Friday, October 12, 2012

How to go gorilla trekking on your own – No Agents, Just Do it on Your Own!

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We all have times when we just want to do things on our own, determined of course by many factors. Today I want to share with you how a friends of mine, did a gorilla trek in Rwanda on their own, without the assistance of a tour agent. Although this may prove stressing, it may help you save some money. 
If you have little time, it's probably easier to arrange your tour with a tour operator, but if you have plenty of time to read, research and re-arrange things, you can do it on your own. Here are some tips for you:

A Wild Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
A Wild Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
  • Gorilla permit: US$750 per person, obtained from the Rwandan Development Board (RDB). Send an email to them beforehand to ascertain whether the days you want are available. You then make payment (possible with  Visa card  or by bank transfer) including the bank charges involved.
  • Transport from Kigali to Musanze (aka Ruhengeri) the town closest to Virunga National Park.  Virunga Express Bus costs around 2000 RWF per person. This and a number of other mini-bus companies leave from the central bus / taxi station at Nyabugogo every half hour and take about 2hrs to Musanze. The offices selling tickets for the buses are at the bus station, it's easy to just head down there with your bags 30 mins before you want to go.
    Alternatively you can contact for renting a car to Virunga. They should not charge more than $100 a day.
    Now, to move from Musanze town to Virunga National Park you will either take a taxi (which charges  10,000 RWF) or a local bus (which costs just 300 RWF per person)  departing every 30 minutes. You could also hire a  motorcycle taxi for 1500 or 2000 RWF. The trip is about 15-20 minutes.
  • Accommodation in Kinigi:  Kinigi Guest House (dbl room with bathroom 25,000 RWF per night, including breakfast) is a 7 minute walk from the Volcanoes National Park HQ where the gorilla (and golden monkey) treks leave each morning. It's also clean, quiet and in a lovely setting, with a fireplace in a common lounge that is good for kicking back with other guests in the evening. You can call  + 250 (0)788 533 606 or +250 (0)788 461 913 to make the reservation.
  • However, although you don’t need your own transport up to the Park, you shall certainly need it for the gorilla trek because mountain gorillas are often located far off and the roads from the Virunga  Park Headquarters to the gorilla tracking trailheads are really rough requiring 4x4 vehicles strictly. You can ask the guesthouse to arrange this for you  at a  standard rate of US$100 per day.
    For the golden monkeys trek you don't need a 4WD to reach the trailhead, a regular car will do for 30,000 RWF.
For both treks you will need to go with your packed lunch because you cannot tell how long the trek shall last but that depends on the luck of the draw with the gorilla groups you're allocated to - some travellers spent 6-8 hours trekking to find their group.

Overall, if you have the time and knowledge resources, it was really pretty easy to do on our own - and helped keep the costs down. The gorilla trek was definitely worth it though - well recommend it!

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