Gorilla tourism is the major attraction in the Virunga massif region, which extends covering borders of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda into gorilla parks of Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Virunga national park in Congo and Mgahinga national park Uganda. Visiting gorillas in the Virunga is marks the ultimate adventure for all travelers.
The Virunga massif region comprises of half the total mountain gorilla population distributed within the 3 national parks, with Volcanoes national park Rwanda having the highest number of gorillas with 10 habituated gorilla groups available for tracking by visitors, Virunga national park comprises of 6 gorilla groups and Mgahinga with the least number of gorillas with just one gorilla group.
In Rwanda, only 80 gorilla permits are available on a single day accepting only 8 people to go watch a single gorilla family. Virunga national park has 6 habituated gorilla families with 48 gorillas passes available for visitors on a single day while Mgahinga national park as 1 gorilla group with just 8 gorilla permits on a single day. Gorilla groups are quite different from one another with quite different trekking experience and different characteristics, hence trekking twice or 3 times is a completely unique encounter.
With so many travelers coming to the Virunga to watch gorillas, its very much necessary to book your gorilla permit over 6 months ahead of your tracking date so as to secure your spot. You can book your permit through your tour operator or through the Virungavolcanoes.com travel portal or though the 3 different country’s tourism management bodies.
Just make sure, you receive a scan of your gorilla permit to be sure of purchase.
Cost of Gorillas Permits differs from country to country
$750 – Volcanoes national park Rwanda
$600 – Mgahinga national park Uganda
$ 450 – Virunga national park Congo
Visiting mountain gorillas can be done any time of the year however great experiences can be had during the dry season. During the wet season, there are always high chance of rainfall that sometimes makes hiking hard to move through the muddy trails which is not the case during the dry season.
For that reason, in Uganda gorilla permits are discounted during the wet seasons of April, May and November to $450 during the Low season.
Looking from the updates of the recent on going Virunga massif gorilla census of 2015 – 2016, the results so far show an increase in the number of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorilla tourism is one of the major revenue earners for conservation works gorillas in the different gorilla national parks, tourists going for gorilla safaris in Rwanda, Uganda & Congo helps support conservation projects of mountain gorillas hence saving the endangered specie from extinction.
Gorilla tourism is important for the gorillas, but also the health and protection of the gorilla habitant is quite important for gorilla conservation. Trekking gorillas in the Virunga has to be regulated so as to protect the heath of gorillas, and protective measures have been put in place and visitors are respect these rules so as to save the world’s most fascinating specie from extinction.
Don’t trek when ill
Air contagious diseases like flue, mumps, can easily catch the gorillas. With a DNA of about 95% human, gorillas can easily catch human diseases, but unfortunately don’t have immunity like human being.
8 People per day for one hour
A group of eight people can only visit each habituated gorilla group once a day for one hour. This is to make sure gorillas don’t get exhausted by human presence and importantly to minimize the risk of disease exposure to the gorillas.
Keep 7 meters distance
Keep a good distance away from the gorillas to protect you and them from any infections. Don’t try to touch or try to hold an eye contact them the gorillas. It may threaten them.
If a gorilla comes very close try to remain steal and follow your guides instructions.
No Flash on Camera
Make sure your camera has no flash, as the flashlight scares the gorillas and may cause an unexpected reaction from the gorillas. Even if habituated and used to human visitors, gorillas are still wild animals
Keep your voices very low as they may threaten the gorillas and also hinder your trekking process as the gorillas can move deeper into the forest
Keep the gorilla surrounding clean
Don’t leave rubbish, don’t sneeze near the gorillas and incase you need to use a toilet, make sure to ask your guide to dig you a hole and burry it after.
Arrivals at the park headquarters start as early as 6:30 am, checking in with your permit. Coffee is available, take time to mingle with other trekkers and learn about the different gorilla families.
Gorilla trekking requires some fitness as it involves trekking uphill searching for gorillas. When you finally have that moment – when you first catch your first sight of a gorilla in the wild, just a foot away from you! it’s the most fascinating experience