Everything You Need to Know about Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking

East Africa offers incredible bucket-list gorilla and chimpanzee trekking experiences. As safari experts, we’ve welcomed over 150,000 visitors from around the world to our continent, including the countries Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo

These countries are the only places in the world where you can see mountain gorillas, with just over half of 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 nationals parks in the surrounding countries, namely Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. 

If you would like to see mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, you should visit Rwanda or Uganda, while Congo is ideal for seeing both mountain and lowland gorillas. 

The best time for gorilla or chimpanzee 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 and chimpanzee trekking experience for you.

Where can you go Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking

Land of a Thousand Hills: Rwanda 

Rwanda, with its volcanic peaks and thick forested slopes, is often referred to as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ or the ‘Switzerland of Africa’, and is one of the most popular destinations to do both gorilla and chimpanzee trekking. It’s also home to over 700 bird species, making it a birder’s paradise. 

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is one of the best places to do gorilla trekking as it’s the most accessible park, located a mere two-hour drive from Kigali’s airport, the capital city of Rwanda

Sheltering the Rwandan section of the Virunga Mountains, this is where Dian Fossey started her studies of mountain gorillas and 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 is the golden monkey, around 200 bird species, and other animals such as elusive elephant and buffalo herds.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park

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 including 200 different species of orchid, 85 mammals, 310 bird species, and more. Another highlight in this park is the 200-metre long and 40-metre high suspended canopy walkway that offers a unique view of the forest.

The Pearl of Africa: Uganda 

In Uganda, you can also do both gorilla and chimpanzee trekking. 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 is found nowhere else in the world. It’s also home to 330 mammals and 1000 plus different bird species, making it a dream for any birding or wildlife enthusiast. 

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park 

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 Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other than being home to around 400 mountain gorillas, you will also find 120 mammals including forest duikers, L’Hoest monkeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and bushbuck, as well as 220 butterfly and 350 bird species. If you’re very lucky, you can catch a glimpse of forest elephants.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Queen Elizabeth National Park 

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second-largest park in Uganda, after Murchison Falls National Park. Its key attraction is the habituated group of chimpanzees, with other wildlife including 95 mammals, of which 10 are primates, and over 600 bird species, 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! 

Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park might be the smallest in the country, however, we can assure you that in this case dynamite comes in small packages. Part of the Virunga Conservation Area between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 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.

Africa’s Amazon: The Republic of Congo

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 chimpanzee trekking destinations, allowing for more availability. 

Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Odzala-Kokoua National Park 

Odzala-Kokoua National Park is located in northwestern Congo, in the heart of the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world after the Amazon. Here you will get to see the western lowland gorillas, as well as 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 flatter, heavily forested landscapes as opposed to mountain gorillas that can only survive in high altitudes. 

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park 

Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Virunga National Park borders the Virunga mountain range that’s home to the mountain gorilla and is one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. Picture dense forest, lava lakes, and open savannah plains. 

Here you can also combine your gorilla trekking experience with a wildlife safari through the surrounding savannah plains to see animals including lions, buffalo, hippos and elephants.

Important Trekking Tips and Information

Whether you go trekking in Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo, the rules and regulations are pretty similar. First and foremost, anyone who wants to go gorilla or chimpanzee trekking will require a permit. This is in order to protect the animals as the number of permits granted are 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 600 USD whereas in Rwanda it costs around 1,500 USD (as of October 2019). The proceeds of these permits go directly to the protection of 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 high altitudes.  Because of the countries’ proximity to the equator, the weather will be warm and tropical during the day, but 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. 

What to Pack for a Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking Trip

You will be trekking through thick rainforests, so in order to avoid scratches and insect bites, we recommend that you wear 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

  • Hat

  • Multiple pairs of socks

  • Gardening gloves 

  • Insect repellent 

  • Camera (but please note that flashlight photography is strictly prohibited)

Combine Your Trip with Other Bucket-List Experiences

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

You can also use our tour builder to customise your Gorilla Trekking tour in Rwanda, which has been picked as one of our top 4 tours to experience in 2020.

At Rhino Africa, 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.

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