Trek the rare Mountain Gorilla
Of all the wonderful wildlife safari experiences out there, this is the one that gets you up closest with some of the world’s most magnificent creatures. Usually you view wildlife, from meerkats to lions to elephants, from the comfort of a safari vehicle, but in this case you hike to the gorillas and meet them on foot, in their world, on their terms, very, very close up.
It is an emotionally moving experience, but it’s also one of the more strenuous forms of wildlife viewing, as it can require several hours of hiking, uphill and often through very dense foliage. For that reason, this is one that should not be put off for too long, as you will be required to have a certain level of fitness and mobility in order to participate.
Just about all of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas live in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda is less expensive and appeals more to budget travelers, though because of high demand and very limited permits, trekking with gorillas is never cheap.
Rwanda has a more developed tourism infrastructure and the best luxury safari lodges. Just in the past few years, some of the industry’s most highly regarded deluxe brands have opened in the local market around Volcanoes National Park, the world’s best spot for gorilla trekking. And I ‘d like to tell you more about these:
- Singita Kwitando
- One & Only
- Wilderness Safaris
- Volcanoes Safaris
- Governor’s Camp
Sitting comfortably on the edge of the verdant Volcanoes National Park Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House. In true Singita style, the Singita Gorilla Trekking Lodges in Rwanda have a story entrenched in ecotourism and conservation of the immediate area. The Singita brand is not only about sophistication speckled with elite luxury aimed at discerning guests, but it also has its heart immersed in conservation.
Singita endeavours to take a measured approach to conservation, working closely with locals to build sustainable revenue streams through tourism while ensuring the community thrives. The aim of Singita Volcanoes is to strike a balance between preserving the gorilla groups and increasing their habitat while remaining sensitive to the needs of the surrounding communities. Thus far, 60,000 tree saplings have been planted on the surrounds in an effort to extend the size of the national park.
The jungle floor and canopy of trees covering lofty mountains creates a breathtaking topography and natural habitat for wild mountain gorillas. This is the perfect place for a gorilla trekking safari and it’s a mere 3 hour drive from Kigali, the centre of Rwanda. Singita Volcanoes is a mere stone’s throw away from the briefing point at headquarters, and at each of the properties there are gear rooms housing a variety of technical gear for the arduous treks through rugged tropical terrain carpeting the lofty hills of Rwanda. Gorilla trekking is not the only activity available in the area – there are many other walks/hikes and opportunity to visit surrounding communities.
2 bedroom suite with plunge pool and fireplace
Singita has the pampering side of things covered. After a lengthy time spent on the mountains, guests can return to their lodge for a well-deserved, soothing spa treatment.
2. One & Only
Aerial view of the resort
Surrounded by eucalyptus forest in the famed Volcanoes National Park, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is the perfect addition to your tailor-made luxury Rwanda holiday. From this jungle sanctuary, encounter endangered mountain gorillas on a once-in-a-lifetime trek through the misty bamboo forest, as well as choosing from a range of other eye-opening experiences – whether hiking up dormant volcanoes or dancing alongside local villagers.
Boma amidst the manicured tea gardens
Back at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, which blends seamlessly into its surroundings, unwind in your luxury lodge or suite, all featuring Rwandan art and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking exceptional views. Dine on authentic local flavours made with produce from the thriving kitchen garden, enjoy forest views as you lounge beside the outdoor swimming pool, or indulge in African-inspired treatments at the One&Only Spa.
3. Wilderness Bisate
Perched on the slopes of an eroded volcanic crater in northwest Rwanda lies Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge. Comprised of just six thatched villas nestled in the greenery, the intimate retreat is the go-to destination for gorilla spotting. Early arrivals can head straight to the Bisate Kwanda Day Lounge to relax, refresh and enjoy a bite to eat before check-in.
Since opening in 2017, Bisate Lodge has garnered attention for offering guests a truly exhilarating safari experience. Intrepid travelers can choose from a range of activities during their stay at the luxurious eco-lodge including golden monkey trekking, visiting the ruins of Karisoke (primatologist Dian Fossey’s former research center dedicated to saving gorillas from extinction) and hiking to the top of Mount Bisoke for sweeping views of the rainforest.
This summer, Wilderness Safaris took luxury to new heights by opening the Bisate Kwanda Day Lounge to accommodate early arrivals and late departures. Tucked out of sight behind the main lodge, the rustic yet stylish new lounge features wooden beamed ceilings, striking volcanic rock walls and a traditional fireplace surrounded by comfortable leather couches.
The cozy day lounge has four spacious en-suite changing rooms (each with a private chill-out space) where guests can shower, change and unwind with a massage. There’s also a dining area with sliding doors that opens onto a peaceful organic vegetable garden – another perfect spot for relaxing after a long day’s gorilla trekking while taking in the breathtaking mountain views.
Bisate Kwanda’s chefs have created a delicious menu that uses plenty of produce from the garden and fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from the local community.
Of course, Wilderness Safaris’ commitments to conservation extend far beyond the new lounge. During their stay, guests can visit the on-site tree nursery where the Bisate reforestation project is well underway providing indigenous saplings to Volcanoes National Park.
“We estimate that some 50,000 trees – principally hagenia, dombeya, neuboutonia, lobelia and bamboo – have to date made it to a stage of maturity that makes them independent of our care,” notes Bass. “We’re extremely proud of our reforestation program that has inspired other operators to follow suit, and which has resulted in the return of numerous endemic species to the area.”
4. Volcanoes Safaris
The magnificent Virunga Lodge in Rwanda is one of Africa’s most loved lodges. Perched high on a ridge with the finest views in Africa, overlooking the Virunga Volcanoes and the Musanze valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east.
Virunga Lodge has a great location with breathtaking views
The iconic property has defined Rwandese Afro-chic since the lodge was built by Praveen Moman in 2004. The understated, timeless, hand-made style has been further refined to meet the needs of today’s luxury traveller.
Located on the top of a hill offers the best view
Exceptional hospitality and locally-inspired food make it the perfect accommodation choice for tracking the endangered mountain gorilla.
Afro-chic bedroom interiors
The cozy lounge with lots of light and natural colours
Virunga Volcanoes Lodge is inviting and cosy, with large cushions, roaring fires, and unbelievable views of the surrounding Lakes and Volcanoes. The magical terraced gardens on the ridge offer a tranquil place to look out over Rwanda, and to contemplate what to do with your day.
Hearty meals served at Virunga
Things to do… – anything from Gorilla tracking, climbing a volcano, tracking golden monkeys, visiting Dian Fossey’s memorial, or gentle strolls through picturesque villages near the lakes, hike to the waterfalls, see the Intore dancers or visit a local school.
Virunga Volcanoes Lodge is an eco lodge powered by solar power, and has a minimal impact on the environment, this is remote beauty at its best.
Governor’s Camp Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Set on the edge of the Parc National des Volcans in a lush green property of 11 hectares, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge enjoys fabulous and dramatic views of the surrounding volcanoes.
All guest cottages are discretely situated in the folds of the hills and amongst the verdant vegetation of the Sabyinyo property. Each beautifully appointed ensuite cottage, with its country-chic style and open log fires, is a perfect haven of warmth and luxury.
The main lodge building is designed with the guest in mind. Assorted seating areas in the main lounge, reception and entertainment room provide for intimate privacy, or the opportunity to meet other guests, and open-log fires throughout create a luxuriously warm and inviting atmosphere.
The spacious rooms, built using local stone and traditional terracotta tiles, have private verandas and sitting rooms with a fireplace.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is an exciting combination of a world-class lodge and a financial source driving socio-economic development and conservation initiatives in the areas adjacent to the Parc National des Volcans.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was conceived and is operated by The Governors’ Camp Collection. The idea was to develop a lodge whose revenue streams would improve the lives of local community members and directly support gorilla conservation.
All lodges do give back to the local communities and work together to improve the lives of many families. Lodges do care and among others have a reforestation and conservation model, as well as being a prime example of ecotourism that looks after and empowers local people.
Below prices are purely an indication for 2 people travelling together and not include Gorilla Permits or transfers. These permits in Rwanda are US$ 1 500 per person.
4 nights – all meals and local drinks, from US$ 3 000 per person
3 nights – all inclusive, from US$ 4 900 per person (Singita offers an excellent combo-deal together with their lodges in the Serengeti)
One & Only Gorilla’s Nest
3 nights – all inclusive, from US$ 5 100 per person
Wilderness Safaris Bisate
3 nights – all inclusive, from US$ 4 900 per person
Governor’s Camp Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
3 nights – all inclusive, from US$ 3 600 per person