No matter how long or complicated your Tanzanian holiday is, taking a few days out to see the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda is always a possibility and a definite highlight!
The Mountain Gorillas (along with the Golden Monkeys who are also listed on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species) are found amongst a chain of five volcanoes in northern Rwanda- in Virunga Volcanoes National Park. Declared a park in 1925, this special site of the Virunga Mountain Range (which sits at quite a high altitude) is home to over half the surviving 650 Mountain Gorillas in the region.
The critically endangered Mountain Gorillas are the largest living primates on earth. Numbering only about 720 individuals worldwide, this large hominid (who shares 95% of their genes with humans), are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, disease and war.
Safaris R Us is able to organise complete Mountain Gorilla/Golden Monkey packages- from flights into Kigali, accommodation, meals and tracking permits to seeing other special sites like the Rwandan Genocide Memorial and the Ex-poachers Village.
However note that if you want to do this side trip you will need to book as early as possible because depending on the time that you want to visit, the gorilla tracking permits can be difficult to obtain (as only 8 people a day, per gorilla group, are allowed to track and then sit with the gorillas for a magical hour).
When packing your personal items for tracking, try and pack the following things:
* Windbreaker or light raincoat. Even though the weather at the National Park can be both hot and cold, it is classified as a rainforest and so the possibility of rain is above average.
* Good hiking boots and if possible gaiters to wear over your boots
* If you like a walking stick, pack a foldable one
* Garden type gloves (to avoid stinging nettles and to help with grabbing into thorny vegetation)
* At 1,700m above sea level, it is generally quite cold in the mornings and evenings and so a light sweater, trousers and long sleeve shirts are recommended for both the cold and to prevent yourself from mosquitoes.
…..and on the actual track, carry as little as possible in a waterproof bag: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, your camera, drinking water, etc…
Rwanda is unfortunately well-known for the terrible events that occurred in 1994. More than one million people were killed in the genocide that occurred in approx one month only.
Since then, reconciliation has happened but nobody will – and nobody should – forget these events. A number of memorials have been erected in the different sites where mass-murders were perpetrated and the official genocide memorial in Kigali has been opened in 2004, 10 years after the end of the genocide itself. You will have the possibility to visit the memorial and you can pay your respect to the numerous victims, whose names are all listed on the “wall of names”.
Rwanda is a landlocked country located in East-Central Africa and surrounded by Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The country is covered mostly by steep hills and deep valleys with its highest point being the Karisimbi volcano (14,187 ft; 4,324 m) in the Virunga Mountains. Rwanda is a nice country, with an immense history from the genocide but also with amazing people, great lakes, mountains, an excellent climate, good roads and a nice standard of living…. Rwanda being quite small, all its attractions are close to each other.
Before you come
In regards to Immigration, it’s best to organise your Rwandan Tourist Visa at the Rwandan Embassy nearest to you before arriving into East Africa. www.migration.gov.rw is a link which can also help you if you are already in East Africa. Electricity is 220V and so any appliance used in Australia for example is fine to also use in Rwanda. You can bring both video and still cameras on the treks as there is no charge for private filming in the park (but there is a fee for commercial filming with necessary prior arrangements). You can charge batteries at the lodge the night before if need be. However please bear in mind that using the flash of your camera is NOT allowed around the gorillas.
It is NOT advisable to drink water from taps in Rwanda. You will be able to get bottled water from local shops wherever you go. You must also remember to carry water on the actual track – depending on your consumption, 2 litres min are advisable.
The unit of currency in Rwanda is the Rwanda franc and the USD the hard currency of preference. Very few places in Rwanda accept either credit cards or traveller's cheques. You can find some ATM in Kigali but it is advisable to have USD in cash.
The only vaccination you need to enter Rwanda is Yellow Fever. However we strongly suggest that you see your doctor about malaria precautions.
Gorilla Tracking Regulations
Depending on where the Mountain Gorillas at the time of your visit, the tracking may involve walking long distances through thick vegetation or walking up and down through sometimes steep, wet and muddy terrain. We therefore recommend you pace yourself, walk slowly and drink lots of water.
Children under 15 yrs of age are not allowed on gorilla tracking.
Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small charge.
When sitting with the gorillas, please keep your voice low, do not make any sudden movements and maintain a distance of 7m from the gorillas so as to minimize possible transmission of human diseases. If you are sick with a cold, flu or any other contagious illness, then it’s best not to visit the gorillas.
Should you need to cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth and nose and turn away from the gorillas.
Spitting or peeing in the park is strictly prohibited.
Do not litter the park. Eating and drinking near the gorillas and smoking anywhere within the park is forbidden. You are allowed to bring a small snack to eat during your hike if needed.
Photography and personal video is permitted, but you may NOT use the flash.
Should a gorilla charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.
There is no need for concern about your personal security. The safety of our clients is our highest priority: the guides, trackers, porters and workers of the park are trained to deal with most of the situations you could encounter and will be here to give you advice on what to do. They are here to help you enjoy this experience.
The park currently has a team of 80 trackers and anti-poachers, many of whom speak French or English.
"The overall experience was amazing! We were fortunate to visit a parish in the slums in Nairobi, and it was a fabulous experience. Having the opportunity to compare St Jude’s and the success that it has had, to the school in Nairobi. It was like having three holidays in one,... Read more
"Sorry it has taken so long to send an appreciation letter to you for our outstanding safari. Edwin has so much knowledge and is so giving in everything he does. He needs to know what a great job he does. We will be recommending Safaris-R-us to anyone who visits Africa.... Read more