Gorilla trekking in Africa is one of the most moving and exclusive experiences in the world. And because the gorilla is an endangered species, you can only find them in some protected national parks in East Africa.
These countries are the only places in the world where you can see mountain gorillas, with just over half of the mountain gorillas left in the world found in the Virunga Mountains or Massif. A range of volcanoes stretching along the borders of these three countries, the mountains and their inhabitants are protected by certain national parks in the surrounding countries, namely Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
The best time for gorilla trekking is during the dry months, from June to September or between January and February. This is due to easier trekking conditions as the terrain can get quite slippery during rainy seasons.
To see primates in their natural habitat is a life-changing experience. With our expert advice, we can tailor-make a dream gorilla trekking experience for you.
With its volcanic peaks and thickly forested slopes, Rwanda is often referred to as the "Land of a Thousand Hills" or the "Switzerland of Africa". It's one of the most popular destinations for gorilla trekking and home to over 700 bird species, making it a birder's paradise.
Volcanoes National Park is one of the best places to do gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It's also the most accessible park, located a mere two-hour drive from Kigali's airport, the country's capital city.
Sheltering the Rwandan section of the Virunga Mountains, this is where Dian Fossey started her mountain gorilla studies. And it's the setting for the book and film "Gorillas in the Mist". Home to over 400 endangered mountain gorillas, it's a must-visit.
Other wildlife you can look forward to seeing here include the golden monkey, around 200 bird species, and other animals such as elusive elephant and buffalo herds.
You can also do gorilla trekking in Uganda. Dubbed the "Pearl of Africa", it's one of the most unique and biodiverse countries in the world. Here you'll find 13 types of primates, of which some are found nowhere else in the world. It's also home to 330 mammal and 1,000 plus bird species, making it a dream for any wildlife enthusiast.
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in the southwestern corner of Uganda, is the country's most popular tourist attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's located on the border of the DRC.
Besides being home to around 400 mountain gorillas, you'll also find 120 mammal species, including forest duikers, L'Hoest monkeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, bushbuck, plus 220 butterfly and 350 bird species. If you're very lucky, you can catch a glimpse of forest elephants.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park might be the smallest in the country. However, we can assure you that dynamite comes in small packages in this case. Part of the Virunga Conservation Area between Rwanda and the DRC, it's bordered by the Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park.
Other than mountain gorillas, you can look forward to seeing an impressive array of animals, including the golden monkey, blue monkey, golden cat, leopard, and various bird species.
The country's name is derived from the deepest and second-largest river in the world, the Congo River. What makes this country great for trekking is that it's not yet as popular as the other primate trekking destinations, allowing for more exclusivity and availability.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park is located in northwestern Republic of Congo, in the heart of the second-largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon. Here you'll get to see the western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, and over 444 bird species.
The key differences between these lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas are that mountain gorillas are larger, with longer hair and shorter arms. Lowland gorillas are also more likely to be spotted in trees and live in the flatter, heavily forested landscapes compared to mountain gorillas that can only survive in high altitudes.
Africa's oldest national park and a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Virunga National Park, is home to the mountain gorilla and one of the world's most biodiverse areas. Picture dense forest, lava lakes, and open savannah plains.
You can also combine your gorilla trekking in the Republic of Congo experience with a wildlife safari through the surrounding savannah plains to see animals like lions, buffalo, hippos and elephants.
Whether you go gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda or the Republic of Congo, the rules and regulations are pretty similar. First and foremost, anyone who wants to go gorilla trekking will require a permit. This is to protect the animals as the number of permits granted is limited, group size is restricted, and each group is only allowed to spend one hour with a gorilla family per day.
A permit in Uganda will cost you approximately 700 USD. In Rwanda, it costs around 1,500 USD (as of May 2022). The proceeds of these permits go directly toward protecting these species in the respective countries.
Please note that you have to be 15 years or older and that it's a physically demanding activity due to the high humidity, especially at higher altitudes. Because of the countries' proximity to the equator, the weather will be warm and tropical during the day. However, the temperature will drop quite significantly when the sun sets in the mountainous regions of Rwanda and Uganda. It's therefore important to pack the correct clothing and gear.
You will be gorilla trekking through thick rainforests, so to avoid scratches and insect bites, we recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers. It will often be a steep climb to get to the gorillas, so opt for light, breathable clothing.
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Warm jersey
- Long trousers, preferably waterproof
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Rain jacket
- Multiple pairs of socks
- Gardening gloves
- Insect repellent
- Camera (but please note that flashlight photography is strictly prohibited)
Depending on where you go, your gorilla trekking permit can cost anything from 700-1,500 USD per person. These funds contribute directly to protecting these primates and their habitat. The overall cost of your gorilla trekking holiday depends on various factors. Other than where and when you're visiting, your accommodation, transportation, inclusions, and other costs.
Asking is gorilla trekking worth it is like asking is breathing necessary? Absolutely, yes! Topping bucket lists across the globe, gorilla trekking is an experience that few have the privilege of experiencing, but everyone should!
So then, if gorilla trekking is so special, is chimpanzee trekking worth it? A million times yes! Chimpanzees are majestic in their own right. Take it from Jane Goodall, who dedicated her life to studying and protecting these primates. Here are some of the best places to go chimpanzee trekking in Africa.
There are two protected national parks in Tanzania where you can see chimpanzees, namely Mahale Mountain National Park and Gombe National Park.
In Mahale Mountain National Park, you can admire their fascinating human-like behaviour by trekking along the forested mountain slopes. Mahale is not only famous for having the highest chimpanzee population, but it’s also the only place where you’ll see chimpanzees and lions cohabitating.
On the other hand, Gombe National Park is best known for primatologist Jane Goodall, who conducted her studies of the endangered chimpanzees and their behaviour here. A haven for chimpanzees with its thick forests, there are also many other species to observe, such as primates like vervet and colobus monkeys.
Uniquely located on a ridge between the Nile and the Congo Rivers, the Nyungwe Forest National Park is incredibly rich in biodiversity and protects one of eastern Africa’s largest belts of montane rainforest.
It’s home not only to a habituated group of chimpanzees but also to other primates, including the Ruwenzori colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey, more than 1,050 plant species that include 200 different species of orchid, 85 mammal species, 310 bird species, and more. Another highlight in this national park is the 200-metre long and 40-metre high suspended canopy walkway that offers a unique view of the forest.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second-largest park in Uganda. Its key attraction is the habituated group of chimpanzees, with other wildlife including 95 mammal species, of which 10 are primates. You can also see 600 bird species flitting through the park, making it one of the best birding destinations in East Africa.
In the eastern part of the reserve, you will find the “Valley of Apes” where you can see chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons and red-tailed monkeys. The south of the park is very well-known for its unusual tree-climbing lions, a rare and special sight!
It’s easy to combine your gorilla and chimpanzee trekking experience with visits to other African destinations. If you’re coming all the way, you might as well experience everything that has Africa to offer!
One of our most popular options is to combine your gorilla trekking experience with a Great Migration safari in East Africa. Or, you can experience the best of both Rwanda and Congo in our Primate Expedition Tour or our Gorilla and Chimp tour. Finally, get the best of Africa by combining your gorilla trekking with a beach getaway in Zanzibar.
As the World’s Best Safari Company, we’ve experienced all of the above and will create the best possible safari experiences for you. Take advantage of our expertise and book your gorilla trekking experience today! We can’t wait to change your life by sharing this experience with you.