The Virungas are the last outpost of the endangered mountain gorilla, and their lush slopes provide an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is perhaps the most poignant and thrilling wildlife experience to be had in Africa. Nothing can prepare the visitor for the impact of encountering a troop of gorillas munching bamboo in their unfenced natural habitat. The sheer physical presence of an adult male silverback – three times as bulky as the average man, yet remarkably peaceable and tolerant of human visitors – defies verbal description. Nor are there words to convey the thrill of recognition attached to staring deep into the liquid brown eyes of these gentle giants, who share some 97% of their genes with humans.
That mountain gorillas survive today is largely thanks to Dian Fossey, who is buried at Karisoke, her research centre in the Virungas, alongside some of the animals to which she dedicated her life. Fossey became a household name following the release of the biographical film Gorillas in the Mist, which was set in the Parc National des Volcans, and shot on location there. Critical and public acclaim ensured that Gorillas in the Mist also served to raise international awareness of the plight of the mountain gorilla, whose numbers have increased from an all-time low of 250 in the 1970s to almost 400 in 2001. Roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas are resident on the Rwandan slopes of the Virungas, where four habituated groups – ranging in size from seven to 37 individuals – can be visited by up to 32 tourists daily
As you may be aware, there are only about 650 mountain gorillas remaining in their natural habitat. Their habitats are in Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Presently, Rwanda not only enjoys the best security in the region but also had the easiest access routes for visiting the mountain gorillas.
We organize thrilling treks to visit these gentle giants in their misty mountain home, also known as the Virunga Mountains (a chain of volcanoes with altitudinal ranges of 3500 m – 4507 m). Gorillas are found in the forests surrounding the volcanoes.
There are currently four habituated gorilla families that can be visited. In order to minimize the behavioral disturbances to the gorillas, only 8 people are allowed to visit each of the four families. This means that only 32 people are allowed in the park daily. The limits serve to protect the gorillas from the risk of exposure to human-borne diseases.
In order to execute your bookings effectively, the following information is required.
– Intended period of stay in Rwanda.
– Number of participants in your group
– How many gorillas’ visits you intend to make.
– Please note that children under 15 years are not allowed in the park.
The main attraction in Nyungwe Forest is the Chimpanzees and Columbus. The black & white Columbus wander around in huge troupes, some of which are made up of over 300 agile individuals. Other primates likely to be encountered are L’Hoests’s Monkey, Vervet Monkey and Chimpanzee.
Colobus in particular are easy to trek, Chimps are much more mobile than Gorillas and, while they can be seen, it is no way as easy as seeing Gorillas. This will be a rigorous day with walking on steep and slippery jungle terrain for up to 8 hours. If clients opt for Chimps we start at first light, usually about 5:45 am. There will be an opportunity to return to the lodge at mid-day for anyone who may not want to do a full day trekking in the forest.