Without a doubt, the number one thing to do in Rwanda is gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park. Sharing a border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this national park in Rwanda is home to a growing number of critically endangered mountain gorillas. Experts estimate that there are about 600 gorillas in the park—a significant increase from around 240-250 individuals in 1981.
To visit one of the 18 mountain gorilla families that have been habituated to humans, you’ll need to obtain one of the limited number of daily trekking permits for $1,500. The easiest way to do it is through a reputable tour operator, who can also arrange transportation from Kigali to the park headquarters.
The trekking experience typically lasts between four and eight hours, most of which is spent hiking through mystical bamboo forests, wild meadows, and swampy areas. Guides from the national park serv
ice will eventually lead you to one of the habituated gorilla families. You’ll spend an hour observing the creatures as they eat, care for their babies, and interact with one another.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is largely considered a safe activity. The gorillas are mostly apathetic to their human visitors. Armed guides, who use a bunch of clicking sounds to communicate with the gorillas, ke
ep guests safe from potential dangers, making the experience one that you’ll never forget.
Porters are available at the base of the trails in Volcanoes National Park. It’s worth hiring one for the day—they’ll carry your bags and help you avoid slipping down the muddy paths.
Want to learn more about mountain gorillas? After your trekking adventure, head to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Karisoke Research Center in the nearby town of Musanze. It contains a small, yet robust museum all about mountain gorillas and the work of conservationist Dian Fossey, whose efforts to protect gorillas were made famous by the 1988 drama, Gorillas in the Mist.
In all my travels, I’ve never seen a country’s population more determined to forgive, and to build and succeed than in Rwanda.