What is Gorilla trekking safari

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Gorilla trekking safari! You might have been wondering what does that even mean. Is it tracking or trekking? Gorillas are herbivorous apes that live in central sub-Saharan Africa forests.

They are divided into two; the East Gorillas are also known as mountain gorillas and the West Gorillas commonly referred to as the lowland gorillas. The gorillas on spot here are the “Mountain gorilla” that is hard to find and can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorilla trekking that at times mistaken for gorilla tracking is the search for a tracked gorilla group and is done by tourists following gorilla trails in the forests. Mountain Gorilla tracking is done by park rangers especially very early in the morning or in the night looking for sleeping nests of the mountain gorilla groups to be trekked by tourists in the morning.

Popular Gorilla Trekking Safari Packages

3 Days Gorilla Safari To Bwindi 5 Days Rwanda Gorilla Safari
Uganda Primates safari 10 Days Rwanda Gorilla Tour
7 Days Safari To Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, And Kibale Np 5 Days Congo Gorilla And Nyiragongo Hike Safari


Gorilla trekking safaris involve the trekking, the tracking and things you need to know before going for the safari and during the gorilla safari experience.

mountain gorilla trekking
Encountering with a trekked Mountain Gorillas


Uganda Gorilla trekking safaris

Uganda gorilla safari is the best of all the three destinations. The pearl of Africa, Uganda has almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and the price of gorilla trekking permits are considerably fair at $700 each.

The pearl of Africa has two mountain gorilla parks that’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla National parks with 10 habituated groups and 1 group respectively. The gorilla groups include;

  • Kyaguliro Gorilla Family; consists of 15 individuals with 2 silverbacks lead by Rukina silverback who ousted the aging silverback Zeus. It is located in the Ruhija tracking sector of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.
  • Nyakagezi Gorilla Family; this is the only gorilla group found in Mgahinga gorilla national park of Uganda. It has 10 members, 2 infants, 2 adult females, 2 black backs and 3 silverbacks led by Mark seconded by Mafia, Bugingo, and Ndungtse.
  • Mubare Gorilla Family; it is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda was made available for tracking in 1993. By 2012, there only 5 members left in the group that formally has over 18 members who regrettably lost to other groups and death, as of 2018 January, they were 11 members. The group derived its name from Mubare hill where it is found. A dominant silverback Ruhondeza leads the group.
  • Habinyanja Gorilla Family; It is located in the Buhoma sector with 17 members. It was first habituated in 1997 and was named in a Rukiga.
  • Rushegura Gorilla Family; is found in the Buhoma tracking sector in the south of the Bwindi forest. This group is a result of the search for peace and it split from the Habiyanja group that was led by Mwiriwa who hooked away with 7 members. By 2010, the group had about 19 members and considered one of the calmest groups.
  • Bitukura Gorilla family; it is among the latest habituated groups in Bwindi. It has 4 silverbacks headed by Ndahura who succeeded the aging Karamuzi. The group had 24 members at the beginning that later decreased to 14 due to some members joining other groups.
  • Oruzogo Gorilla Family; it was the second habituated gorilla family living in areas of Ruhija in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Oruzogo family has a population of 25 gorillas, including two Silverback Tibirikwata-led silverbacks. It was opened for tourism in mid-2011, after which the population grew with new births.
  • Nshongi Gorilla Family; the group is composed of 10 members. The family of the Nshongi gorilla inherits its name from the river near which it was first seen. With a population of 26 individual gorillas including 4 silverbacks, it is located in the Rushaga market. “Nshongi” means, “honey” and refers to the river’s deep color.
  • Mishaya Gorilla Family; is found in the Rushaga sector in the Bwindi forest with a population of 12 members. Dominant silverback known as Mishaya leads the group. The group separated from the Nshongi family in 2010 and started a new family and also acquired female members from other groups.
  • Kahungye Gorilla Family; it has 13 gorilla members with 3 silverbacks led by Rumanzi deputized by Gwigi. It split recently from another group but was also separated to create a new group called Busingye family.
  • Busingye Gorilla Family; it split away from the Kahungye group in 2011 led by silverback Busingye. The name of the group means peace although the leading silverback is known for its rampant fights and ambitious nature of grabbing females from other groups to his
  • Bweza Gorilla Family; This family is also a result of separation from the Mishaya group and was made available for tracking in 2012.

NOTE: Circumstances such as reproduction, conflict, separation of families and death affect the size of the group from time to time. Therefore, the numbers given in this article may vary based on the time of our research and your arrival.

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Rwanda Gorilla trekking safaris

Rwanda is undoubtedly the most convenient gorilla trekking safaris destination with the shortest drive time of approximately 2 hours to the mountain gorilla-tracking site, Volcanoes national park.

The Virunga Mountains that are shared between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are home to about 500 mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park, part of Virunga Mountains on the Rwandan side has the largest number of habituated mountain gorilla groups for Rwanda gorilla tours. The Rwanda habituated gorilla groups ready for trekking are as follows;

  • Sabyinyo Group. This group is located between Sabyinyo and Mgahinga a close to forest’s edge with about 12 gorillas and two silverbacks.
  • Agashya Group, The former group thirteen has about 25 individuals with 2 silverbacks. It lives near the Sabinyo group.
  • Amahoro Group. It has 17 individual gorillas and lives between Karisoke and Visoke peaks that are far from the park headquarters.
  • Umubano Group, it also lives on the peaks of Visoke and Karisoke with 12 group members. This group together with Amahoro are considerably far but easies to track as compared to the Susa group.
  • Susa Group is one of the oldest gorilla groups in Rwanda that was originally habituated by Dian Fossey. This group had the largest number of gorillas of about 40 members with 3 silverbacks but was reduced to 28 individuals after it split creating another group called Igisha in 2009. Susa group has two pairs of twins and is found at Karisimbi Mountain.
  • Karisimbi Group, it is the faction that split away from Susa group in 20009. It also split into two in 2012 and is left with 11 gorillas living at Mount Karisimbi of Volcanoes National park.
  • Hirwa Group; it has about 11 members with one silverback and a pair of twins found on the slopes of Sabinyo mountain. Hirwa and Susa are the only groups surviving mountain gorilla twins in the world. It is one of the easiest groups to trek.
  • Kwitonda Group; this group was habituated on Congo but crossed to Rwanda in 2005, it has 18 members.
  • Bwenge Group; it was named after their famous silverback Bwenge. With its 11 members, it is known to be among the most troubled groups with lots of infighting and moves a lot. Recommended for tourists looking for a long hike.
  • Ugende Group; just as its name suggests “on move group”, moves a lot and fast and it’s hard to trek. It has 11 members.
  • Isimbi Group, it split from the Karisimbi group in 2012 and has 14 members. It had the oldest female gorilla that unfortunately went missing in the last days of August 2018.

NOTE: Circumstances such as reproduction, conflict, separation of families and death affect the size of the group from time to time. Therefore, the numbers given in this article may vary based on the time of our research and your arrival.


Democratic Republic of Congo Gorilla tours

D.R. Congo is known to be the cheapest Congo gorilla safaris destination against the other two countries; Uganda and Rwanda. Congo also has lowland gorillas besides the Mountain gorillas.

A gorilla permit in Congo costs $400 and mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National park. There are eight(8) known habituated Mountain Gorilla groups in D.R. Congo and they are as follows;

  • Kabirizi group: Previously known as Ndunguste groups, has 19 members and lead by a silverback called Kabirizi that is being challenged by a young silverback called Masibo. Trekking this group starts from the Bukima patrol post.
  • Humba group: This group is also tracked in the Bukima sector of the Park. It has 9 members and is the friendliest groups preferred by many tourists. A silverback Humba a brother to Senkwekwe who was laid to rest in 2007 leads the group.
  • Rugendo group: It derived its group name from the former silverback Bukima is the current silverback leading the family. It is one of the oldest known gorilla groups in Congo habituated in 1989 with 9 individuals.
  • Mapuwa group: The group is tracked in Jomba near Uganda-Congo border in Bunagana. It is led by Mapuwa silverback and has 22 gorillas.
  • Lulengo group: It has 9 members led by Lulengo silverback. The group was formally known as Musekura group.
  • Munyaga group: this group was habitude in 2008 with 7 members and is being tracked in the Bukima sector. Munyaga is the silverback leading the group although the leadership shifted to Mawazo and finally to Gasore. Bilali is the group’s adult female who gave birth to twins.
  • Nyakamwe group: It has 11 members led by Nyakamwe silverback and is one of Virunga National Park’s newly habituated gorilla families that were habituated at the same time as Bageni, Virunga National Park’s largest gorilla unit.
  • Bageni group: It is actually the Virunga National Park’s largest gorilla family. The Bageni group currently has 26 leaders, headed by Silverback Bageni. The group is currently struggling with the competition with 2 other silverbacks (Kanamaharagi and Kitagenda silverbacks) fighting for leadership of the group.

NOTE: Circumstances such as reproduction, conflict, separation of families and death affect the size of the group from time to time. Therefore, the numbers given in this article may vary based on the time of our research and your arrival.


Sample Packages for Gorilla Trekking Safaris

Click on the words “gorilla trekking safaris” above to view our ready-created gorilla safari packages. From short gorilla safaris to long Gorilla trekking tours. for only mountain gorilla trekking and those tailor-made to offer other tourist activities or attractions such as wildlife/game viewing, birding, and cultural encounter. There are also options for cross border safaris – combined tours.


Planning your gorilla safari tour in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo

Where to go for gorilla safari?

Mountain gorilla tours are done in only three African countries in the whole world; Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and of course the pearl of Africa, Uganda. While on your Rwanda safaris, gorilla trekking safari can be done in Volcanoes National Park also known as Parc National des Volcans. Mountain gorillas in Uganda can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park. D.R. Congo gorilla safaris happen in Virunga National park.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking safaris have not been dictated to a specific time or season. There are usually two seasons that is, wet and dry season. Each season offers a unique gorilla safari experience with a dry season between June to September and December to February being more convenient for tracking gorillas, as the gorilla trails are dry and clear. The rainy season from April to May and November is more arduous with muddy forest gorilla trails and lots of butterflies and birds. The mountain gorilla trekking forests receive tropical rains, so expect rain any time all year round.

wet mountain gorilla
Wet Mountain Gorilla after it rained – Gorilla Safari Experience inc.

Gorilla Trekking Permits

Gorilla trekking safari cannot happen before securing a gorilla permit. It is advisable to acquire a gorilla permit three to four months prior to your planned travel date as they are limited to a specific number per day.

It is hard to secure a gorilla trekking permit in a short time during the peak season usually the dry season, so you should always plan ahead of your schedule. The permit guarantees a free park entrance, an armed ranger during the tracking activity and an hour-long encountering with the giant apes.

About 80 mountain gorilla trekking permits are available every day on Rwanda gorilla safari at a cost of $1500 each gorilla permit. This price is high but aimed at helping strengthen the conservation efforts and developing local communities. Also, a 30% discount is offered to visitors staying for more than 3 consecutive days in the Nyungwe forest and Akagera national parks of Rwanda during the low seasons.

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Uganda gorilla safari offers about 88 gorilla permits a day on its 11 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National parks at a cost of $700 per permit starting 1st January 2020.

The gorilla permit price was raised from $600 due to various reasons that were raised by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda tourism board.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the least number of mountain gorilla trekking permits. It has 8 habituated gorilla groups creating 64 permits per day at a cost of $400 each.

Time spent trekking gorillas.

All way round in the three mountain gorilla trekking countries, the tracking exercise usually starts early in the morning with a briefing at the parks’ headquarters informing tourists about the safety tips while on course and with the giant apes.

Time spent with mountain gorillas is fixed to one hour for each gorilla group per day but the trekking process may take up to an hour or a maximum of 8 hours before tracking down any group, in other words, it is unpredictable.


How many people are allowed to trek a gorilla group?

Mountain gorillas are wild animals that are naturally shy and may not withstand a crowd of people. A maximum of 8 tourists are allowed to visit each gorilla group a day and as for their security, no close contact with the gentle giants. A 7-meter long distance is recommended.


Why Mountain Gorillas?

Is it worth paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for tracking primates? Many might be wondering! Mountain gorillas are far different from the common primates and more so the lowland gorillas.

  • First and foremost, no zoo in the world has ever managed to tame a mountain gorilla into a cage. You can only trek to see them.
  • Mountain gorillas are some of the world’s endangered species that were once on verge of extinction.
  • These giant primates can only be found in three countries in the whole world: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Virunga massif.
  • Mountain gorillas live in thick mountainous forests, which are an adventure too.

Most trekkers are somewhat apprehensive that a big silverback male gorilla can weigh up to 200 kg, or three times the average man’s weight won’t it hurt me, but anxiety typically disappears when you see the gorilla group. The gorillas are often scattered around a small area of dense vegetation eating and chatting, nonchalant about you. Occasionally, a playful young gorilla often approaches visitors curiously sometimes coming so close that they need to move away.

Therefore, why not a book with us an adventurous African safari like a gorilla trekking safari?


What to bring on Gorilla Trekking Safari:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes for the muddy trails.
  • Packed food and enough drinking water.
  • Rain jackets (unpredictable weather)
  • Insect repellent as there are many insects in the forest.
  • A camera to capture the great memories. (No flashlights)
  • Hiking stick (Usually offered by rangers)
  • Sunglasses and binoculars (visual enhancement)
gorilla trekking packing list
Items you may need before going for Gorilla Trekking Safari

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations

Just like any other activity, gorilla trekking safari has the does and don’ts that must be observed for the great experience and secure African safari. The following are the generally followed rules in the 3 mountain gorilla tracking countries;
  • Do not visit mountain gorillas while suffering from any communicable diseases like the cold.
  • In the case of a natural call, human waste must be buried deep in the ground.
  • You must be 15 years and above to track gorillas. Individuals below can only be allowed on special request.
  • Turn away and cover your lips in case of coughing or sneezing.
  • Visitors must be in a group of not more than 8 individuals.
  • Don’t lit in the park; you must carry with you all your used and unused items.
  • Smoking, eating and drinking while with gorillas is not permitted.
  • Always keep a distance of 7-meters away from gorillas.
  • Avoid using flashlights capturing mountain gorillas.
  • Gorilla encounter lasts for 1 hour.

Is it worth trekking gorillas?

Why would you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an activity that lasts for one hour? The answer is simple; The mountain gorilla remains threatened. As of 2008, mountain gorillas were listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and are dependent on conservation efforts to survive. The dollars paid on your Gorilla Safari contributes to the conservation efforts of these critically endangered Species

The fact that Mountain gorillas as a species are on the brink of extinction and Gorilla trekking is a highly restricted activity, encountering these rare gorillas in the wild, is considered a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience.

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