Gorilla trekking has long been on my bucket list, especially as my love affair with Africa has evolved. I’ve now visited the continent three years in a row, and hope to make it an annual tradition. That said, the notion of “earning it” makes the reward of gorilla trekking all the sweeter (be prepared to bush whack!). Without fail, I earned every minute I was afforded with the high land gorillas of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Here’s what to know before you go.
1) Take note! This is the most important intelligence: Only 96 permits are issued in Rwanda each day, so plan well ahead. JETSET recommends more than one visit, as you can never predict the weather, trekking, or sighting. Allow time and budget to incorporate a second permit per person.
2) The lodges near the park are equally boutique. Singita Kwitonda, which opens late 2019, is already rumored to be booked up through most of 2020!
3) Prior to your first day of trekking, enjoy cocktails or dinner with the “Gorilla doctor” to fully appreciate the scale of conservation efforts and to better prepare for the encounter.
4) Hire the porter on offer. It will cost you between $15-20 with gratuity and is worth every penny!
5) Bring more water than you could possibly consume. Gorillas move, so you never know exactly how long the trek will truly take.
6) Pack waterproof pants and wear a lightweight, sweat-wicking long sleeve shirt. The exposure to the elements can’t be discounted—and the stinging nettles are overwhelming.
7) Rent gardening gloves with rubber grip. Repeat: The stinging nettles are overwhelming!
8) Shoot video. The gorillas’ sounds, expressions, and interactions are hard to capture with traditional photography.
9) Book a deep-tissue massage well in advance, to ensure pampering is afforded upon your return to the lodge.
10) Return to Kigali via helicopter in 15 minutes to avoid the four-plus hour drive in each direction.
To customize your very own Gorilla encounter, contact Julia Pirrung, who recently visited both Uganda and Rwanda in September 2018.