Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa’s Rain Forests takes place in their last remaining habitat in Central Africa. Mountain Gorillas are an endangered species and are only found in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This blog is part 1 in a series of 5 about all the ins and outs of gorilla trekking in Africa’s rain forests.
Going mountain gorilla trekking in the rain forests of Africa is a once in a lifetime experience that may be disappearing. National Geographic estimates there are 900 gorillas remaining in the world. The current varying estimates are between 780 to over 1,000. The mountain gorillas have lost a lot of their natural habitat for different reasons, including war.
The areas where mountain gorillas are found are heavily forested mountainous areas. The national parks where the tracking of these primates takes place include; Mgahinga National park, Bwindi Impenetrable National park, Volcanoes National park and Virunga National park.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable & Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National park has 13 gorilla groups and is located in southern Uganda. Three of the gorilla families are found in the Buhoma region of the park. The gorilla families are named Mubare, Rushegura, and Habinyanja. In the Rushaga region there are 4 gorilla families; Nshogi, Mishaya Businggwe, and Bweza. The Nkuringo family is located in the Nkuringo region. And there are 3 gorilla families in the Ruhinja sector; Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, and Buitukura gorilla families.
Bwindi forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s in this forest in south western Uganda that half of the mountain gorilla population lives.
Mgahinga National park has one gorilla family that is named Nyakagezi. The Nyakagezi family group moves between Uganda and Rwanda. For the last two years, the group has been staying in Uganda and includes silverbacks in their group. The park covers an area of 33km of thick montane and lowland rain forests. Because of the terrain, the Nyakagezi mountain gorilla family is a hard one for trekkers to access.
Mgahinga National park is located in the western part of Uganda. The Park borders Rwanda near Volcanoes National park as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Virunga National park. Mgahinga National park is also the smallest park that forms part of the bigger Virunga Conservation.
In Uganda, these National Parks are managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority. Trekkers have to drive over 2 hours to get to both of these National parks. Tourists get the real picture of what this beautiful area looks like during the drive. Tourists can access this area more quickly by taking a domestic flights from Entebbe Airport by Aero Link to the Kayonza airstrip. From there it is a short drive to the National Parks.
Mountain Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park (Rwanda)
Volcanoes National park covers an area of about 125km and is covered with the mountains and the six volcanoes. Because of this, Rwanda is called the land of a thousand hills. Around 480 gorillas are found along the border of the Virunga Conservation Area, which is in the Virunga Mountains. This is where primatologist Dian Fossey lived and worked with the mountain gorillas. Because of this the gorillas living here are more habituated to humans than any of the other mountain gorilla families. The national park has 10 gorilla families and these include, by name; the Susa, Karisimbi, the Sabyinyo, Agashya, Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Kwitonda, Bwenge and the Ugenda gorilla family.
The National park is located in northern Rwanda and its 80km away from the city of Kigali. Accessing this National Park is easier and quicker than getting to Bwindi Park in Uganda. The park is a 2 ½ hour drive from Kigali. A mini bus goes from Kigali to Rushengeri town, located at the park entrance. Taxis are also available to get visitors to the park from Kigali.
Tracking the gorillas in this national park is more popular than in Bwindi forest. The mountain gorillas in this area tend to move around less, so easier to track. Visibility and photo taking is much easier because of the open terrain in the bamboo forests that lets more light penetrate.
In Rwanda, the mountain gorilla permit lets visitors track a particular family. There are many dependent factors that decide which family group visitors are assigned. After a briefing about gorilla trekking, the tourists are divided into groups according to their fitness level and age, as well as the location of the gorilla family.
Mountain Gorilla trekking in Virunga National park in Democratic Republic of Congo
Mountain gorilla tracking in the DRC is done in Virunga National park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The National Park borders both Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga National park covers an area of 7800km and is also home to about 200 of the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorillas live in the southern part of the Park. The Park is managed by the Congolese National Park authorities along with the institute Congolias pour La Conservation de la Nature (ICCN). The Africa Conservation Fund is also a partner. Ruthless attacks in the Park killed 10 gorillas, but their population has increased since the attack and is more stable now. The efforts of the rangers who live within Virunga National park has seen to that.
The National Park is 32km west of Goma, which is the capital city of North Kivu province. Transport from Goma to Virunga National park can be arranged with Virunga National park. The roads to the National Park are very bad and it’s best to travel with someone who knows the area. Another option would be a guided tour from Rwanda or Uganda since tourism infrastructure is not well developed in the DRC. The guided tour operators out of Uganda and Rwanda can find the best border crossings into the Democratic Republic of Congo and into the Park and take care of all the details.
Submitted by Green World Safaris. A tour company based out of Uganda but also doing tours in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They specialize in Mountain Gorilla Trekking and can be contacted to arrange any of the tours mentioned above.