Nothing can quite prepare you for coming face to face with wild gorillas in Africa. While it certainly takes a little effort to reach gorillas in the wild, it’s well worth it. Not only is it an amazing experience, but trekking is a highly regulated experience that successfully supports the conservation of habitat and overall health of the mountain and western lowland gorillas in Africa.
Thanks to income derived from tourism, the mountain gorilla population has stabilized for the first time in recent history. The best estimates are that there are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild in total.
Getting to the Mountain Gorillas
There are only two populations of mountain gorillas left in the world, and they live in relatively remote areas of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as you can see on the map below.
What to expect on a Gorilla Trek
It’s important to be generally fit and healthy when booking a gorilla trek. Trekking is largely on steep hillside trails that can be muddy and rough. The vegetation is extremely thick.
You will embark on the trek with a professional guide and team of trackers, leading you into the forest in search of a habituated family of gorillas. Trekking can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, completely depending on the location of the family.
When you draw near to your gorilla family, you’ll likely smell them long before you hear or see them. Your guide will show you where to stand so you can stay safe and have the best views.
Once found, you may spend about one hour with the gorillas. Gorillas make gestures and express emotions we typically associate only with humans, which is one of the reasons gorilla trekking is such a life-changing encounter for so many travellers and certainly worth the expense and effort.
When is the best time of year for gorilla trekking?
While it is possible to go gorilla trekking throughout the year, the dry season tends to be the best time to enjoy a gorilla trek. The rains can make the trekking more difficult and more tiring, and the gorillas tend to seek shelter from the rain deep in the forest, making it more difficult to find them.
Depending on the country, the rainy season falls during different months.
Rwanda: The short rainy season is from October to November, while the long rains come from mid-March through to June.
Uganda: The rainy seasons are March – May and September – November.
Congo: North of the equator, the rains come from April to October. South of the equator, the rainy season stretches from November to March.
Where You’ll Sleep when Gorilla Trekking
Rest assured, after a long day trekking, you will have a warm, comfortable bed to come home to! We love the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda. Between the cozy library and fireplaces throughout the property, this lodge is a wonderful place to warm up and rest after a thrilling day in the mountains.
In Uganda, Gorilla Forest Camp is tucked away in the middle of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, known for truly theatrical landscape, including volcanoes, jagged valleys, waterfalls, lakes and dramatic mountain ranges. Be sure to visit the on-site spa for an afternoon of well-deserved post-trekking relaxation!