Cape to Cairo
The map above shows the principal habitat of the Mountain Gorilla in the Virungas Volcanoes. This area comprises Parc National des Volcans National Park in Ruwanda, Mgahinga on the Uganda Side, and the Virungas National Park in the Congo. Kibale is north of the lake shown at the top right of the Ugana Map. Kinigi is the Park Headquaters on the Rwanda side. To provide a distance scale, it is a 45 minute drive from Lake Kivu to Runehgeri. The volcanoes have altitudes ranging from 2,000m-4,507m
The map to the left is a synthetic aperture radar image image of the Virunga Volcano chain from Lake Kivu at the bottom and following along the borders of Rwanda, Zaire and Uganda. This image was acquired on April 12, 1994, by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar carried on shuttle Endeavour. This image is made available by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech
The faint lines shown in the purple regions are the result of agriculture terracing by the people who live in the region. The vegetation types are an important factor in the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas. Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in London will use this data to produce vegetation maps of the area to aid in their study of the remaining 650 gorillas in the region.
There are only 650 mountain gorillas remaining in their natural habitat in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. In Rwanda, they only are to be found in (a chain of volcanoes with an altitude range of 2,000m-4,507m). Mountain Gorillas are found in the high altitude forests surrounding the Volcanoes.
There are currently 7 habituated gorilla families that can be visited:
1 Sabyinyo Group-This is a family of 8 gorillas, led by the biggest silverback known in the entire jungle called Guhonda.
2 Amahoro Group- 14 members including one silverback
3 Umubano Group- 8 members including one silverback
4 Group 13- 21 members including one silverback
5 Susa Group- The largest family with 38 members including 3 silverbacks.
6. Kwitonda Group- 17 members including one silverback
7. Hirwa Group- 9 members including one silverback
In order to minimize behavioral disturbances to the gorillas, only 8 people are allowed to visit each of the families and for a period not exceeding 1hour. This means that only 56 people are allowed in the park daily. The limits serve to protect gorillas from the risk of exposure to human- borne diseases.
Please note that children under 15 years of age are not allowed into the park.
Visiting the Gorillas:
Mountain gorilla visits are in Parc National des Volcans managed and protected by the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). Access begins in the town of Ruhengeri, situated at the base of the entrance of the park. Ruhengeri has long been the base point for gorilla visits and entertains a stunning backdrop of Karisimbi, Visoke, Mikeno, Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes.
Ruhengeri is a 90-minute drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Ruhengeri is also only a 45-minute drive away from Gisenyi and the stunning Lake Kivu. Kinigi Guesthouse provides comfortable and clean accommodation with breathtaking scenery at the foot of Mount Sabyinyo. It is situated 14 kilometres from Ruhengeri town, and only 200 metres from the Park headquarters..
A gorilla visit can entail anything from a 1 to 4-hour trek through the forest, led by experienced trackers who have spent their entire lives living in or close to the forest. Your trek through the forest will be enchanting as you weave through overhanging vines, moss covered Hagenia trees and giant Lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate of the forest. You will spot golden monkeys swinging from the bamboo, or see wild buffalo, bush duiker and a wide variety of bird life.
Climate and clothing:
The climate in Ruhengeri is unpredictable although you can generally expect both sun as well as rainfall during the day. Ruhengeri is 1,700m above sea level. It is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening. Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings. It is likely that you will get hot whilst walking though the forest and will cool down having reached the gorillas due to the high altitude, so you are advised to bring additional clothing. Nights are quite cold, so a warm jumper is advisable for the evenings.
Wellington boots or hiking boots as well as waterproof raingear are essential when on a gorilla visit. You are strongly advised to bring a water bottle and a small snack although eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of the gorillas is forbidden.
Photography is permitted, although you may not use a flash and if you are intending to bring a video camera, then this must be cleared with ORTPN and will involve a fee. Porters are available to help you with transporting your baggage for a small charge.
The altitude during gorilla visits may cause difficulties for some visitors, however pace yourself, drink plenty of water and make sure you eat well the day prior to your trip and eat a substantial breakfast. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.
To minimize human disturbance
to the gorilla groups, visitors must maintain a distance of 7m proximity
to the gorillas, the duration of each visit is limited to one hour and
maximum number of visitors is 8 people per group.
Once inside the forest, the following must be observed:
Ø No spitting in the park
Ø No littering in the park
Ø No coughing in the direction of the gorillas
Ø Only speak in whispers
Ø Do not point at the gorillas
Ø Movements around the gorillas must be unthreatening
Ø No venturing behind thick shrubs. You may surprise a gorilla.
Ø If a nettle stings you, do not cry out, scream, shout-out loud or make any sudden moves.
Ø If a gorilla charges or vocalizes, do not look directly at it. Stand perfectly still unless the guide asks you to crouch or move back.
ESSENTIALS FOR THE HIKE
Ø Long pants and a long sleeved shirt (muted colours)
Ø Good well-worn hiking boots
Ø Light raincoat
Ø Camera (no flash)/ personal camcorder
Ø Plenty of drinking water
Ø Plenty of drinking water
Travel in Rwanda
A valid passport is mandatory. VISAS ARE NOT REQUIRED FOR NATIONALS OF THE USA, GERMANY, CANADA, UGANDA, TANZANIA, KENYA, BURUNDI AND THE DRC. For further information, please call the Rwandan Embassy/Mission nearest to you.
A certificate for yellow fever vaccination is required. Malaria is present and anti-malarial drugs are recommended. Bottled mineral water, which is available in all major towns, is recommended instead of drinking ordinary tap water.
Language: In addition to the indigenous language, Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages. French is widely spoken throughout the country, while many people speak English in Kigali and the main tourist areas. Kiswahili is also widely spoken around the country.
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