The most famous attraction of Volcanoes National Park is the existence of about half of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas. There are about 350 mountain gorillas in the confines of this gorgeous park, and many of them are habituated to humans, so you can trek into the mountains to see them up close. By up close, I mean they are all around you, literally right in front of you. After experiencing the mountain gorillas in the mist, you can visit to the Rwanda cultural sites like the Iby’wacu centre to experience the Rwanda cultural performances, the twin Lakes (Burera & Ruhondo) and after the visit to all these, Rwanda is really the place to visit of what it offers.
For $750, you get a Gorilla permit, or for $100 you can get a permit to see the rare Golden Monkeys which is also very fun. There are two troupes of monkeys of about 100 each, and it is quite an experience to have them jumping, swinging, eating, and running around all around you in the middle of the jungle. You must book your permits well in advance, with Rwanda companies like Eco Tours Rwanda, as there are limited numbers of them, 08 people allowed to visit each gorilla family per day. Dian Fossey is also another experience which you can not miss on your tour to Rwanda, it cost $ 75 USD per person.
You will meet at the park at 7:00 AM, stand around for an hour or so having coffee, then at about 8:00 AM you’ll get paired up with your licensed Gorilla or Golden Monkey guide who will give you a quick briefing. Then it’s back to your vehicle to drive to the parking lot closest to your troupe. There are several different troupes of Gorillas of varying sizes and locales. Several groups are in close, while the Susa group, the biggest, can be several hours to find.
In the beginning of the rainy season, the bamboo is in bloom, which brings the gorillas down lower to feed on their lush shoots. We trekked to the Susa group and it was “only” about 1.5 hours to find them, and another hour or so out. We heard many people who trekked other times of the year for up to 7 hours. Steep hike though, not for the unfit. Make sure to hire a porter to carry your bags – it’s only $10 and well worth it. Once at the gorillas, you have 1 hour to enjoy them, which is amazing. Our troupe had dozens of babies and junior gorillas swinging, beating their chests, wrestling, and nursing on their mothers. Also three gigantic silver backs and lots of black backs. We saw 28 of the 29 gorillas in our troupe during our stay – simply amazing.
The views you get of the Rwandan countryside are incredible too. Local villagers farming their land, staggering vistas of volcanoes and valleys, and sometimes you can run into wildlife like buffaloes or elephants. You can visit Dyan Fossey’s grave (the lady from “Gorillas in the Mist”) too if you like.
Tracking the Mountain Gorillas is truly an awesome experience, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find them. We did it only one day, with one day more with the Golden Monkeys, but many people did two days.