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One of the most amazing things I have ever done is Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda – it was quite simply INCREDIBLE.
When we decided to head out to Rwanda to take part in the Friends of Rwandan Rugby tourists tour we knew we wanted to try and see the gorillas if we possibly could! Rwanda is one of three neighbouring countries in Africa where you can see mountain gorillas in the wild—the other two being Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The difficulty for families is that children can’t visit the gorillas until they are 15 so we needed a plan.
Options for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda if you have Kids
Our final plan was for one of the team who work for Friends of Rwandan Rugby to come up with us to Musanze after spending a week with us and the girls on the rugby trip. We were lucky in this I know and allowed our Gorilla Trekking plan to progress. It isn’t however an option that is available for most people.
Option one: Stay in a hotel near the gorillas that offer to look after the kids. Many of the 5* Hotels close to the gorillas do offer this.
Option two: Stay for two nights and see the gorillas on separate days. One of the things you can do with the kids whilst you are there is canoeing with Kingfisher Safaris so the kids don’t have two days at the hotel whilst you see the gorillas. We did this and it was a lot of fun (review to follow!)
Where to Stay if you are Gorilla Trekking!
There are many many places to stay near the Gorillas and naturally most have Gorilla in their name. The prices range dramatically too! We stayed at the fantastic Villa Gorilla which is a mid priced hotel in the area and if you are taking the kids and staying two nights to see the gorillas I can highly recommend staying here in the Family Lodge (below). Full review to follow.
Villa Gorilla is more on the basic side than the luxurious, but the staff are wonderful and the views of the mountains superb. I just loved eating our meals outside.
On the Day of Gorilla Trekking!
It’s a 6am start for gorilla trekking. We asked our guide Jimmy to ask for a closer gorilla group if possible so we wouldn’t be away from the kids for too long. They do the gorilla group assignments just before the trek, and divide people up based on requests, physical fitness and which groups they may have seen already that week. We met a family who were on their fourth day of trekking to see the gorillas and they had been fortunate enough to see a different group each day. The central meeting point is a hive of activity and incredibly well organised. Clean toilets, coffee to be had and a place to wait if it’s wet.
We were allocated the Sabinyo family of gorillas, there are 12 of them and it included the youngest and oldest gorillas on the Rwandan side of the mountain. It is also the closest family and we were advised that the trek shouldn’t be much longer than an hour. It could be – as the family may move, but we had a good chance of it being around an hour to locate them.
After you are allocated your group you get back in the car with your driver and you are driven to the start of the trek. Everyone heads of in different directions to start their own journey into the mountains. The trek is steep but we were lucky that there was no rain and the weather was cool but not cold. I certainly didn’t need all my layers. * If you want to see what I wore take a look at this post! We had followed the recommendation to pay for a porter to join us on the trek (putting some valuable resources back into the local community) and I’m glad we had. The trek was muddy and overgrown despite the porters hacking the undergrowth away with their machetes. I’m very thankful to have brought decent hiking boots, and worn the gators that the hotel provided.
After an hour we arrived at the gorillas. We were given a pep talk about what to do if the gorillas wanted to get close to us (a very necessary chat as it turn out when you see the video below) and then it was time for our hour. A very precious hour. Time seemed to stand still but race at the same time. I think I may have held my breath for most of the time. I couldn’t believe we were so close and that they were so content.
These photos and the video below show just how close were were and how incredibly moving the whole experience was. It’s expensive (now even more so, with a price increase to $1500 per person) but for a once in a lifetime experience I can’t think of anything else that hits the mark!
If you can make it work, I can’t recommend it highly enough! For further information do get in touch with Kat at World Fusion Tours and tell her I sent you. She will definitely look after you making this incredible experience even more superb.
If you’re in Rwanda doing the Gorilla Trekking you should also look into the Nyungwe Canopy Walk I am so very sad we missed it.