The land of a thousand hills comes with surprises over every ridge; trek the dew-laden forests searching for mountain gorillas, swim on the dramatic shores of Lake Kivu, and stop to contemplate the despair from which this country has so magnificently risen at one of the genocide memorials. The tiny East African republic of Rwanda is covered in lush, cool mountains and the peaks in the Volcanoes National Park reach high above the clouds, providing a large natural habitat for the legendary mountain gorillas.
It has also got five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga mountain including; Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo that are covered in the bamboo and rain forest. In the park, it’s where you can do the golden monkey trekking as well as Dian Fossey visit.
There is much to see besides gorillas: the mountain-ringed inland sea; the immense Nyungwe Forest National Park with its chimpanzees, monkeys, and rare birds; the wild savannah of Akagera National Park; and, perhaps above all, the endless succession of steep cultivated mountains. The country is also famous for the tragic genocide in 1994, a brutal chapter in a complex rivalry between the Hutu and Tutsi tribal groupings, and we will visit the incredibly moving memorial centre in the capital of Kigali.
Volcanoes National Park is located in a small village known as Ruhengeri which can be accessed by road from Kigali, Gisenyi and the airport. The drive is only 2 hours which means it is very possible to go on gorilla safaris in Rwanda on the same day and then travel back to Kigali or move to your next destination. However, in case you want to trek these gorillas for one day, you will have to be at the park’s headquarters by 7:00am.
Mountain gorillas are the major attraction for any visitor to Rwanda, and provide vital income for the country and for the conservation efforts for the region, as well as of course an unforgettable experience for the traveler. Therefore, when planning to go gorilla tracking, it is very important and crucial that you first book your gorilla pass ahead of the actual date you track as they often get finished quickly. Volcanoes national park has over 12 habituated mountain gorilla groups and each family group can accommodate 1 group of visitors comprising 8 people.
Rwanda today floods with many visitors coming to track gorillas so it is best to book early to guarantee your gorilla permits. Briefing begins early in the morning from one of the park rangers at the Kinigi headquarters where assembling is from 7:00-7:30 at latest. After the briefing, you will leave the opportunity of hiring a porter for a day.
Joined by a local guide and trackers, climb through rugged mountain terrain to meet the eyes of these rare animals, this region is one of the last remaining sanctuaries for the mountain gorilla. No more than eight per day can visit any one habituated family and visits are strictly controlled to minimize the possibility of disturbance or transmission of disease to the animals. Tracking gorillas in the dense forest can sometimes be wet, muddy and uncomfortable.
The terrain is by no means easy either, so it can be pretty strenuous and often humid, but the sheer thrill in coming across a habituated group of gorillas, dominated by a great male silver back, more than outweighs any difficulty. You need to be prepared and fit enough to walk up to about 2 to 8 hours – up and down hill. You can usually get very close to the mountain gorillas, which are shy and gentle, and watching their movements is like seeing a mirror image of yourself.
This is the moment when your cameras are well set and be ready to take a lot of photos but without using a flash. Be mesmerized as you watch them eat, sleep, groom and play – the giant silver back surveying the scene as the smaller ones’ laze in the trees or play like children. Your visit with the gorillas will last one unforgettable hour.
Hiring a porter also means that you can pack all the camera equipment’s, the rain gear, snacks, and lots of water without worrying about how you will manage to carry the luggage up to the muddy slope through the bushy under growth. The fees for a porter will keep the idea of conserving the mountain gorillas in the forest. These jobs help in reducing the invasion into the protected areas to set the snares and also collect timber where the gorilla lives. Again by employing the porters, you are not only helping them but also supporting the local community and the gorillas as well. The cost of hiring a porter is between $10- $15. The tips can also be in smaller dollar notes or in the local shillings.
When you are waiting for, or have completed, your gorilla visit, your leader will provide you with options and ideas on how you can spend your free day in the area around Ruhengeri. You can head out on more rain forest hikes to see monkeys, on nature walks, a hike up Mt Bisoke or a walk to the memorial for naturalist Dian Fossey. Please keep in mind that the prices of these optional are not inclusive of transport costs to and from the activity. Your guide will organize transport for you to be paid locally.
If you wish to trek on both days, we highly recommend pre – purchasing the additional permit well in advance to avoid disappointment. Please speak to your booking agent about arranging this. The additional gorilla permit is offered as a pre – booked service which will guarantee you a place. If you would rather wait and try to get a better price by booking this locally on the ground, you are welcome to, but keep in mind that gorilla permits often sell out.
Today you go for Golden monkey trekking Volcanoes National Park. This is an exciting adventure that offers an epic encounter with a rare and beautiful species of monkeys called “Golden Monkeys”. As the name suggests, the monkeys have a striking golden fur coat, and add to their spritely character, are quite lovely to watch and offer excellent photography.
After early breakfast, you shall transfer to the park headquarters by 7.00am just like the mountain gorilla activity. Meet with the rangers for briefing and thereafter transfer to trail head overlooking Volcano. Hike into the bamboo forest along the base of Mt. Sabyinyo to see the Golden Monkeys for one hour. Later return to the lodge for lunch and drive back to Kigali.