Silverback Gorilla, Rwanda

Watching Gorillas in Rwanda

Dominic CouzensBy Dominic Couzens
8th December 2020

Dominic is a Naturetrek tour leader and one of Britain's
best known and most prolific natural history writers.

Few would argue that encountering Mountain Gorillas is one of the world’s greatest experiences for the ecotourist, and Rwanda is an excellent and relatively convenient place to enjoy it. It is an intoxicating adventure, setting off from your comfortable hotel very early in the morning and trekking through some of Africa’s most beautiful landscapes before meeting up face to face with one of our closest relatives. These are wild but habituated animals that are used to people, but still come and go as they please. Sometimes finding them is fairly quick, but on other occasions your walk will turn into a substantial and thrilling trek. However tired you are, the sight of the Gorillas will produce an incredible surge of excitement, one that very few people every get to experience.

Where They Live

Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas are found in Volcanoes National Park, within the Virunga Mountains on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is in the north-west of this country, only two hours by road from the Rwandan capital Kigali. The park is famous as the site where Diane Fossey carried out her pioneering studies on Mountain Gorillas and brought their plight to the world. It is a lush rainforest above farmland, within rough and hilly terrain. Other highlights include the very rare Golden Monkey as well as a fabulous range of birds.

What to Expect

Gorilla trekking is a relatively arduous activity, often involving long walks over difficult terrain to find one of the eight groups of habituated animals. Very early in the morning you meet at the park headquarters and are allocated one of the groups to find, together with porters, if required. The walk begins in the surrounding farmland but you soon enter the forest, where the vegetation can be thick and difficult, while the hilly topography and thin air can present a challenge. It can take anything from less than an hour to several hours to find your Gorillas, and once you meet them you have a magical hour to enjoy in their presence, cameras clicking!

When to Go

You can go at any time of year, since the equatorial climate is stable and temperatures don’t vary much. Heavy rain may fall at any time. Much of Volcanoes National Park is above 2500m, so the air has a fresh feel.

Tour info

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Silverback Gorilla

Gorilla Family
Juvenile Gorilla
As an alternative to Rwanda, have you considered gorilla watching in Uganda?

Uganda’s mountain gorillas live in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, with the area containing about half of all the world’s gorilla population.