Based on client’s feedback over the past several years, the gorilla viewing experience is considered the most emotional and intimate wildlife experience anywhere (!) Many clients feel that the one-on-one interaction with these beautiful creatures to be so warm and kind that they were left with tears in their eyes. The altitude of the gorilla treks ranges from 2500 to 3350 meters (8200 to 11,000 feet). Though not generally high enough to induce altitude sickness, you may experience heavy breathing and require several breaks along the trek. This applies to old travelers as well as younger, more physically-fit ones.
Altitude will mean that people often find the hike a lot more taxing and tiring, but in terms of serious altitude sickness, it is not a common problem among past participants. For clients who live at sea level, it is suggested to review with Bisate Lodge guides to prepare an easier hike to mitigate altitude discomfort. The fact is the guides pace the walk according to the slowest member of the group – they really push to ensure everyone gets their hour with the gorillas.
Situated in one of Africa’s most biodiverse regions, Rwanda is home to one of the world’s most unique wild mammals, the iconic mountain gorillas of the Virunga Massif in Volcano’s National Park.
All “gorilla treks” begin at Park headquarters, where permits are obtained and groups of eight are allocated a particular gorilla group. Ten habituated groups can be tracked and observed in the Park with the maximum time spent viewing a group being one hour per day. While gorilla sightings and encounters are very reliable, viewing is dependent on variables such as weather and track conditions. The expedition can range in length from 1-8 km (0.5-5 miles) over the steep country at high altitudes; including the time spent with a gorilla group, excursions can last between two and eight hours. Gorilla viewing protocols, based on IUCN guidelines for great ape viewing, are designed specifically to limit stress, behavioral impact, and potential disease transmission from humans to gorillas. They are critical for gorilla conservation.
There are two species of gorilla found in Africa: the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) – the latter consisting of two subspecies, the well-known mountain gorilla (G. b. beringei) of Uganda and Rwanda, and the eastern lowland gorilla (G. b. graueri) of the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both of these subspecies are considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The western gorilla also consists of two subspecies: the western lowland gorilla (G. g. gorilla) principally of Congo (Brazzaville) and Gabon, and the little known Cross River gorilla (G. g. diehli) on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria. While the mountain gorilla is the best known – as a result of the work of Dian Fossey and others – just 880 animals remain, isolated in the remaining natural islands of the Virunga Massif and Uganda’s Bwindi Forest. Here they exist in family groups overseen by massive silverbacks, roaming their home ranges in search of favored vegetation. Of special note as well, is the endangered golden monkey, which can be spotted on your trek.
Rwanda gorilla-trekking is offered year-round with the weather in the mountains being fluid and continuously changing. The country’s two relative dry seasons are December to early March, and June to September when temperatures reach around 84 °F. When tracking gorillas in the rain forest, there is always the chance of rain, though photographers tend to prefer the rainy season as, once the rain subsides, the forest becomes crystal clear and lighting is at its best.
Bisate Lodge/Eco-lux! (RL)
Situated close to Kinigi Park Headquarters, convenient for your morning gorilla trek rendezvous, the Bistate property covers 42 hectares (103 acres). Due to its location within the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, the main areas and villas are perched atop the raised elevation of the slopes of Mount Bisoke (3911 meters or 12,175 feet), though often shrouded. The lodge itself is 8,500 feet.
Based on Bisate’s restorative conservation projects and real local engagement, the lodge has become woven into the local community. During the Bistate’s building phase, an amazing 15,000 trees were planted, with more planted each week. As part of your stay here, guests are encouraged to plant a tree in the lodge’s nursery before their departure.
With only six suites (each 980 square feet), Bistate is one of Africa’s most exclusive luxury eco-lodges. Each suite includes an indoor shower, bath, and fireplace (nice on chilly nights!). The main lounge dining area and bar is the place to meet and reflect on the day’s gorilla experience. The in-villa massage treatments are a great way to relax after a day of gorilla trekking!