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How to Trek Gorillas In Rwandas Virunga National Park

By Edited Oct 31, 2016 0 0

Rwanda is a tiny, landlocked country in Central/East Africa. It's know for primarily three things, a horrible genocide that took the lives of 1 million people in a hundred agonizing days in 1994, its outspoken and controversial president Paul Kagame, and it's astounding natural beauty, not least of which are its gorillas, some of the last alive on the planet.

For anyone that wants to trek Rwanda's famous mountain gorilla's, be warned. The price for a permit alone is 500 USD. That's right, 500 USD for one hour's worth of interaction ( watching from afar) with the Gorilla's. If you have that much to spend, and are keen to see one of mother natures wonder's, continue reading this article. If you think this is too much to pay, then by all means skip ahead to the next topics.

For those still with me, congratulations. You are about to embark on a wonderful adventure. To get gorilla permits in Rwanda, you have to go through a number of procedures. The easiest way, and by far most expensive, is to contact a tour operator who will book your permits, but levy a charge on them. In addition, most operators wont just purchase you permits, you will have to plan a whole itinerary with them, which will end up costing you even more money.

To begin, you have to reserve your permit at least a month in advance, (longer in the peak season as the available permits are quickly sold out) and pay 200 USD. This is just the first step, do not get excited yet. A month prior to trekking, you must pay the remaining 300 USD "top-up", and provide your full name for the records. Once you do this, you officially have a gorilla permit and are entitled to one hour with the magnificent beasts.

But wait. You get to Rwanda, land in the capital Kigali, and realize you now have to get transport to Ruhengeri, the nearest town to the staging area for gorilla trekking. Ruhengeri is 2 hours north, and you have two options. Hire a car for 100 USD, or take a bus for 4 USD. Your choice, but either should be easy to find. Ask around for a car/taxi going to the north and you will be able to find one quickly, especially at the airport. For the buses, you can head to the center of town, and ask for Virunga or Belvedere lines, both reputable companies that travel to the north.

Once you get to Ruhengeri, you can overnight there at any of the hotels in town. They are easy to find as tourism is essentially the only industry in that area. Beware of being overcharged, especially for a taxi around town. The day before the trek, you should contract with a reputable driver or company (there are many which are easy to find in the area) to pick you up and bring you to the staging area at Kinigi by 7:00 AM latest. This should cost you a maximum of 150 USD, and should include a trip back after your trek.

Once you have this sorted, and when you get to Kinigi the next morning, you're home free. There are some minor procedures and introductions before the actual trek, but these last at most an hour before you set out for the actual trek.

However, be warned that anybody sick will not be allowed to trek in order to keep the gorilla's healthy. Human and gorilla anatomy/immune systems are extremely similar and they can catch many of the diseases that we can. Finally, sometimes it may take hours to find the group you are trekking. Be patient, you are guaranteed an hour with the gorilla's, but it may end up taking you 4 hours to trek to reach them.

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