Rwanda is home to the endangered mountain gorillas, of which there are only about 1000 remaining in the wild. 12 families, the Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza, call Volcanoes National Park their home. Visits with them are majestic and incredibly fulfilling which makes trekking to them a must-do for international visitors. There are 3 questions we get asked more than any others about visiting the gorillas in Rwanda: 1. How likely is it to see the gorillas on a trek? 2. How easy is it to get to the gorillas? 3. Is it safe to be near gorillas in the wild? Let me address these for you…
How likely is it you will see gorillas on your trek? Almost certainly. Rwanda’s park rangers are highly trained and incredibly knowledgeable about the terrain, habitat, and behaviors of the troops. The rangers work closely with the trackers who are out walking and monitoring the movements of the families as soon as the sun rises every day. The rangers and trackers are in close communication and work together to match the visitor with the right family to visit. What this means is people who are interested in a longer hike can be matched with a family that’s further afield, and those who would like a shorter walk can be matched with a family nearby. The hikes can be as short as 30 minutes to encounter gorillas!
How fit do I need to be to get to the gorillas? First, remember that volcanoes are not flat ;)! You will be walking up a hill, but it is not as steep or with as wild terrain as in Uganda. You can prepare for your trek by taking daily brisk walks and getting comfortable ascending hills in your neighborhood. If you are an active hiker who enjoys more challenging terrain then you are well suited to taking one of the longer treks to the gorillas further out (like the Susa). We have helped people of all ages and abilities reach the gorillas. If you use a walker or even a wheelchair to get around, that is still no hindrance in seeing the gorillas. We will arrange porters and appropriate accommodations to ensure you have a satisfying and safe visit.
Is it safe to be near gorillas in the wild? There are no fences around the gorillas and they are absolutely living in their own habitat, so it makes sense to question how they feel when encountering humans. The hard-working park rangers and trackers walk regularly in the mountains to monitor the gorilla families. Over time the gorillas have become used to human encounters and do not see humans as a threat. Visitors are informed about protocol by the park rangers prior to embarking on the trek. Most information is common sense such as not shouting, chasing the gorillas, or eating while near the gorillas. Since we’re the visitors, it’s expected to remain a respectful distance away and follow the guidance provided by the rangers and trackers. You may find gorillas are curious about you or perhaps nonchalant about your presence. Using common sense and following the guidance from the rangers and trackers ensures a safe and incredible experience.
Rwanda is an extremely safe country to travel in and has the easiest treks to actually get to the gorillas. The opportunity to see gorillas up close is a once in a lifetime experience that has no par.