Ein Berggorilla liegt auf dem Boden und schaut in die Kamera

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Experience report & travel tips for your gorilla trekking

Experience report & travel tips for your gorilla trekking

The Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda offers one of the most remarkable nature experiences in the world - gorilla trekking. This park is not only a setting of breathtaking landscapes, characterized by dense rainforest and imposing volcanoes, but also home to the rare mountain gorillas. The opportunity to observe these fascinating animals in their natural environment attracts adventure-seekers and nature lovers from all over the world every year. However, gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park is more than just a tourist attraction. It is a crucial contribution to the protection of the endangered mountain gorillas.

However, the importance of Volcanoes National Park goes beyond the protection of the mountain gorillas. It is a symbol of Rwanda's commitment to environmental protection and sustainable tourism development. Visitors to the park can not only take advantage of the rare opportunity to observe gorillas in their natural environment, but also experience how concerted conservation efforts contribute to the well-being of the entire region.

Written by: Anja Sterker Last updated at: June 28, 2024

Preparation for gorilla trekking

Preparation for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is crucial to fully enjoy the experience while ensuring the safety of all participants as well as the gorillas. A good physical condition is important as the treks can often take several hours through challenging terrain such as steep slopes, dense vegetation and slippery ground. You always have the opportunity to take short breaks and walk at your own pace. However, it is advisable to train a little beforehand and build up your stamina if you are not used to longer walking times.

The right equipment is also essential. This includes waterproof hiking boots with good grip, breathable but long-sleeved clothing to protect against insect bites and scratches from the undergrowth, as well as a rucksack. Rain protection, a hat, sun cream and plenty of water are also essential. As the weather in the forest is very changeable and can change quite quickly, it is advisable to wear layers of clothing that are easy to put on and take off.

The best time to go gorilla trekking

The best time for gorilla trekking is during the dry seasons from June to September and from December to February, when the trails are less slippery and visibility is better. Permits for trekking are strictly limited to minimize the impact on the gorillas. It is therefore advisable to book these well in advance, especially if you wish to travel during the high season. We will be happy to help you book your gorilla trekking permits.

The day of the gorilla trekking

The day of the gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park begins in the early hours of the morning, shrouded in a mixture of excitement and reverent anticipation. Still in the semi-darkness, all participants and rangers gather at the park center, where there is a thorough introduction. We not only learn what to expect in the forest, but also the essential rules of conduct when interacting with the gorillas. This preparation ensures that the safety of both the animals and the visitors is maintained.

After the introduction, we are divided into small groups and each group is assigned a specific gorilla family. Selection is based on factors such as our physical fitness and the location of the gorilla families, which may change daily. Each group is accompanied by experienced rangers and guides who not only know the way through the dense forest, but also have a deep understanding of the gorillas' behavior and the park's ecology.

The hike itself can be challenging, often taking several hours over uneven, undergrowth-covered terrain. Our guides carefully carve paths through the thicket, always keeping an eye out for the gorillas. Their leadership is crucial - they ensure that we move safely through the forest, that the park rules are followed and that our encounters with the gorillas are respectful and safe.

When we finally meet the gorillas, it is a moment of unparalleled closeness to nature. We spend an hour with them while the ranger shares his extensive knowledge of the individuals and their social structures with us - an incredible enrichment of our experience. After this intensive hour, we make our way back. We leave with unforgettable memories that will stay with us for a long time to come.

The encounter with the mountain gorillas

The encounter with the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park was a deeply moving and unforgettable experience for me. After a challenging walk through the dense, misty forest, where the excitement and anticipation grew with every step, the moment of first eye contact with the gorillas seemed almost unreal, almost like a dream.

When encountering these majestic creatures, we had to follow strict rules of conduct to ensure both their safety and ours. It is important to keep a distance of at least seven meters from the gorillas to prevent the transmission of disease - gorillas are susceptible to many human pathogens. We avoided direct eye contact so as not to signal a threat, and our every movement was deliberate and quiet so as not to disturb the peaceful silence.

During the precious hour we were allowed to spend with the gorillas, the complex social behavior of the gorilla family unfolded before our eyes. The dominant silverback calmly watched over his group, while the young gorillas playfully explored their surroundings, but always under the watchful eye of their mothers. The intimate bond within the family was palpable, characterized by close physical contact and mutual care.

This intimate encounter gave us deep insights into the daily lives of the gorillas, from foraging to caring for their offspring. Observing their interactions and behaviors not only revealed the subtle dynamics within the group, but also underscored the urgent need to protect these remarkable creatures. The silent communication and confident composure of the gorillas left me and the others in the group with a lasting impression of deep respect and new appreciation for these impressive creatures.

Ein grimmig schauender Berggorilla inmitten des Waldes

Challenges and ethical considerations

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park presents a number of challenges and ethical considerations that must be carefully weighed to ensure the protection of the endangered mountain gorillas and minimize environmental impacts. While increasing tourism provides important revenue that goes directly to protecting gorillas and supporting local communities, it also increases the risk of disturbance and disease transmission to gorilla populations.

The balance between the economic importance of tourism and conservation requires strict guidelines and rules of conduct. Visitors must maintain a prescribed distance of at least seven meters from the gorillas to avoid direct interaction and reduce the risk of disease transmission. It is also important that visitors remain calm and restrained when observing the gorillas to avoid causing stress or discomfort to the animals.

Responsible behavior also includes avoiding noise, refraining from taking food near the gorillas and strictly following the instructions of the rangers and guides. In addition, visitors should not leave any garbage behind and should disturb the natural environment as little as possible. These rules of conduct not only help to protect the gorillas' natural way of life, but also help to ensure that the park's ecosystems are preserved for future generations.

Contributions to conservation and the local economy

The income from gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park plays a vital role in conserving mountain gorillas and supporting local communities. A significant portion of the fees collected for trekking permits goes directly to gorilla conservation. These funds are used to finance anti-poaching patrols, support research projects and conserve the gorillas' natural habitats.

In addition, tourism also contributes to the economic development of the surrounding communities. Part of the trekking income is invested in community projects that promote education programs, health services and infrastructure development. These initiatives not only improve the living conditions of the local population, but also raise awareness of the importance of nature conservation.

Various conservation projects supported by tourism also include training programs for local guides and rangers, who play a key role in the day-to-day management of the park and in the direct protection of the gorillas. Cooperation between conservation organizations, park administration and the local population ensures that the benefits of tourism are used sustainably and that natural resources are protected at the same time.

General information about the Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park covers an area of around 160 square kilometers in the far northwest of Rwanda and borders the two neighboring countries of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the heart of the park are the majestic Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes, some of which are still active. The scenic beauty of this park is impressive, with lush rainforests, luxuriant vegetation and spectacular views.

Unique wildlife

The Volcanoes National Park is best known for its population of mountain gorillas. This area is home to almost half of the world's population of these fascinating primates. The opportunity to observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat is undoubtedly the highlight of many a visit to the park. Travel to Rwanda. The park is also home to other rare animal species, including golden monkeys, bushbucks and a variety of bird species.

1. Golden monkeys

In addition to the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys can also be found in Volcanoes National Park. These small primates are characterized by their golden fur and their social groups. The park plays an important role in the protection and research of this species.

Goldmeerkatze kaut an grünen Blättern

2. Various bird species

The national park is also a paradise for bird lovers. A variety of bird species, including turacos, birds of prey, hummingbirds and many more, inhabit the various habitats of the park.

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the beauty of nature while contributing to sustainable development. From breathtaking landscapes to rare animal encounters and a deep insight into conservation, a visit to this park is a journey that will live long in the memory.

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