Gorilla trekking 101: the need to know essentials


Gorilla trekking 101: the need to know essentials

Gorilla trekking 101 – foolproof your trip

Some trips allow for an off-the-cuff, spontaneous approach. Others need a little forward planning – from bucket-list experiences that perhaps due to high demand are often booked up well beforehand, to those needing more logistical manoeuvring.

An experience where both of these apply is gorilla trekking – a once-in-a-lifetime encounter said to be life-changing by many who do it. And one you can only have in a handful of places on earth (the forests in the mountainous region that spans Rwanda, Uganda and Congo) which make up the last remaining habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla.

Steadfast’s expertise in finessing and curating an itinerary will stand you in good stead to having an unforgettable time without needing to worry about any of the moving parts. Still, there are some things to know and bear in mind before you embark!


Thinking ahead

There are various reasons that gorilla trekking is a trip to book well ahead. Due to the nature of trekking – its strict controls around protecting the animals’ health and habitats and the very few places you can take part in this activity – there is a limit to the number of permits issued. This is done to limit the animals’ exposure and interaction with humans in the interests of responsible tourism.

Additionally, while gorilla trekking has been extremely popular for some years now, the travel industry is still catching up in some ways and there are still (relative to safari destinations like Tanzania and Kenya) only a few high-end lodges to base yourself at. This is especially true for those in appealingly close proximity to park borders (a bonus in that being nearby allows you to get to the park easily and quickly for your trek the morning of).


Why do the permits cost what they do?

This is a question often asked, and one that has a multi-pronged answer. Conservation is a complex and cost-intensive exercise and ensuring that the reserves that gorillas call home are protected takes a lot of manpower and resources.

The cost of taking part in a gorilla trekking experience goes towards many different aspects that keep trekking sustainable and safe, from – from employing rangers to monitor the safety of the gorillas, to contributing to upliftment projects to ensure local communities benefit.

Additionally, the reserves’ regulations on tightly controlling the number of people able to access the park per day (done with the wellbeing of these animals in mind) means fewer permits, and this by default means they have to be more expensive. Remember this is all in the interests of ensuring gorillas are protected well into the future.


Not a walk in the park

If you’re considering a gorilla trekking trip, bear in mind that this is a physically intensive excursion. The rainforest is typically wet and muddy, the vegetation dense and the ground occasionally steep and largely uneven.

The rangers and guides in charge of guiding groups through the forest will assess the groups on arrival and assign each a gorilla family – the families are located by scouts who go out early on the morning of the hike to locate them. Groups are allocated to a gorilla based on ease of access (ie the fitter groups will likely need to trek to the families further out, while less fit groups will be assigned a family closer to the starting point). Even so, it is still a fairly strenuous undertaking, so sure you’re physically strong and healthy enough to be able to navigate such terrain before you commit.


Don’t rush it…

Spending time in the rainforests of Rwanda and Uganda is a deeply restorative experience, and one you should allow yourself enough time to properly appreciate – aim for a balance of intrepid exploring in the mountains and villages and time relaxing at the lodge.

However, there are other logistical reasons not to rush it. The timing of your trek itself can be unpredictable (you get one hour to observe the gorillas, but your designated family might be a fair distance away, so the hike could be a few hours each way). With this in mind, book your return flights for the following day from your hike to ensure you can return at leisure and soak in the experience, and aren’t rushing off to the airport on your return.


A country of rich natural beauty and cultural diversity

Remember there is plenty to keep those in your party who aren’t trekking occupied while the others hike. From the less demanding golden monkey trekking (this species’ habitat is lower in the forest so is easier to get to on a gentler walk through picturesque farmland), to bike tours and cultural, historical and community visits, as well as an abundance of other bird-, plant- and wildlife, there is a lot to see and do. And there’s nothing to say you can’t just enjoy a bit of downtime at your lodge and relax!


Get in touch with our expert safari team to help you craft the trip of a lifetime to the rainforests of Rwanda and Uganda.

March 8, 2024

Steadfast Africa