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4 Best Countries for Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Gorilla Trekking in Africa
Photo by Mike Arney

Africa is a continent renowned for its rich biodiversity and mesmerizing wildlife encounters. For over a century and still counting, African safaris have been mainly about spotting the big five in the African wilderness. However, in the last two decades, primate safaris have become more popular with gorilla trekking topping the list.

Gorillas are found in East, Central and West Africa however not all these countries offer over 85% chances of seeing these animals in the wild. In this article, we will explore the top countries in Africa that offer gorilla tours with at least 85% chances of spotting the gorillas.

It is important to note that the top destinations offer over 95% chances of spotting the gorillas in the jungles. Here are the top countries in Africa for gorilla trekking.

Rwanda: The Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda, often referred to as “The Land of a Thousand Hills,” is a small yet captivating country that has gained recognition for its efforts in gorilla conservation. To many; Rwanda is more of the pioneer of gorilla tourism courtesy of Dian Fossey who was murdered in 1985 in Rwanda.

Dian Fossey’s story with the mountain gorillas is a captivating one and worth any conservation enthusiast’s attention. It is like the cornerstone of gorilla safaris in Africa placing Rwanda at the helm of primate tourism on the African continent.

Trekking through lush rainforests and misty mountains of the Volcanoes national park; visitors not only witness gorillas but also immerse themselves in Rwanda’s breathtaking scenery. Most tourists who opt for Rwanda safaris do not miss including the Volcanoes National Park within their itineraries. Today gorilla tracking fetches most tourism receipts to Rwanda.

However, besides the availability of gorillas in Rwanda and the Dian Fossey story, Rwanda is a prime gorilla trekking destination because it offers a minimum of 98% chances of spotting gorillas on any given day. On top of this, the road network from Kigali coupled with the safety in Rwanda; all make gorilla trekking in Rwanda exceptional.

Uganda: A Primate Haven

Uganda, known as the “Pearl of Africa,” boasts a diverse array of wildlife, landscapes, and culture. Among its treasures are the mountain gorillas residing in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Trekking through the dense forests of Bwindi, visitors have the chance to encounter several gorilla families and observe their fascinating behavior.

In the footsteps of Rwanda, Uganda has levelled up in gorilla conservation striking many into awe for its large population of the mountain gorillas. It is important to note that Uganda is home to more than half of the remaining endangered mountain gorillas in the whole world.

However, it is still placed second after Rwanda because it has not marketed to the degree of Rwanda. Also, the low marketing means that though something is being done to improve things such as accessibility and safety, it is not to the degree of Rwanda because tourism is not the front runner product for Uganda.

The country, similar to Rwanda offers over 98% chances of spotting the mountain gorillas on any given day. The only difference is Uganda offers gorilla trekking permits at half price if compared to Rwanda.

Like in Rwanda, Uganda’s gorilla trekking experience can also be complemented by the country’s other primate species, including chimpanzees and golden monkeys, on a Uganda safari, a fascinating journey wildlife journey awaits you.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Untamed Wilderness

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the least known and least explored countries when it comes to African safaris. The country’s image has mainly been tarnished by civil wars and mineral related controversies. But beyond this bad PR, DRC remains among the top gorilla trekking destinations in Africa.

Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to a significant portion of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. Despite the challenges posed by political instability, the park remains a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.

The gorilla trekking experience in Virunga national park is still unmatched unfortunately it is on and off due to security alerts. The administration of Virunga often turns down tourists until they are sure that the park is safe for visitors.

When you search for Virunga national park reviews, you realize that the park does not have any negative reviews from tourists regardless of the continuous civil wars in the Democratic republic of Congo.  The country also has another gorilla trekking destination well known as Kahuzi Biega national park.

DRC stands out because it offers the cheapest gorilla trekking permits within the East African community.

Republic of the Congo: Odzala-Kokoua National Park

The Republic of the Congo, often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, the DRC, is a hidden gem for gorilla enthusiasts. Odzala-Kokoua National Park, located in the country’s northwest, is a pristine wilderness teeming with incredible biodiversity.

The country is relatively accessible but main challenge is the land connectivity to the nearby destinations more so for those who wish to avoid flights on their African safaris.

Visitors can embark on gorilla treks within this remote park, encountering both western lowland gorillas and the critically endangered western gorillas. Exploring the rainforest alongside expert guides provides a truly immersive experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the fragile beauty of the gorillas’ habitat while contributing to their conservation.

Most of the travelers that choose Congo are often looking out for Uniqueness or a place that many people have not been. But this also comes with a risk of making the journey there and still not finding the gorillas. It is for this reason that some people stick to Uganda and Rwanda.

How to Book Your Gorilla Tracking Safari in Africa

Gorilla tracking safaris in Africa offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Whether you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast or simply seeking an adventure in the heart of Africa, planning and booking your gorilla tracking safari requires careful consideration. Here are some valuable insights and tips to ensure a successful and memorable experience;

Choose Your Destination

Uganda and Rwanda are the most popular gorilla trekking destinations. Many gorilla trekking guides often rotate around Uganda and Rwanda but there are also other gorilla trekking destinations such as Gabon, Central African Republic among several other options.

However, you wish to consider a destination where you have over 95% chances of seeing the gorillas; then Uganda and Rwanda should make up your shortlist. Both Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are renowned for their thriving gorilla populations and well-established tourism infrastructure.

Among the things to consider when choosing your gorilla trekking destination include but not limited to accessibility, safety and the safari rates.

Determine Your Travel Dates

Gorilla tracking permits are a basic necessity for gorilla trekking and they often sell out in the peak season (Summer holiday time). It is therefore crucial to determine your travel dates well in advance.

Permits are usually issued on a first-come, first-served basis. It is also important to put in consideration factors such as the weather conditions, flight availability, and your personal schedule when finalizing your travel dates.

Choose a Tour Operator

Many travel writers will recommend you to choose a reputable tour operator for a smooth and well-organized experience. However, our recommendation would be for you to choose any licensed tour operator with at least 5 years of experience.

It is hard to identify a reputable company. Online reputation can easily be faked and in other instances the reputable operators often charge a little be higher than none reputable ones. In order to determine how long the company has been in business, consider checking how old their first reviews are.

The purpose of booking with a licensed and experienced tour operator is to help you handle permit applications, transportation, accommodation, and guides, ensuring your trip is safe, comfortable, and unforgettable.

Secure Gorilla Tracking Permits

Gorilla tracking permits are issued by the respective national park authorities. Once you have chosen your destination and tour operator, they will assist you in securing the necessary permits. Permits typically come with a specific date and cost, and it is advisable to book them as early as possible.

Always remember, there are extra fees charged for late reschedules, thus you must be sure of the dates when booking the permits.  A limited number are issued each day to minimize disturbance to the gorillas. Be prepared to provide personal details and make full payment in advance to secure your permits.

Plan Your Itinerary and Accommodation

Work with your tour operator to plan a well-structured itinerary that includes gorilla tracking, as well as other attractions and activities in the region. Determine the number of days you wish to spend on the safari, considering factors like travel time, acclimatization, and the duration of your gorilla tracking experience. Select accommodation options that suit your preferences and budget, ranging from luxury lodges to budget-friendly guesthouses near the national parks.

It is important to note also that you should never book accommodation before securing a gorilla trekking permit. Your trip will likely get messy if you book accommodation for instance in Buhoma sector of Bwindi impenetrable forest yet you are planning to trek in Rushaga or Nkuringo sector.

Prepare for the Adventure

Before embarking on your gorilla tracking safari, ensure you are physically fit and in good health. Gorilla tracking involves hiking through dense forests and rugged terrain, so adequate fitness levels will enhance your experience.

Pack appropriate clothing, including sturdy hiking boots, long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and a waterproof jacket. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat, and a sturdy backpack to carry your belongings.

Gorilla trekking in Africa is a bucket-list adventure that offers an intimate connection with one of the world’s most endangered species. Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo provide unique opportunities to witness these remarkable creatures in their natural habitats.

With the above highlights and recommendations, you can have a successful and memorable gorilla trekking safari in any of the above African countries.