Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Virunga Mountains

Virunga Forests

Planning a gorilla trip to Virunga Mountains requires adequate time for you to have a complete and successful holiday. The Virunga Mountains are chain mountains comprising of 8 volcanoes all confined within Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They include Mount Sabyinyo, Bisoke, Karisimbi, Muhabura, Gahinga, Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira and Mount Mikeno.

Gorilla safaris in Virunga Mountains are conducted in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo. Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park and Mgahinga National Park make up the vast Virunga Conservation Area (VCA).

In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, gorilla trekking is conducted in Nyakagezi gorilla group the only habituated gorilla family open for tourism in this park. Mgahinga National Park is situated in southwestern Uganda about 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. It inhabits a section of rare mountain gorillas and scenic Virunga Volcanoes like Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga. Gorilla treks in Mgahinga National Park start at Ntebeko Visitor Center.

The Volcanoes National Park is set suitably in northwestern Rwanda about 2 to 3 hours’ drive from Kigali capital city. Most Rwanda gorilla treks into the Volcanoes National Park start from Kinigi park headquarters. Five of the eight Virunga Volcanoes are all found in Volcanoes National Park including Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga.

Mgahinga National Park reachable by road or by air. By road, you need a good 4 wheel drive safari vehicle to help you navigate through the remote route to southwestern side of this magical country and visitors with limited time, plan for a flight which takes you from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro/Kihihi airstrip where you can easily drive in a 4 wheel drive safari car to either Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga National Park.

Gorilla permits

Knowing how much a gorilla permit cost is very critical when planning a gorilla trek in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, gorilla trekking permits cost $600 per person per trek. To obtain your gorilla permit in Uganda, you can get in touch with a trust worthy, reliable and recognized ground tour operator and to avoid last minute rush, simply contact our reservation desk and we shall make your dream come true or contact a reservation team at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). A gorilla permit is what allows you to track only 1 habituated family in Uganda in a group of 8 visitors. About 160 gorilla permits are available each day for booking in Uganda but due to high demand, you are encouraged to book one at least 3 to 6 months earlier before the actual trek to avoid any disappointment. In Rwanda, gorilla permits cost $1500 per person (you can purchase one through reservationist at Rwanda Development Board or tour operator) and 400 per person in DR Congo.

Note, to confirm your gorilla permit you should have made complete payment and this means, your details are very essential and you will be required to send monkey to help reserve permit for you. When effecting payment, tour operator will send bank details/account where you will pay and make sure that you include bank charges to avoid less payment that may cause disappointment at a last minute of booking for a permit.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Virunga Mountains

Knowing when it is best to trek mountain gorillas is very key when planning a gorilla trip to Virunga National Park. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga National Park and Virunga National Park can be done at any time of the year. But it is best explored in the dry months that is June, July, August, September and December, January and February. However, it is also possible for you to trek mountain gorillas during the wet season but this period is characterized by heavy rainfall and muddy slopes which makes it a bit challenging for one to hike through the dense vegetation and slippery steep slopes.

What to carry for gorilla trekking

When planning for a gorilla trek to Virunga Mountains, how you pack plays a significant role. For starters, your packing list should include bottle of water, energy giving snacks, waterproof daypack, rain jackets or poncho, a camera with no flash light, insect repellents, first aid kit, valid visa, passport, gorilla permit, long sleeved shirts or T-shirts, and gardening gloves, hats, sunscreen and others.

Where to stay

When planning a gorilla trip to Virunga Mountains, accommodation is that thing any visitor must put into consideration. There are many accommodation options for your overnight stay in Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park. In Mgahinga National Park they include Mount Gahinga Lodge (Luxury), Travelers’ Rest Hotel Kisoro, Mucha Hotel Kisoro (Midrange) and Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp or Kisoro Tourist Hotel (Budget); in Volcanoes National Park, they include Bisate Lodge, Mount Gorilla View Lodge, Da Vinci; in DR Congo Virunga National Park the best places to stay while on gorilla tour include Lake/Lac Kivu Lodge, Mikeno Lodge, Bukima tented camp, Nyiragongo volcano summit shelters, Lulimbi tented camp and Tchegera Island Camp.

How to get to Virunga Mountains

How you get to Virunga Mountains (Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga National Park or Virunga National Park) matters a lot when planning a gorilla trip. You can get to Mgahinga National Park by road or air. By road, you need a good 4 wheel drive safari to take you from Kampala or Entebbe through Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale/Kisoro and this can be 8-10 hours’ drive depending on the route or drive from Kigali through Chanika or Katuna border to Kisoro/Kabale about 4 hours’ drive. Alternatively, take a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield then land in at Kisoro/Kihihi airstrip where you can easily connect to Mgahinga National Park. Volcanoes National Park is found in the northwestern side of Rwanda about 2 to 3 hours while Virunga National Park is located in eastern DR Congo. Visitors can drive from Rwanda through Uganda connect to Virunga National Park via Kisoro.

Hiring porters and walking sticks. A trek to see mountain gorilla is strenuous and entirely involves hiking through dense vegetation and steep slopes which all requires you to be physically fit. There are many porters for hire at the park headquarters to help you carry heavy luggage and you concentrate in your primate adventure. Porters can be hired at $15 each and walking sticks can be hired at $5 or if you are lucky enough you may find one at a free cost.

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