• Megan O'Sullivan | iTravel The Junction &

ONE FOR THE BUCKET LIST: Mountain Gorilla Trekking

There’s absolutely nothing in the world that can compare to the feeling of being within an arm’s length of a massive silverback and his family. Named for the distinctive silver streak that covers their broad backs, these impressive males are the undisputed leaders of individual family groups – known as troops - which comprise of up to 30 females, infants and a handful of younger males.

Found only in the densely forested slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, which lie on the border of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, mountain gorillas, are these three countries’ star attractions and their biggest tourism drawcards.

Thanks to some long-running successful conservation programs and the ever-growing number of visitors who come to see these primates every year, they are the only great apes whose populations have increased in recent decades.

Of course, gorilla permits are relatively expensive, with strict limits on how many are issued each day. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any, but your reward – if you do locate a troop – is a truly profound and intense wildlife experience that totally outweighs the effort and expense. Plus, most of your tourist dollars go directly to safeguarding the future of these magnificent creatures.

In any case, finding these gentle giants is a real thrill, with visitors required to rise very early and trek along muddy tracks through thick vegetation teeming with exotic birds and wildlife in search of a troop. Once one is found, you may spend up to one-hour watching and taking photographs.

African Wildlife Safaris has arranged hundreds of mountain gorilla treks over the years, and highly recommend trekking from Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park) or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Both these countries are home to excellent lodges and camps located close to park entrances, where treks depart. Their vibrant capital cities can also be easily reached by air, and are conveniently situated a relatively short drive from the Virunga Volcanoes.

From Rwanda, the 4-day/3-night gorilla trekking program starts from $4,858 per person twin-share (ex Kigali.) This includes one gorilla permit, accommodation, all transfers and a Flying Doctor Service membership. You can also combine this experience with trekking for chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest National Park to the south for another truly memorable adventure!

From Uganda, the 4-day/3-night gorilla trekking program starts from $4,174 per person twin-share ex Entebbe. This includes two gorilla permits, accommodation and all transfers. Consider combining a trek with a few nights at a safari camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park, famous for its tree-climbing lions and hippo-rich Kazinga Channel.

For more information on travel to Rwanda and Uganda, or to have an itinerary tailor-made for you, contact itravel The Junction on 4962 1116 or itravel Warners Bay on 4947 1116 today!

Image credit: Tony Camacho

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