How difficult is gorilla trekking in Rwanda

How difficult is gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Understand how challenging a gorilla trek in Rwanda can be

How difficult is gorilla trekking in Rwanda is one the commonly asked questions by travelers when planning gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda.

Gorilla trekking experience can widely vary based on different factors, depending on the circumstances, the trek could be a demanding venturing through the wilderness or more relaxed and enjoyable stroll.

Mountain gorillas live in thick jungles with uneven landscapes, high humidity and elevations reaching the altitude of 3,000 meters. The journey to encounter mountain gorillas in Rwanda can be demanding, generally it is achievable for individuals with moderate physical fitness. Often, guides clear paths with machetes through the dense jungle and there is available assistance from porters to navigate the toughest sections of the forest. Be prepared to get muddy and sweaty during your hike, we recommended staying a day or several days in Kinigi to acclimatize to high altitude before starting your gorilla trek.

In this article, we take a deep dive in various factors that influence the level of challenges you might face during a gorilla trek in Rwanda.

Stages of Trekking Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park

The journey to seeing gorillas in Rwanda can be broken down into main parts, the part involves walking 30 to 60 minutes from the closest parking area to the park’s boundary. The time it takes depends on how fast the trekkers walk and where the gorilla group is located

The second part of the trek is through the forest to actually find the gorillas, these gorillas are usually tracked in advance by scouts who stick with the gorillas and send back location bearing to the team with the visitors. This part of the journey can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours, for groups close to the edge of the forest. It takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

The first part is relatively easy to predict as it the landscape is generally quite flat and not too demanding, except for the more challenging uphill climb to reach the Susa Group. The second park on the other hand is more unpredictable and it depends where the gorillas are and how steep the terrain is.

The density of the vegetation cover also plays a big role, trekkers might need to bend, crawl and find their way through the jungle especially when dealing with sharp nettles. The weather on the day of climbing plays a role in the complexity, if it has rained recently, the ground can be muddy and slippery.

Fitness Levels and Age Considerations

It is important to note that your age and fitness level plays a crucial role in determining how difficult gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be, this practically noteworthy if you are assigned to track the most demanding group particularly the Susa Group.

Individuals who are modeately fit and under 40 years old usually don’t experience significant difficulties. However, it is worth noting that many trekkers are in their 50s or 60s which can make the hike harder for them.

Even if you are someone who bikes to work daily, don’t underestimate the toughness of Rwanda gorilla trek, you might still need to take regular breaks due to the effects of high-altitude breathing. So, spend a day or two outside the park to acclimatize.

Though the gorilla trek can be quite challenging especially for old travelers, it is quite rare for them to feel so overwhelmed that they decide to turn back. The experience is very motivating and people usually push through the difficulties.

Location of Rwanda’s gorilla groups

The location of the gorilla group assigned to you is one of the key factors that determine how challenging your gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda is. As the general guideline, the trek to reach the Susa Group is typically the most demanding but also the most rewarding as it has around 19 members. On the other hand, the Sabyinyo Group is usually the easiest to access.

Trekking to Rwanda’s gorilla groups like Kwitinda, Hirwa and Group 13 is relatively easy. In contrast to hikes to the Amahoro and Umubano Group can be more strenuous though not as tough as the trek to the Susa Group. It is important to note that any group might present unexpected challenges or be relatively easy to reach on any given day.

Additionally, it is not possible to guarantee in advance which specific group you will be assigned to by the park authorities. However, the guides at Kinigi make a conscious effort to match individuals with the most suitable group, especially if you express you preference in the type of gorilla group you are interested in.

In Rwanda, trekking the Susa Gorilla Family is typically for younger individuals with a lean physique while the opposite tends to be true for the Sabyinyo Group.

Challenges of Terrain, Weather and Altitude

There are two more important factors to consider that is the uneven terrain and the high altitude. Many visitors who come to the gorilla highlands are used to living in towns and cities with well – paved roads and sidewalks.

The paths they walk back home are usually well- maintained and easy to navigate, however, when trekking in the gorilla habitat. You will encounter uneven, slippery path due to changing seasons

Wearing waterproof and strudy shoes or hiking boots with good traction and ankle support will make a big difference during your trek.

If you find it challenging to deal with these conditions, it is wise to avoid the rainy seasons especially from March to May when the paths become quite muddy and difficult to traverse.

Another major factor to consider is Altitude, gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes place at elevations of 2,500 to 3,000 meters. Though it is not high enough to cause altitude sickness, it is still high enough to make even physically fit individuals feel breathless especially if they are coming from lower altitudes. This is especially true for travelers who arrive by air from places with lower altitudes.

If you are traveling overland from other parts of Africa, planning your Rwanda gorilla safari itinerary it is recommended to include spending some time at medium-high altitudes before the challenging gorilla trek. For example, if you are coming from Kenya, spend a few days in Nairobi (2,300 meters) or the Maasai Mara (1,600 meters) will be better to prepare you for the high altitudes of the gorilla habitat than spending time to the coast.

Local guides and helpers or porters

When you start your gorilla trek, guides will often offer you a simple walking stick, not something mass-produced but it can be really helpful as an extra support on uneven and slippery paths.

If you are carrying photography gears or daypack, it is a good idea to hire a porter for a reasonable fees. These local helpers come from the surrounding communities hoping to earn a living by offering muscle help. They can carry your daypack and even help you through the challenging sections of the trail along the journey to meeting Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.

Once you are on the trail, the guides sets the pace according to the slowest person in the group, so take your time and feel free to ask for breaks when you feel like you need them. It is important to bring and drink plenty of water and have some energy snacks on hand, carry biscuits, chocolate and energy bars which you can buy from supermarkets in Kigali or Musanze.

When you catch a glimpse of the magnificent silverback gorilla, the excitement of this magical encounter will wipe out all the exhaustion.

Conclusion

A gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda presents challenges and rewards, however the difficulty varies based on factors like age, fitness level, group allocation, terrain, weather and altitude. Gorilla trekking experience offers a unique opportunity to connect with these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, the physical demands are worth it and with proper preparations, this exciting journey becomes manageable.

If you are ready to take part in these most exciting wildlife encounter, do not let the potential challenges deter you and the trill of observing the endangered mountain gorillas can be an unforgettable and truly fulfilling experience.

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