The national park covers about 125 km² of incredibly scenic forest-covered mountains, as well as six volcanoes. In the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ as Rwanda is called. Just over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas (about 480 according to WWF) are found in the broader Virunga Conservation Area (Virunga Mountains), which includes the well-managed Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

This is where the legendary and iconic gorillas conservationist, Dian Fossey, lived and worked with gorillas. The gorillas here are more habituated than in other areas, meaning that they are more habituated to having humans around. There are seven gorilla families that can be visited in Volcanoes National Park( www.rwandavolcanoesnationalpark.com).

There are ten groups/families of habituated gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Gorillas do not stay in the same spot hence the need to do some tracking before you spend your magical one hour with them. They usually climb higher up the mountain in the dry season, and descend in the wet season, so your tour guide might have a general idea of where the group you are tracking might be during a particular season, but there are no guarantees that you will find them where you expect them to be.

Gorilla families

These are the gorilla groups in Volcanoes national park:

The Amahoro group: this group is usually found between the Karisoke and the Visoke peaks of the Virunga volcanoes. This group has about 17 gorillas. Together with the Umubano group of 11, they are the furthest from the park headquarters.

The Sabyinyo Group is usually found between Mt. Sabyinyo and Gahinga. It has about 12 individuals, with a couple of silverbacks in the group.

Agashya Group, formerly referred to as “Group Thirteen”, is often found close to the Sabyinyo group, and has about 25 gorillas including two silverbacks.

The Susa Group is the largest in volcanoes NP with about 40 individuals, including 3 silverbacks. This group is usually found high up on Mount Karisimbi, which makes for a relatively more challenging hike, but it is well worth the effort.

The Karisimbi Group, which split from the Susa group a few years ago, can be found in the Mt. Karisimbi area. Tracking these two groups requires a full day hike.

The Kwitonda Group has 18 members and was habituated in the DRC. They crossed the border into Rwanda in 2005, and are now open for visitation.

The Hirwa Group has around 11 members including one silverback and a pair of twins.

The Bwenge Group, named after the group silverback, has 11 members and can be a tough trek.

The Ugenda Group, whose name means “on the move” – because its 11 individuals are always moving to new areas is also quite difficult to track.

Gorilla trekking guidelines

Gorilla etiquette and all other guidelines on how to behave around gorillas are meant to ensure both your safety, and that of the gorillas.

  • Gorillas are susceptible to human infections since their DNA is a 98% match with human DNA. Their immunity is not as strong as that of humans so even the slightest infection such as a common cold can be life threatening to the gorilla, hence the various rules and regulations. Some of these are pretty basic and should be easy to follow. Gorilla trekking guidelines in Rwanda include;
  • If you have a cold, flu, or any other contagious infection, you should not go gorilla trekking.
  • Only one group of tourists can visit the mountain gorillas each day and you can only spend an hour with them.
  • You should keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas, and if the gorillas try to get close, try to move further away.
  • Try not to make sudden movements in the presence of the gorillas and keep your voices low, so as to maintain a relaxed atmosphere for the gorillas.
  • Do not eat or drink when you are with the gorillas

Access: In Rwanda you have it is easier to access gorilla trekking opportunities. The drive from the airport in Kigali to Volcanoes National Park is short, so you can easily combine a gorilla trekking trip with a visit to neighboring Tanzania, and the further away Kenya. In Uganda on the other hand, while you can combine the trip with safaris to the neighboring countries as well, the drive from the airport to either Bwindi impenetrable forest or Mgahinga gorilla national park is very long.

Accommodation

There are a number of lodges and hotels in both Uganda and Rwanda where you can stay for the duration of your gorilla safari. In Rwanda, you can stay at Sabyinyo silverback lodge, Virunga lodge, mountain gorilla lodge, and a few others in the area, Looking for Ultimate Explore in Volcanoes National Park like on 5 days Gorilla Tour Rwanda.

You can also visit Lake Kivu for relaxation

Lake Kivu

A day trip to Lake Kivu is a fantastic way to enjoy a little peace and quiet. Your trip may visit Gisenyi or Kibuye town. In Kibuye, your visit can include a boat cruise to some of the lake’s islands to see the local fruit bat population and enjoy the quiet.

Visitors to Gisenyi can pay a visit to the local hot springs, enjoy a cultural visit to a traditional fishing village, or simply having lunch and relax on the shores of the lake. Home to Rwanda’s beloved chimpanzee population, Nyungwe is a popular destination for visitors to Rwanda. In addition to seeing our closest living relatives in their natural habitat, there are a number of additional activities in the surrounding area.

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The national park covers about 125 km² of incredibly scenic forest-covered mountains, as well as six volcanoes. In the 'Land of a Thousand Hills' as Rwanda is called. Just over half of the world's remaining mountain gorillas (about 480 according to WWF) are found in the broader Virunga Conservation Area (Virunga Mountains),...