Experiences > Wildlife attractions > Africa > Mountain Gorillas


Location: Uganda Rwanda Democratic Republic of the Congo


Frontiers of Travel Articles

Rwanda - Extreme Africa

Tracking to see a group of mountain gorillas in the wild mountains of central Africa is arguably the most exhilarating and unique wildlife experience on earth. These fascinating and intelligent primates are highly endangered with their populations restricted to two small areas Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Uganda and the rainforests of the Virunga Mountains on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. The gorillas live in highly social family groups, led by a dominant silverback male. Some of these groups have been habituated to human contact, allowing tourists to visit and observe them in their natural habitat.


The gorilla tracking program is an excellent and successful example of ecotourism benefitting conservation. Its been estimated that each habituated family group will earn over $40m over the course of its lifetime, money which is used to protect its habitat and guard against poachers. A recent census has found that gorillas numbers have increased significantly in the last 30 years 480 now live in the Virungas in 36 groups (almost double that of 1980) along with 300 in Bwindi.


Permits to track the mountain gorillas are strictly limited to 8 per day per habituated group. They cost approximately $500 and must be obtained in advance. Sightings can never be 100% guaranteed but in reality there is an excellent chance of finding the groups as their locations are constantly tracked. Reaching the gorillas requires a trek of between one and five hours through thick undergrowth, which can be tricky in wet conditions. The reward is most definitely worth it however as you get to spend one hour observing these fascinating and gentle creatures up close, a truly unforgettable experience.



Above: Video and images from a visit to the mountain gorillas of Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda, 2007
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-western Uganda comprises 330 km² of primeval forest in altitudes ranging from 1200 to 2800 metres. It's an area of remarkable biodiversity of plant life, birds and butterflies but the main draw is the mountain gorilla, of which there are approximately 300 in the park. This is one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas, probably the most exhilarating wildlife experience you can imagine, though it can take an arduous trek through the forest to find the gorillas. Bwindi is also home to other rare primates such as L'Hoest's monkey and the golden monkey.

Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda's premier tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas being one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas (the other is Bwindi National Park in Uganda). It was here that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film 'Gorillas in the Mist'. The opportunity to trek to a gorilla family and spend an hour in close proximity observing these remarkable creatures is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences on Earth. Currently seven of the park's gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day. The park is also home to 75 other mammal species including elephant, buffalo and the endangered endemic Golden Monkey, a troop of which has also been habituated and can be tracked in the bamboo forests on the lower volcano slopes.

Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is located in eastern Congo near the border with Rwanda. Covering some 7,900 km², this vast region comprises many different habitats, including wetlands, savannahs, lava plains and the forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. The park is an important wildlife habitat, most famously as one of only three locations where the few remaining mountain gorillas live. The savannahs are home to elephant, lion, buffalo, warthog and antelope while there are huge concentrations of hippopotamus in the park's rivers. The park's wetlands are also important wintering grounds for Siberian birds.

Travel to Mountain Gorillas


Organised group tours: Click here to see 3 tours to Lake Victoria (Kenya/Uganda/Rwanda) which may include Mountain Gorillas.

Mountain Gorilla

Extraordinary BBC documentary documenting the struggle for survival of mountain gorilla groups the mountains of Uganda and Rwanda.

Buy at amazon.co.uk

Gorillas in the Mist

Biopic about the famous primatologist Dian Fossey who studied the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and fought to protect them from poachers.

Buy at amazon.co.uk