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Three popular destinations for gorilla trekking in Africa

A gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable national park.

For gorilla trekking to be possible, gorillas have to be habituated so that they are accustomed to having humans as part of their environment.

From the impenetrable Forest of Bwindi to the bamboo-dominated slopes of Volcanoes National Park, you can trek the gentle giants in different vegetation zones beyond imagination. In this article, we present the three most popular destinations for gorilla trekking in Africa.

Gorillas are the largest living primates, weighing between 100 and 270 kilograms, and standing 1.25 to 1.8 meters tall. These gentle jungle creatures are highly sought-after wildlife species that inhabit the forests of Africa.

There are two renowned species of gorillas: the Western gorillas (subdivided into western lowland and Cross River gorillas) and Eastern gorillas (subdivided into Eastern lowland and Mountain gorillas). Each gorilla subspecies is found in different countries across the African continent.

For gorilla trekking to be possible, gorillas have to be habituated so that they are accustomed to having humans as part of their environment. This reduces human-wildlife conflict and allows for peaceful encounters with gorillas.

In the 1970s, gorilla tourism was introduced in a few destinations in Africa. Today, there are several countries that can be visited by tourists for gorilla watching. These include Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Nigeria, Gabon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo etc. Of the ten countries that protect the mountain gorillas, the following three destinations have achieved the highest success in gorilla tourism. Therefore if you are looking to gorilla trekking this year, you can have a look at the top so that you can plan a perfect trip;

Uganda is one of the only three countries that protect the mountain gorillas. Located in East Africa, Uganda boasts the highest number of mountain gorillas, accounting for over 50% of the estimated 1080 mountain gorillas remaining on planet earth. The country offers two remarkable gorilla trekking spots: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that are often visited by tourists taking Uganda safaris.

Of the two Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most known destination for gorilla tracking. This ancient rain forest protects more than 480 mountain gorillas. Gorilla tourism was launched in Bwindi in the early 1990s. Today the park is often visited by tourists and about 20 habituated gorilla families have been habituated for visits by tourists.

Both Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga are located in the southwestern part of the country, offering incredible views of neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A gorilla permit in Uganda costs $700 per person for Foreign Non-residents, $600 per person for foreign residents of East Africa, and Shs. 250,000 for East African nationals.

These permits grant entry into the beautiful gorilla sanctuaries, where you can search for these magnificent apes for 1-6 hours. Upon meeting the mountain gorillas, you are allowed to watch the apes for strictly one hour. Tourists can take use of this hour observing and photographing the gorillas while learning about their lifestyle from knowledgeable tour guides.

Additionally, Uganda is the only place where travelers can enjoy the gorilla habituation Experience, an adventure activity where tourists can spend up to four hours following a semi-habituated gorilla family in Bwindi. This exclusive experience is limited to four visitors each day and a gorilla habituation permit is priced at $1500 per person per day.

With approximately 35% of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park is another popular destination for gorilla trekking in Africa. Situated in the Northern Province, this park was once the base for Dian Fossey’s studies and research on mountain gorillas and now hosts ten habituated gorilla families. For $1500 per person, you can trek and spend quality time with these endangered giants.

Moreover, in September, you have the opportunity to attend the Kwita Izina, an annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony held in Musanze Town, on the foothills of the Volcanoes Park. Rwanda has positioned itself as the best destination for luxury gorilla safaris and if you are looking to relaxing treats, this is the ultimate country to visit. Within the park, remarkable accommodation options include the One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, Bisate Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Amakoro Songa Lodge, Sabinyo Wilderness Lodge, Virunga Lodge, among others.

With the Volcanoes National Park being the most accessible destination for gorilla trekking many travelers with less time often include Rwanda in their travel plans. A journey from the Kigali Airport to the Volcanoes Park Rwanda takes as few as 2-3 hours only and most popular trips take 2-4 days.

Democratic Republic of Congo
As the only country where you can encounter both Mountain and Eastern Lowland gorillas, the Democratic Republic of Congo is undoubtedly one of the three popular destinations for gorilla trekking in Africa. Compared to Uganda and Rwanda, DRC offers a more affordable option for encountering these giant apes in their natural habitats, with permits priced at only $400 per person per day.

Mountain gorillas are trekked in Virunga National Park, where about eight gorilla families are habituated, allowing for the issuance of 64 permits each day. Located in the eastern part of DR Congo, the park is accessible from Kigali by Road or from Goma Airport by flight.

This park has five habituated gorilla families, and only 40 gorilla permits are issued each day. Trips to the Virunga are offered by local tour operators in DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

In addition, the Eastern lowland gorillas, the largest gorilla subspecies, are found exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo and can be trekked in Kahuzi Biega National Park in the eastern part of the country. This park is located in Bukavu in the eastern park of DR Congo. Unlike the Virunga National Park, Kahuzi Biega is always open since Bukavu is quite peaceful than Goma.

Word of Advice: Due to the DR Congo’s volatile situation, it is crucial for travelers to stay updated on the latest security information before planning a visit. Therefore, it is important to contact a local tour operator for up-to-date information and advice.