PLANNING A GORILLA TOUR
The ultimate guide to planning a memorable Gorilla Tour
So you have decided to go in search of the amazing Mountain Gorillas. Congratulations! Gorilla trekking is definitely one of the most exciting things you will ever do. The encounter with these awe-inspiring creatures in their natural habitat is one of those experiences that stay with you for a lifetime.
But it’s one thing to want to go on a Gorilla tour, quite another to execute it. There is so much to know, so many questions to answer: where shall I trek from; where will I stay, what it will cost…. the list goes on.
If you have been stressing over these and other concerns, worry no more! At Amazing Gorilla Safaris we have vast experience in organising gorilla treks for thousands of visitors. Over the years, we have compiled a list of the most common gorilla-related questions tourists usually ask as they plan for their trips.
Below we share seven of the most essential of those queries, with brief answers. By the time you get to the end of this list, you will be more than 95% ready for that Gorilla tour.
Without further ado, here is your step-by-step guide to planning a Mountain Gorilla tour.
- What is the best place to see Mountain Gorillas?
The best place to see Mountain Gorillas in the wild today is in any one of the three East African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is because three quarters of the world’s highly endangered gorillas are confined to the Virunga massif, a range of volcanic mountains that straddle the three countries.
Pro Tip: Choose the host country for your gorilla trek based your other travel interests, how much time you have for the trip, budget and other considerations. As you will see below, there are some crucial differences in terms of time and cost according to country.
Amazing Gorilla Safaris offers a number of attractive packages for gorilla treks in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.
- What do I need to trek Gorillas?
Once you’ve decided where you want to do your gorilla trek from, by far the most important item you need to get is a Gorilla Permit. This is an official document issued by the government of your soon-to-be host country granting you permission for a guided gorilla trek in a particular national park. Once gorillas are sighted, you can spend up to one hour with them.
The price for Gorilla Permits differs by country. Currently, the price per permit is USD 1500 in Rwanda; USD 600 in Uganda and USD 400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
You are advised to book and pay for your Gorilla Permit 3-5 months in advance because they are highly sought after and sometimes run out, especially if your trip is planned for the ‘high season’ months of June, July, August and September; and December, January and February.
Contact Amazing Gorilla Safaris if you need help booking your Gorilla Permit.
- When should I go? Best time of the year for gorilla trek.
The gorilla national parks in all three countries are open all year round, so this really depends on your schedule and what your plans are.
Many trekkers prefer the drier months of June, July, and August, early September, January and February when the mountain trails are less slippery. However, in our experience, the gorilla trek can be done any time of the year, even during the rainy season. All you need is a little planning.
Pro Tip: If you aren’t in the best shape to trek up a mountain during the wet season, request for a porter to help you with your luggage, and your gorilla adventure will go much smoother.
- How do I get to the gorilla park and how long will it take me?
This will depend on where you are coming from.
It is a 3 hour drive from Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport to the Volcanoes National Park in the Northwest of the country where Mountain Gorillas can be seen. This proximity makes Rwanda ideal for trekkers who are on a tight schedule.
The drive from Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport to its two national Mountain Gorilla parks in the country’s Southwest is eight hours long. However, the increased safari options Uganda offers, its varied landscape, vibrant stop-over towns and picturesque countryside more than make up for the long drive.
To trek in the DRC, it is easier to go through either Rwanda or Uganda, both of which share a border with the DRC close to its gorilla park (Virunga National Park).
Pro Tip: If you prefer to trek gorillas in Uganda but are pressed for time, go through Kigali rather than Entebbe. Due to Rwanda’s small size, the drive from Kigali International Airport to Uganda’s Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks is much shorter (4 hours) than it would take you from Entebbe airport (8 hours).
- Where will I stay? Choosing suitable accommodation.
For gorilla trekkers, the primary consideration in choosing where to stay on your gorilla tour should be proximity to the gorilla park since treks often start early in the morning (6am or 7am, depending on the park- please confirm exact time with your tour guide).
Other important factors like your itinerary and budget should also be factored in.
Pro Tip: Where possible, find out the name of the specific gorilla family you will be tracking and try to book accommodation close its known habitat. This will boost your chances of catching up with the gorillas and lessen the distance you will have to trek.
- How much will it cost?
Budgeting for your Gorilla Tour can be a headache, but it need not be. Here are a few pointers for items you must include in your budget in order to come up with an approximate cost.
- Gorilla Permit (s): This should be your number one item as it gives you access to the gorilla park. As mentioned earlier, the price per permit varies by country. Rwanda: USD 1500; Uganda: USD 600; Democratic Republic of Congo: USD 400.
- Transport: First, budget for air tickets to your gorilla trekking country of choice. Next, plan for transport to and from the gorilla national park. Here, your best option is to hire a private vehicle, with an experienced driver/guide to take you to your destination.
If you need any help coming up with a transport budget, please get in touch with us and our experienced safari guides will be happy to help you.
Amazing Gorilla Safaris also offers car rental services with an array of options. Do contact us for our vehicle hire rates.
We recommend that you budget for at least two nights’ accommodation near the gorilla park.
The first night, prior to the trek, because you will have to be at the park very early in the morning for the start of your gorilla expedition.
The second night, for you to rest after your trek. Lasting between 1-6 hours on average, gorilla treks can be a physically draining experience. You’ll likely be dog tired, and the last thing you’ll feel like doing is having to endure a long drive back to your hotel right after the hike.
Amazing Gorilla Safaris can help arrange your accommodation. Do contact us for more information on the best accommodation options available to you.
You may need to hire the services of a porter to help you with your luggage so that you can focus on enjoying the trek up the mountain. Porter charges range between 15 to 20 USD, although you can choose to add a tip at the end of the hike as a token of appreciation for exceptional service.
Tips, while not mandatory, are a welcome gesture of appreciation to your guides, waiter or porters for great service. We recommend that you put add a small ‘tipping fund’ to your budget, to be dispensed at your discretion.
- Company Mark-up.
On top of the above costs, the tour and travel company you select will often add between 10-20% of the total cost as fixing or service fee. Add that to your budget and you should have a rough estimate of what the trip will cost you.
However, if you need any assistance fitting your ideal tour experience within your budget, Contact us, and our experienced tour guides will help your create the perfect tour just for you.
- Safety and Health Issues.
Please, please, take all reasonable safety and health precautions as you plan your gorilla tour. No tour, however exciting, is worth your life. So: get all necessary vaccinations before you travel; carry any essential medications you routinely take, as they may not be readily available at your destination country, and always, ALWAYS follow your guide’s safety recommendations while on the tour.
At Amazing Gorilla Safaris, your safety is our number one priority, so you can be sure to receive honest, up to date feedback about the security situation in any of the countries in which we operate.
We hope you found this guide helpful. Please contact us if you think there’s an important question we might have missed, and we shall gladly respond. Meanwhile, we wish you all the best with the planning. The gorillas await you!