No matter how long or complex your Tanzanian holiday is, taking a few days out to see the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda is always a possibility and a definite highlight! Note that if you wish to make this side trip, you will need to book as early as possible, because depending on the time that you wish to come, the gorilla tracking permits can be difficult to obtain. Only 8 people per day, per group are allowed to track and sit with the gorillas for a magical hour.
The Mountain Gorillas, along with the Golden Monkeys (who are also listed on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species) are found in the Virunga Volcanoes National Park, part of a chain of five volcanoes in northern Rwanda. 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 of 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 loss of habitat, 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. We can also organise visits to other special sites such as the Rwandan Genocide Memorial and the Ex-poachers Village.
When packing your personal items for tracking, remember to pack the following:
• A windbreaker or light raincoat. Even though the weather at the National Park can be both hot and cold, it is classified as a rainforest so the possibility of rain is above average
• Good hiking boots and gaiters to wear over your boots (if possible)
• A folding walking stick if you like
• Garden gloves or similar, to avoid stinging nettles and to help when grabbing thorny vegetation
• A hat
• A light sweater, trousers and long sleeve shirts to protect against morning/evening cold weather and mosquito bites
…..and on the actual track, carry as little as possible in a waterproof bag: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, drinking water, etc.
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 mainly covered 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, although known for the 1994 genocide, is a pleasant, beautiful country with amazing people, great lakes, mountains, climate, good roads and a standard of living. As Rwanda is quite small, all its attractions are close to each other.
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 over approx a one month period.
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-murder was perpetrated. The official genocide memorial in Kigali was opened in 2004, 10 years after the end of the genocide. You will have the opportunity to visit the memorial where you can pay your respect to the numerous victims, whose names are listed on the “wall of names”.
Before you come
It’s best to organise your Rwandan Tourist Visa at the Rwandan Embassy nearest to you before arriving into East Africa, however www.migration.gov.rw is a link that can also help you if you are already here in East Africa.
Electricity is 220V, so any appliance used in Australia for example, is fine to 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 (although 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 minimum is advisable.
The unit of currency in Rwanda is the Rwanda Franc and the USD is the currency of preference. Very few places in Rwanda accept credit cards or travellers’ cheques. You can find ATMs in Kigali, but it is advisable to bring USD 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 are 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 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 urinating 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 has a team of 80 trackers and anti-poachers, many of whom speak French and/or English.