Up to recently I kept receiving many emails from intending visitors on whether it is really possible to do a gorilla trek in one day without a hassle, and my answer of course is – YES, it is possible in Rwanda.
The Kigali International Airport is just about 2½ hours of driving on paved roads from the Volcanoes National Park, the home to the mountain gorillas. And if the gorilla trekking commences at 7:00 AM, the main requirement here is to get to the Volcanoes National Park assembling point before that time. So if you can depart from Kigali in the early morning hours, 3 hours before this time you can certainly make it. Gorilla trekking can go for as many as 8 hours and once the activity is done, you can make your way back to Kigali with much ease. However much you will be tired, who cares? You have the memories to carry home.
A 1-day gorilla trek (with Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris) costs $1160 for one person, $940 and this includes the gorilla permit. Compare this cost to a 3-days gorilla trek: 1276$ for one person, 1035$ for 2 persons, then you see the difference in costs and how much you save. Of course this comes about after you consider the accommodation costs, the car hire costs for the gorilla trek with your driver, your meals, etc.
None the less, we can’t underscore the necessity for an overnight near the Park or on Kinigi town for several reasons if not to avoid risks like car breakdowns which may delay you to the point of missing out on your lifetime experience with the gorillas.
You might get lucky and get a close group (where you only have about a 45minute trek I think from trailhead to the group) - but some groups e.g. Susa can be far away and you could spend the best part of the day trekking. Plus people tend to want to head straight for a shower after the trek so that's why you almost always do need at least a night stay around Volcanoes National Park.
But yes, you can do a 1-day gorilla trek but for factors outlined above, you may consider otherwise e.g. early start (what if you get a flat tyre?), not assigned group until you're there so no guarantee of a group nearby, if you get wet or have a tough trek, you probably would want to get showered and changed fairly quickly.
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