Visit the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas in the wild by hiking in small groups, through dense forest, across the steep slopes of volcanoes. Virunga National Park is home to approximately 200 of the world’s remaining 790 Mountain Gorillas. The park’s gorillas live in the Mikeno Sector, an area of forest situated on the flanks of a range of mostly dormant volcanoes.
Visiting the Mountain Gorillas in the Wild
Visiting the mountain gorillas is an incredible experience. The animals are truly enormous, but they are also good-natured and playful, living up to their reputation as “gentle giants.” You will have the opportunity to observe the mountain gorillas for up to an hour. Gorillas may surround you while playing and eating in the trees, or the family may be at rest in an open grassy area. As you walk through the family you must keep a distance of at least seven meters. We have five families that can be visited and have a maximum capacity of 30 tourists per day.
The treks leave from one of three patrol posts, with several rangers and trackers to accompany you. Bukima post, the most popular with tourists and closest to Goma, has a basic tented camp for overnight stays. Treks can take from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours to reach a gorilla family, often moving through dense forest and across steep hills, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. Weather conditions can range from sunny and warm to cold and rainy, so come prepared for both. Minimum age for visitors is 15.
Because Mountain Gorillas share 98% of our DNA, they are highly susceptible to human disease. Any person can unknowingly transmit dangerous bacteria or a virus, including the common cold. For this reason, visitors represent a potential threat and are required to wear a surgical mask provided for you when you reach the gorilla family. If you don’t feel well, have a fever, diarrhea, or a persistent sore throat, please do not visit the gorillas.
Things To Bring
• Good walking shoes
• Rain gear
• Long trousers & sleeves
• Snacks (in case of a long trek)
If you would like to support Virunga National Park’s work protecting the Mountain Gorillas, there are many different ways to choose from.
You can become a Gorilla Guardian, and personally protect a 30-acre plot of land in the Mikeno Sector or Virunga National Park, where the Mountain Gorillas live.