, the dining room offers full-course meals which are included in the price of your stay.
Outside on the large terrace, you can kick back with a cocktail and sift through all those amazing photos you took of these great apes.
You’ll feel humbled, being allowed to have this up-close experience with these rare creatures.
Another cool thing about staying at the Mikeno Lodge is you get to experience the Congo Hounds conservation program. These hounds are the trained dogs deployed together with the rangers to hunt down the poachers.
Located in Rwanda next to Volcanoes National Park, Bisate Lodge sits in the basin of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes jutting high above from the jungle canopy.
A short distance from the park’s entrance, Bisate Lodge consists of six en-suite Forest Villas.
The curvature rooms are beautifully appointed with fireplaces and the grounds offer a lounge and bar that affords you lush jungle views.
Bisate Lodge also has a nursery on their grounds where they grow trees as part of their conservation project for reforestation.
Check out this video produced by Wilderness Safaris. Africa truly has some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.
Singita Kwitonda Lodge
Another stellar lodge set on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, here you’ll have easy access into the jungle for your gorilla trekking adventure.
Each of the lodge’s eight luxurious suites features a private heated plunge pool, inside and outdoor fireplaces, and large floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize the room’s orientation to the volcanoes.
This luxury lodge offers farm-to-table Rwandese cuisine and fresh produce straight from their on-site garden.
Like Bisate Lodge, the Akarabo Nursery is a fundamental part of Singita’s undertaking to contribute to the long-term conservation of endangered mountain gorillas by increasing their habitat through reforestation.
The Akarabo Nursery garden includes a teahouse serving fresh herbal brews, and you can also catch some of the locals working on their crafts such as basket weaving and stick carving.
Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
Set in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge has eight spacious cottages built from volcanic stone. The lodge also has immediate access to track 6 gorilla families and perfect, uninterrupted views of the Virunga Volcanoes.
While enjoying the view of the Virunga Volcanoes as they stretch across the vast countryside, you’ll have a personal butler serving you homemade cakes on your private veranda.
This type of spoiled luxury might make you forget you’re here to do some gorilla trekking. NOT! You’re upon one of the most stunning ecosystems on the planet, we know you won’t be squandering your time at the lodge.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest extends over a series of steep ridges in the Virunga Volcanoes mountain range.
It’s called impenetrable due to the dense growth of herbs, vines, and shrubs that covers the valley floors, but with your trusty guide, you’re unstoppable!
In fact, this forest was declared a World Heritage Site due to its ecological uniqueness and natural beauty. Guessing that these gorillas won’t be moving to Miami anytime soon.
When Is The Best Time To Go Gorilla Trekking In Africa?
Gorilla trekking is a year-round event, but the best time is June, July, August, September, and December. Fewer showers of rain mean the hike into the forest won’t be as grueling.
June, July, and August is the peak season in Uganda and Rwanda. Otherwise, be prepared for some slippery slopes. Remember, this is an excursion you’ll want to plan way in advance.