The largest of all the primates, gorillas are magnificent animals to behold. They’re stocky with broad chests and shoulders and large human-like hands. It seems that we’re drawn to these magnificent creatures, which is unsurprising given that we share 98.3% of our genetic code with them. Seeing wild gorilla in their natural habitat, the forests of equatorial Africa, has become one of the world’s ultimate wildlife experiences.
What are the different types of gorillas?
There are two species: eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) and western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). Eastern gorillas split into two subspecies: eastern lowland and mountain gorillas. And western gorillas split into two subspecies: western lowland gorilla and Cross River gorilla. This is important when planning a gorilla trekking trip because the best destination for observing gorillas in the wild depends on the species you’re hoping to see.
Eastern gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda. Whereas western gorillas can be found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Angola and DRC.
If it’s mountain gorillas (the subspecies of Eastern gorillas) you’d most like to see, venture up to Africa’s high altitude montane forests in the Virunga Mountain chain, spanning three countries and three national parks – Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, and M’gahinga National Park in Uganda. Or visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
These three national parks offer some of the best gorilla viewing opportunities.
Where: The northwestern corner of Rwanda – this is home to one of the highest dwelling populations of mountain gorilla.
Best time to go: All year round!
Tip: Trekking in rainforest can be easier during the dry seasons (December-February and June-September). However, the air is crystal clear during the wet seasons, giving you a better view of the stunning volcanoes. Plus, the gorillas tend to stay lower down the slopes of the mountain so, you may not need to trek as far.
Where: Approx. 30 miles north of Mgahinga, Bwindi contains around half of the world’s remaining population of gorilla.
Best time to go: Also all year round!
Tip: The dry seasons (January-February and June-September) are popular due to more favourable trekking conditions but choosing to visit during the wet seasons comes with the advantage of less competition for gorilla permits which are issued daily.
Where: Northwestern Republic of the Congo – this park is home to the largest population of western lowland gorillas in Africa.
Best time to go: During the dry seasons (June-September and December-February) when the park’s roads are less prone to flooding.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda offers the perfect location to base yourself as we are located only 15 minutes drive from the Volcanoes National Park headquarters, the starting point for the Gorilla treks! Follow this link to find out more about gorilla trekking in Rwanda.