I would highly recommend this adventure to anyone who loves seeing primates in their natural habitat. The center also helps to eliminate poaching in the hills of Rwanda by hiring young men as porters. Hire a porter if you go. They carry your backpack, water, and jackets. They also help you navigate the steep and narrow muddy trails.
My husband and I did two gorilla treks in May 12th 2015. We were based at Virunga Lodge so we had a 45 minute drive to the park headquarters. When you arrive at the part headquarters at 7am, you are left to enjoy the dancers and coffee with the other trekkers while your driver negotiates which gorilla family you will visit. Once you have been designated a family you join the other tourists (up to eight) and your two guides for the day. You are given the info about the family. Your driver then takes you to the start point of the trek. The porters wait at the start point in the hope of employment for the day. Please hire one. The minimum amount to pay for a porter is $15, but these guys are worth their weight in gold. They not only carry your bag but support, pull and push you were necessary. Also, the more porters per group the easier it is to get over the park wall. We were also given walking sticks to use at this point.
The treks start over farmland. Once you reach the park wall you are given a brief about behaviour (both ours and the gorillas).
Our first trek was the to Kwitonda group. We trekked for 30 minutes through farmland and then for another 45 minutes through dense bamboo. It was so exciting to arrive to where the trackers were waiting as then we knew we were just a few minutes away from the gorillas. We left our bags and sticks with the porters and followed the guides and the trackers to where the gorillas were. Words can’t describe seeing them so close up in their own habitat. The group were spread out in the group eating. We saw silver backs, adult females, juveniles and a 2 month old baby. I couldn’t believe how close we were. The hour was incredible.
The second day we trekked to the sabyinyo group. This trek was slightly longer – 45 minutes through farmland and an hour uphill in the park with close encounters with stinging nettles. We were advised to put on our waterproof gear to view the gorillas as there were stinging nettles around. The gorillas were sat in dense foliage and we had to walk on a bed of vines on a hillside. But the viewing was just as incredible as the day before. This group had a six month old baby and incredibly cute 12 month old as well as 2 silver backs.
Both days we were back in time to get a cooked lunch at our lodge so we gave our packed lunch to our porters along with $20 each. I had also taken granola bars for the treks and had picked enough to share with our porters.
I am so pleased that we opted for two treks as we saw completely different landscapes. We had no problem with stinging nettles or ants as we had dressed appropriately. We were lucky to have to dry weather treks, although it had started to rain just a few minutes before we arrived back to our driver – and when it rains in Rwanda it really rains, so take waterproofs.
So what I can say is that it was such a lovely trip in Rwanda to trek the gorgeous mountain gorillas in the mist so I recommend those whose would love to see these primates to book now through Eco Tours Rwanda before it’s too late as the gorilla permits are on high demand, it is 08 people to visit each family per day and once you miss to get a permit you will not visit the primates in the mist!