What to pack for gorilla trekking
Booking your gorilla trekking experience through a specialist tour operator ensures that every little detail is taken care of - from the moment you first enquire, to the minute you land back home. With your gorilla permits, transport and accommodation all booked in advance, the only thing for you to do before your adventure with the mountain gorillas, is to pack. Gorilla trekking is a trip like no other, and with that in mind, we have put together a short packing list to make the experience safe, comfortable and most of all, perfect!
The Virunga Mountains are made up of many extinct and active volcanoes, covering the countries Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the landscape varies across the Virungas, it is predominantly occupied by bamboo and montane forest, so trekking through this dense and thick vegetation can be, at times, quite tough! As a result, light weight walking boots are a necessity and will definitely make the hike easier and more comfortable for you. I would also advise wearing your walking boots in a few weeks beforehand – new boots can sometimes feel quite stiff and may cause blisters or other pain.
Waterproof/ windproof jacket
As a tropical forest, the weather in the Volcanoes National Park can be temperamental so a rain jacket or a light poncho is definitely recommended. The rainy season (April and May) can be very wet so waterproof trousers, jackets and rucksacks are advised but generally during the dry season (June to October), a lightweight waterproof jacket should be fine.
Thick garden gloves
Trekking through the Virungas can be a challenge at times, with slippery surfaces and dense vegetation to walk through. Wearing gloves protects your hand from any sharp vegetation and stinging plants that may scratch your hands, as well as supporting you if you fell during your hike at any point.
Water and light snacks
A gorilla trek can be anything from 45 minutes to 7 or 8 hours, depending on the location of the gorilla family you are trekking for. It is important that you are healthy before doing a gorilla trek, but no matter how physically fit you are, carrying a couple of energy bars or snacks is a good idea in case you become tired during the day. The lodge you are staying in at in the Volcanoes National Park will provide you with a packed lunch and plenty of drinking water, which can be carried by a porter if you decide to hire one for the hike.
Long sleeved clothing
As mentioned, the vegetation in the Virungas is dense and the plants are wild and sharp. Long sleeved clothing not only protects you from the sun, but will also help prevent insects getting in your clothes and to your skin. A sun hat and a pair of sunglasses are also a good idea, especially if the weather is warm and humid.
Ok so you can’t technically pack a porter with you, but hiring a porter for your trek whilst you are in Rwanda, is highly recommended. For a small fee, a porter will carry any equipment you want to take on the hike – camera equipment, spare batteries, food and water, extra pieces of clothing, the list goes on. It is not uncommon for many of the porters to be ex-poachers, who have been persuaded to put down their weapons and support efforts to protect endangered mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park.
Camera equipment/ binoculars
Although the flash must not be used, photography is allowed and encouraged during your time with the gorillas. Before your trek, you will be briefed about the safety of taking photographs, such as the distance you should maintain and things to be aware of whilst getting the perfect shot. Whilst getting a memorable photograph (especially the ultimate selfie with a silverback) is high on the list, we would encourage you to step aside from the camera every now and again… the one hour you get with the gorillas does fly by, and watching them with your own eyes, aside from the lens, is completely humbling and mesmorising!