Rwanda is one of the the only three countries that protect the mountain gorillas. There are about 900 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, and nearly a third of these great apes are found in the Volcanoes National Park of Northern Rwanda.
Rwanda has been at the fore front of gorilla conservation. Its conservation efforts were popularised by the noble woman Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who was murdered while protecting the mountain gorillas in the northern part of the country.
Every year thousands of travelers visit the Volcanoes National Park for tourism, an adventure activity that involve hiking in the montane forest looking for the mountain gorillas. Commonly referred to as gorilla trekking (also known as gorilla tracking) this is the best wildlife safari experience that you can ever get in Africa. On a gorilla trek, you will meet the great apes eye to eye with no boundary!
Where to see gorillas in Rwanda
Rwanda is a smaller country than Uganda, so is in better position to provide short trips for tourists in a combination with safaris or beach stay than elsewhere in East Africa.
The Volcanoes National Park is about two and half hours’ drive from Kigali international airport on a tarmac road. For one day trip to visit the gorillas, you will need a minimum of one night stay in Kigali, and two nights would be ideal.
Rwanda has almost the same number of habituated mountain gorilla family groups like Uganda and so permits are generally easily available for visitors.
Rwanda Gorilla groups
There are currently seven main groups that can be tracked in Rwanda; the Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Bwenge, Titus and Group Thirteen.
The groups vary in number from around 9 to 39 individuals and all currently have at least one silverback male. Of the seven groups, there are a couple that tend to be found on the saddle between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga which is around a two hour walk from the park entrance.
Whilst it is not possible to book a permit for a specific group, your chances of having a shorter walk are higher than in Uganda. Nothing is guaranteed though and you may find yourself tracking a group such as the Susa, first studied by Diane Fossey and often found on the slopes of Mount Visoke, a five hour hike away.
Where to stay in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Mountain Gorilla View Lodge
Surrounded by striking natural scenery and positioned at the footage of volcanic mountain range, Gorilla Mountain View Lodge is a simple property within easy access to Volcanoes National Park, where approximately a third of the world’s mountain gorilla population reside.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
This lodge fills a gap in the accommodation industry currently available at Ruhengeri, combining high quality, luxurious accommodation to high end travelers with an excellent location close to the Park Headquarters.
Virunga Lodge is a lovely eco-friendly lodge; the real attraction to this lodge is the stunning views of the twin lakes and the Virunga Volcanoes. It is an hour drive to Volcanoes National Park.