Gentle Giants of the Forest

Gorilla Trek Extension

February 27 - March 4, 2018
Cost: $6,745
Leader:
Group Size: 4 - 6
Days: 6

Safari Overview

Trek the forests of the Virunga Mountains to encounter Rwanda’s "gentle giant," the Mountain Gorilla. Few animals in Africa have as many legends circulating around them as the Mountain Gorilla, also called the “gentle giant.” The Mountain Gorilla’s enormous size, extraordinary strength, and the fact that they live in deep, dark, mysterious forests of lush vegetation have contributed to their mystique. Only about 900 Mountain Gorillas remain in the wild today. This is a post-trip extension to our Tanzania safari and Kenya extension on February 5 to 27, 2017.

Itinerary updated: May 2017



FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Feb 27 Overnight in Nairobi after the Kenya extension. Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi B*, L*
Feb 28 Fly from Nairobi to Kigali. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge B, L, D
Mar 1 Gorilla trek. Mountain Gorilla View Lodge B, L, D
Mar 2 Gorilla trek. Kigali Serena Hotel, Kigali B, L, D
Mar 3 Kigali city tour, then fly back to Nairobi to catch connecting flights. B
Mar 4 Arrive home.
* Meals included in cost of the Kenya extension.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Overnight in Nairobi

Feb 27

Following the Kenya extension, you will spend the night in Nairobi.

Fly from Nairobi, Kenya, to Kigali, Rwanda

Feb 28

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in Rwanda by Debbie Thompson

Meet our local operator’s representative at your hotel to transfer to the Nairobi Airport for your flight to Kigali.

Your Primate Safaris guide will meet you at the airport in Kigali and take you to lunch in Kigali. Then drive about 2.5 hours through Musanze and the Virunga Mountains in a spacious Land Cruiser, arriving at the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge in time for dinner.

Gorilla Trekking

Mar 1

Mountain Gorillas by Debbie Thompson

After breakfast, drive to the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters where you’ll meet your two park guides and be formed into a group that totals eight trekkers before you drive to a trailhead to trek to your gorilla group. We recommend that you hire one of many porters eager to help you carry your photo equipment and water. The trek to your gorilla group can take one to three hours of rough hiking each way, and your time with the group is limited to one hour. Your park guides will go over safety rules and body language required when visiting gorilla groups, but you’ll soon realize that this is one of the most exhilarating and moving wildlife experiences you will ever have.

The trackers already know where each group is located. To reach the group, you may climb through several vegetation zones – farms, bamboo, luxuriant hagenia, and hypericum forest, with twisted gnarled trees covered in soft emerald mosses, lichens, and epiphytes, and watch out for stinging nettles!

When you are very close to the group, the lead guide will grunt softly to the gorilla group to comfort them and announce your arrival. The silverback is usually lazily lying in thick vegetation and watching while one or more females are often close by and unperturbed by your presence. We hope you’ll have the wonderful opportunity to watch the young gorillas play fighting, climbing trees, and wrestling, making the hour pass by very quickly.

After gorilla trekking, depending on the time of day, you may go sightseeing with your guide before returning to the lodge.

Gorilla Trekking

Mar 2

Mountain Gorilla trek by Debbie Thompson

Your grand gorilla finale will dawn today. Same as yesterday, you’ll drive to the park headquarters to meet your park guides and then trek to your gorilla group (most likely a different gorilla group). After your hour immersed with the gorillas and watching their behavior, you will return to Kigali.

Fly to Nairobi and connect to flights homeward

Mar 3

Rwandan street scenes by Debbie Thompson

Take a city tour in Kigali and visit the Genocide Memorial that explains Rwanda’s promise for the future: “Such atrocities will never happen again.” (Depending on flight itineraries the day you arrive and the day you leave, the city and museum tours may be rearranged to fit the group’s schedule.) After your visit and depending on your flight schedule, either go back to the hotel for a dayroom (not included) or transfer to the Kigali airport and fly to Nairobi to connect with flights homeward.

Fly home

Mar 4

Fly homeward and arrive home, depending on flight schedules.

Gorilla Extension

Trek the forests of the Virunga Mountains to encounter Rwanda’s “gentle giant,” the Mountain Gorilla.

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Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Extension cost, double occupancy $6,745
Single supplement $550

This cost will be added to your main safari balance.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $3,000
Final Due with the main safari Remaining balance

All reservations require a deposit of $3,000 per person ($1,500 per permit) to pre-purchase the gorilla trekking permits. The payment schedule is the same as the main safari.


Cancellations

Important Note: The pre-purchased gorilla trekking permit deposit is non-refundable and non-transferable. A limited number of permits are issued per day for the different gorilla families. You will be in a group of eight people along with two guides and gorilla trackers. Your permit will allow you one hour with the habituated gorilla family you visit each day.

Included

  • All leaders, transport, and park entry fees, for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Flights between Nairobi and Kigali on February 28 and March 3.
  • Accommodations for the nights of February 27 to March 2.
  • Meals from breakfast on February 28 through breakfast on March 3; breakfast and lunch on February 27 are included in cost of the Kenya extension.
  • Airport transfers on February 28 and March 3.
  • Bottled water in the vehicles and during treks.
  • Walking sticks.
  • Non-refundable gorilla trekking permits of $1,500 per person per trek ($3,000 total per person for two treks).
  • English-speaking guides, park rangers, and trackers.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
  • Short Term AMREF Flying Doctors medical emergency evacuation insurance.

Not Included

  • All airfare (except for flights described in the included section), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees.
  • Dinner on February 27.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • Gratuities for guides and porters: Tipping is, of course, discretionary, and the amount we suggest depends on the number of participants. We will give you detailed information with your Trip Materials.
  • Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.

Climate

It is the dry season with less daily rainfall, but showers are possible. The temperatures range around 70° F (21° C) during the day and 60° F (16° C) at night. The altitudinal range creates climatic variations, so expect rain and mist in the upland forests while the sun shines at the base of Volcano National Park.

Fitness Level

Gorilla tracking can be arduous, so guests should be prepared and equipped accordingly. Expect a one- to three-hour hike each way to see gorillas in dry or muddy conditions over sometimes-difficult terrain. Walking sticks are provided and porters are available for hire. The high elevation may also affect hikers. The base of the park sits at 7,500 ft above sea level (2,500 m) and rises to 13,500 ft (4,500 m).

Flights

Airfare, except flights for this extension, is not included. Detailed flight information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) near Arusha, Tanzania, in time for an overnight on February 6. For most, this means departing from home on February 5. Depart from Nairobi on the evening of March 3.

Flights we book for you: The round-trip flights between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi and Kigali International Airport (KGL). The cost of this round-trip booking is included in the tour cost. Check with us if you prefer to depart from Rwanda to a different airport.

FAQ

Why are Mountain Gorillas special?

Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla berengei) were made famous by Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to their future and immortalized them in the film “Gorillas in the Mist.” Historically, poaching and habitat destruction were the main cause for conservation concern of gorillas, but with publicity, tourism, and education regarding their plight, their rapid decline has slowed. Nowadays, threats to the Mountain Gorilla populations are habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, disease, and civil unrest, among both humans and gorilla groups.

A Mountain Gorilla group usually consists of a dominant male (silverback), two or more subordinate males (silverbacks and/or black backs), and five or more females with their young. The group is basically a stable family with the young leaving after they reach sexual maturity; young females join another group while young males either form bachelor groups or remain solitary until they have an opportunity to form their own group and start a family.

This primate has impressive dimensions; some males are over six feet tall and weigh more than 440 pounds. The head is massive and the huge jaws are equipped with powerful teeth. Far from being an aggressive animal, as legends claim, the gorilla is gentle and peaceful in its habit; only when threatened will the males adopt an intimidating attitude in which he howls in a most frightful way and beats his chest with his fists. Should visitors find themselves in his presence at this moment, they will be advised to assume a submissive, non-threatening attitude. Once his confidence has been restored, the male goes on about his business accepting the intruder.

Mountain Gorillas are very sociable animals, living in groups of three to thirty. Being sedentary, they continually look for food in a restricted home range. They are active only during the daytime and build nests for the night. The females and young occupy nests built in trees, while the males nest on the ground. Their food consists mainly of leaves, buds, tubers, and sorts of wild celery from the umbelliferous family.

What are the basics about Rwanda?

A tiny landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, Rwanda lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift and the watershed between Africa’s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Often called the “land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda is a mountainous country with a moist, temperate year-round climate. Approximately 90% of the population works on farms, which cover nearly every one of the “thousand hills.” Imported Eucalyptus trees abound, which the locals use for firewood and building materials.

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. French, English, and Kinyarwanda are the most widely spoken languages, and the population of about eight million people is largely Roman Catholic with some Muslim and Animist communities.

Belgium “colonized” Rwanda beginning post-World War I, sowing the seeds of racism within the Rwandan population. In 1962, under Prime Minister Gregoire Kayibanda, Rwanda gained independence from Belgium. Ten years later Major General Juvenal Habyarimana came to power, and after his death in a plane crash in April 1994, the mass genocide began and approximately one million Rwandans were killed. Nearly twice as many fled into exile.

Political and social stability returned to Rwanda in 1999 with the new Government of National Unity. The country has one of Africa’s fastest growing rates of jobs and incomes and is currently working towards developing its infrastructure and population. Tourism has become its largest economic sector with gorilla tourism outweighing other attractions the country offers. American, British, and Australian citizens account for 50% of all foreign visitors to see the gorillas.

What are the basics about Mountain Gorilla permits?

A certain number of permits are issued per day. The gorilla families that are habituated are visited by eight maximum people per day for one hour. Please read the cost section for information about our non-refundable and non-transferable permits.

What are the basics about Volcanoes National Park?

Volcanoes National Park is located in northwest Rwanda, bordering Virunga National Park in the Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. This park is a refuge for the Mountain Gorilla and is home to many dormant volcanoes, which are covered in rainforest and bamboo.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Transportation

You’ll travel in 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers similar to those on your Tanzania and Kenya safaris. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Kigali to the Virunga Massif, which hosts Volcanoes National Park.

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible to observe wildlife behavior, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.