There are only four locations in the whole world where you can find endangered mountain gorillas. These are ─ Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda, and the Virunga National Park in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A lot of preparation is involved from the moment you make up your mind to go gorilla trekking in Africa. Among the things you have to sort out is choosing the best trekking destination among the four destinations for the gorilla visits.
It is only after making that choice on where you will trek the mountain gorillas that you are able to book flights, if necessary, accommodation, Visas, and anything else that is involved in the African safaris.
In this article, we are running on the assumption that you simply want to visit one of these four locations, and your choice is not inspired by the budget but rather the quality of the gorilla trekking experience.
At this point, you already know that Volcanoes National Park Rwanda is the best place to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Also known as Parc Nationale des Volcanoes (PNV), this world-known destination is located in northern Rwanda within a distance of just 105 km from Kigali International Airport. This is the most popular destination that draws tourists to Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. This magnificent park was gazette as a protected area in 1925 and it is among the oldest national parks in Africa. It covers an area of 160 square kilometers and it is open to tourism all year round.
Though gorilla visits can be done in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo, Rwanda remains the most popular destination for unrivaled experiences of meeting the mountain gorillas in the wild. With the following reasons, find out why and how we come to conclude that you have to plan your next visit to the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, the best place to see the endangered apes in the wild;
Trek A Gorilla Family of Your Choice
The popular Volcanoes National Park is one of the three transboundary national parks that protect mountain gorillas. The park shares the over 600 mountain gorilla population that freely ranges between the Virunga Mountains of East Africa. The other two parks are the Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in Congo. Therefore, in regard to population, Bwindi impenetrable Forest has the highest gorilla population but for the following reason, Volcanoes national park is a better trekking destination.
Today, there are twelve gorilla families that have been habituated for tourism in the bamboo forest. These great apes permanently reside within the park and are fully habituated for touristic visits. Every eight tourists are assigned to visit a gorilla family on guided hikes through the montane forest.
One thing stands out in Volcanoes national park. You have the liberty to choose your preferred gorilla family, unlike any other gorilla trekking location.
Of course, there is an exception of Mgahinga national park which has only one habituated gorilla family thus very limited in terms of choice if compared to Volcanoes.
Accessibility From the City
Volcanoes National Park is easier to reach from Kigali city center. Among all the gorilla trekking destinations, the Parc Nationale des Volcanoes is the closest destination where visitors can see the mountain gorillas. The park is located just 78km from Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. This distance makes day trips possible.
In comparison to other destinations where gorilla visits are conducted, travelers require a minimum of 5 hours of transfer from Kigali international airport. Though sometimes people might find the Bwindi trek better, the transfer time usually ruins the experience.
Rwanda is a safe and secure tourist destination that can be visited at any time of the year. This is not the case with Virunga National Park in the D.R. Congo which still encounters some challenges of civil wars. Sometimes Virunga national park closes yet for the Volcanoes Park you can be sure that the part will be open anytime you make up your mind to trek gorillas.
Since the historic 1994 Rwanda genocide, peace and stability have prevailed in the Republic of Rwanda.
Rwanda has been making headlines for the border tensions with Congo but the instability has never spilled into Rwanda. The country is very secure.
It is the only gorilla trekking destination where you should expect exceptional police service and action against a tour operator if they do not meet the standard the government expects from them. Rwanda is the least corrupt country in East Africa
Better Gorilla Views and Photography Opportunities
The park is largely dominated by bamboo forest and its altitude is believed to be easier to hike through. For Bwindi which is considered to be the best gorilla trekking destination by some people; the park is largely dominated by a dense tropical forest which poses a number of challenges
First of all, during the wet season, it is challenging to cross streams and rivers sometimes. On top of that, when you encounter mountain gorillas, the visibility is not very clear sometimes because of the forest cover. We are not saying this is always the case in Bwindi but it happens sometimes.
Taking gorilla photos is part of the gorilla trekking experience. You will always be envious when you see the clarity of the photos that come out after your trip.
Both Uganda and Rwanda have abundant lodging options for travelers visiting the mountain gorillas. These accommodation options are classified as budget, midrange, and luxury safari lodges. However, what makes Rwanda stand out is the quality it offers for high-end clients.
If all you are looking out for is a great gorilla trekking experience no matter the cost, then Rwanda has exceptionally luxurious lodging options if compared with other tourism destinations. Some of the high-end lodges include Bisate Lodge, Amakoro Songa Lodge, One and Only Gorilla Nest, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Virunga Lodge and more.