Most famous Gorilla Safari Destinations in Africa

Gorillas are herbivorous, predominantly ground-dwelling great apes that inhabit the tropical forests of equatorial Africa. The DNA of gorillas is highly similar to that of humans for 95-99% and they are the closest living relatives to humans after chimps.

The best places to see gorillas in Africa are Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo and they support gorilla observation in a safe and protective way. As gorillas strive to survive in our modern world, any time spent with these gentle giants is a memorable experience that is worth sharing on your social media platforms as a “throwback Thursday” for years to come.

1. Rwanda

Rwanda is a landlocked country in the great lakes region. The country is bordered by Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and the democratic republic of Congo. Rwanda is famously known as the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda’s stunning scenery and warm, friendly people offer unique experiences in one of the most remarkable countries in the world. She is blessed with extraordinary biodiversity, with incredible wildlife living throughout its volcanoes, montane rainforest, and sweeping plains. Travelers come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the magnificent gorillas, yet there is so much more to see and experience.

Rwanda Gorilla Tour

Gorilla Tour in Rwanda

Located in the northwestern corner of the world is the famous volcanoes national park. Volcanoes national park is a stop center for all Rwanda gorilla safaris sheltering the highest number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Conservation area. Besides gorillas, Volcanoes National park is a home for golden monkeys, a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects among other creatures which together make a complete Rwanda safari package.

Despite the fact that Rwanda’s gorilla permit is the most expensive of all the mountain gorilla trekking destinations ($1,500), she still attracts the highest number of gorilla trekkers. This is due to a number of factors which include good transport, the short distance between the airport and the park, high-quality accommodation facilities, and Guaranteed security in and around Volcanoes National Park. Finally, the gorilla trekking exercise in volcanoes is less tenacious compared to other trekking destinations like Bwindi and Mgahinga which have very hilly and with dense vegetation.

2. Uganda

Uganda is one of the most beautiful and endowed countries in Africa. With its dense misty forests, snow-peaked mountains, glassy lakes, and sprawling savannas, it’s no wonder Winston Churchill dubbed this wonderful country the ‘pearl of Africa’. While mountain gorillas are the allure for many visitors, there’s an astounding variety of attractions for tourists.

The Bwindi impenetrable national park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the rift valley. Its mist-covered hills are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests which date back over 25000 years and contain almost 400 plant species.

mountain gorillas in Uganda

mountain gorillas in Uganda

The Bwindi impenetrable national park is one of the UNESCO heritage sites best known for mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking.

Bwindi impenetrable forests together with the Mgahinga region are believed to inhabit more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas on earth.

This “impenetrable forest” accommodates about 12 habituated gorilla families residing in the park’s four major sectors of Rushaga, Rushaga, Buhoma, and Nkuringo.

You are only allowed to spend one hour with the mountain gorillas. Gorillas in Uganda are tracked with a permit at as low as US $700. Bwindi is one of the few national parks in Africa that have flourished throughout the last ice age and on top of that it is a habitat for half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Travelers prefer tracking in the dry season which is from January to February and June to September but it may be advantageous to opt for the rainy season when the apes are just as present and there’s less competition to secure one of the limited 96 gorilla permits issued per day.

3. Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a number of unique tourist opportunities, including wildlife reserves, indigenous cultures, and geological wonders not found easily or anywhere else in Africa.  12% of the country is made up of protected areas including 7 national parks and 57 reserve areas, with great ecotourism potential. However, many existing tourist facilities in Congo are in poor condition because of a lack of proper maintenance. The DRC has four endemic species including Mountain Gorillas, Okapi, Bonobos, and the Congolese peacock.  Moreover, the country has a unique variety of species in its ecosystem covering almost 145 million hectares.

Virunga National park is located in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to the border with Rwanda and Uganda. The Virunga massif is known for its rich biodiversity and as one of the oldest wildlife conservation areas in Africa.

Although the Virunga national park is a UNESCO World Heritage site with amazing biodiversity, it has not reached its potential as a tourism destination due to political instability and insecurity in some parts of the country.

Although Virunga National Park is home to incredible mammals, Mountain gorillas stand out and are the most attractive. The Democratic Republic is lucky to have both Mountain gorillas and Eastern lowland gorillas. Virunga national park has about 300 mountain gorillas and eight groups are habituated.

Gorilla trekking Congo

Gorilla trekking in Congo

Virunga national park is the cheapest gorilla destination. A gorilla permit goes for $450. This may appear expensive until you compare it with the $1500 charged in Rwanda and the $700 in Uganda. The gorilla permit only grants you access to the park and to the primates. Only 8 people may track a gorilla group in a day. The activity takes between 2 to 6 hours but tourists are allowed only one hour with the primates. During the one hour, tourists can observe the gorillas feed, play around, mate, breastfeed, groom, and communicate among themselves. The best time to visit this park is during the dry season from June to September and December to February.

Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the biggest protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo located in Bukavu town on the western bank of Lake Kivu. The park is among the few safari destinations that harbor the Eastern Lowland Gorillas making it a top safari destination for eastern lowland gorilla trekking in the world. The park is also home to 349 bird species including 42 endemic species. The park is comprised of dormant volcanoes namely, Mount Kahuzi & Mount Biega from which the name Kahuzi Biega is derived from.  Kahuzi Biega National park features a unique vegetation cover that is composed of forests montane.  The vegetation has favored the thriving of the eastern lowland gorilla hence making gorilla trekking the prime tour activity at Kahuzi Biega National park.

Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in the park can take between 4 to 6 hours or more depending on the location of the gorillas in the forest. Sometimes eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega can take even longer hours especially when the gorillas have moved deep into the forest in search of food, which tends to make tracking difficult for visitors especially if you are not in perfect physical and mental conditions.

Other Activities Offered in Kahuzi-Biega National Park include; chimpanzee habituation at Lwiro sanctuary, community/cultural tours, birding, and boat cruises on lake Kivu.