Rwandan visas are NOT required by nationals of:
Nationals of USA, UK, Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa and Sweden shall get an entry visa and pay visa fee upon arrival at any Rwanda entry point without prior application. The entry visa fee is $30 and is valid for a period of 30 days.
Please note that for other nationals it is not possible to acquire Rwandan visas on arrival at the airport, so other nationals should either submit their application demands to Rwandan Embassies/Diplomatic Missions abroad, or request for an online Entry Facility Form, which allows them to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport.
Please visit http://www.migration.gov.rw/ for details. Clients who need a visa will be required to present a copy of the accepted Entry Facility Form at the airport in order to obtain their Visas. A single entry visa to Rwanda costs US$30. In the UK the Rwandan Embassy is located 120 – 122 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NR. Telephone: +44 020 722 49 832.
In the USA the Rwandan Embassy is located at 1724 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DE 200091. Telephone: +1 202 232 2882.
Ugandan visas are required by citizens of the European Union, the USA and Japan; other nationals should check. Entry visas can be obtained at Ugandan missions overseas or at Entebbe airport or land borders. A single entry visa to Uganda costs US$ 50, and is valid for between two weeks and three months. Please visit http://www.immigration.go.ug/page/requirements-entry-uganda for details.
In the UK the Ugandan Embassy is located at Uganda House, 58/59 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DX. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7839 5783.
In the USA the Uganda Embassy is located at 5811 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20011. Telephone: +1 202 726 7100.
See also our recommended packing list and equipment for Gorilla tracking.
It is best to have layers of clothing as temperatures tend to change.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has nine habituated families with 8 permits available daily for each group. The gorillas there live in thicker tropical forest and tracking is more challenging than Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and PNV in Rwanda as the hillsides are steeper and it can take 3-10 hours after leaving the base.
Five of the families (Mubare, Habinyanja, Oruzogo, Bitukura and Rushegura) are accessed from Buhoma in the north. A further four families can be tracked from Southern Bwindi, which is accessed from Kisoro. These families are Nkuringo, Nshongi, Kahunje and Mishaya.
The Mubare Family:
7 members including 1 silverback.
Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda, having been habituated between 1991 and 1993 and was named after the Mubare hills, where it was first spotted. The family began, led by silverback Ruhondeza, with 12 individuals, swelling to 18 before dropping to their current 7.
15-30 minutes from Bwindi Lodge.
The Habinyanja Family: 15 members with 2 silverbacks.
Habinyanja means ‘body of water’ and was habituated in 1997. It was a massive group but it split into two families, forming the Rushegura family.
1 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.
The Oruzogo Family: 16 members including 1 silverback.
The group was named after the local name of a common plant in the home range of this family.
2 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.
The Bitukura Family: 12 members including 4 silverbacks
The family is one of the newer groups in the Impenetrable Forest and was named after the Bitukura river. Their habituation started in 2007 and tracking began in 2008.
2 hour drive from Bwindi Lodge.
The Rushegura Family: 19 members with 1 silverback
The family was habituated in 2000 and was named after the place where the separation of this group from the larger family of Habinyanja took place. Their name is taken from a tree species that grows in their home area, ‘Ebishegura’.
The Nkuringo Family: 19 members with 2 silverbacks
The family was named after the Nkuringo hill where the group was first spotted. They were originally habituated in 2004 because of difficulties caused by their destroying crops of local farmers. Now farmers benefit from the tourism they provide.
The Nshongi Family: 25 members with 4 silverbacks.
The group was named after the river close to where this gorilla family was first sighted. It was the largest group to be habituated and were first tracked in 2009.
The Mishaya Family: 12 members including 1 silverback.
Mishaya means ‘lucky one’. The group was formed after a dispute in the Nshongi family, at which point they split off and became a separate family.
The Kahungye Family: 27 members including 3 silverbacks.
The group was named after the Kahungye hill and are newly habituated, opened for tracking in 2011.
Mgahinga National Park has 1 gorilla group, The Nyakagezi Family, which has recently returned from their travelling in Rwanda and Congo. Tracking in Mgahinga and PNV is usually easier than Bwindi as the afromontane forest is lighter.
The Nyakagezi Family : 10 members, including 3 silverbacks.
The group is very nomadic, crossing the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.
Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda has ten habituated gorilla families with 8 permits available daily for each group. These include Susa, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Agashya, Bwenge and Ugyenda. Most groups are half-day walks but Susa can take around 7 hours. Tracking in PNV is usually easier than tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda as the afromontane forest is lighter.
The Susa group: 28 members including 3 silverbacks.
Susa was the largest gorilla group before it split into two and was named after the Susa river. It was the group originally studied by Dian Fossey and is popular because of a pair of twins, Byishimo and Impano.
The Karisimbi group: 15 members including 3 silverbacks.
This is the family that split from the original Susa family. It has 15 members and it always stays in the lower slopes of Karisimbi Volcano.
The Sabyinyo group: 12 members including 2 silverbacks.
The group was named after the rugged Sabyinyo Volcano. Sabyinyo means ‘old man’s teeth’ and the group is known to stay between the mountains Sabyinyo and Gahinga, enjoying the gentle slopes and easy terrain.
The Amahoro group: 17 members including 1 silverback.
Amahoro means ‘peaceful’ and the group is usually extraordinarily gentle and peaceful, which is why they were given the name. It is a tougher climb to reach them, though.
The Umubano group: 11 members including 1 silverback.
Umubano means ‘live together’ as the group originally formed when it split from the Amahoro group. They still share much of the same territory and there is a peaceful relationship between them.
The Kwitonda group: 18 members including 2 silverbacks.
Kwitonda means ‘humble one’, a name given to the group after the name of their dominant silverback. They generally stay on the lower slopes of Mount Muhavura but are one of the more difficult tracking experiences.
The Hirwa group: 12 members including 1 silverback.
Hirwa means ‘lucky one’. Hirwa is a new group that was formed when splinters from Sabyinyo group and Group 13 merged. They have twins and are usually on Mount Sabyinyo.
The Agasha group: 25 members including 2 silverbacks.
Agasha means ‘the news’. The Agasha group was previously known as Group 13 but was renamed when Agasha challenged the dominant silverback by leading the group away from him and assimilating other individuals from groups or solitary wandering.
The Bwenge group: 10 members including 1 silverback.
Bwenge means ‘brightness’ and shares much of their territory with the Ugyenda group on Mount Visoke.
The Ugyenda group: 11 members including 1 silverback.
Ugyenda means ‘departure’. The group usually stays around the Mount Visoke region and the tracking is not too difficult.
To protect gorillas from disease, no children under 15 or people with illnesses may go tracking. Trackers must be fit and in good health as tracking in thick forest at heights up to 3,000m traversing steep-sided mountains and ravines can be tough, arduous and wet. Porters can be hired to carry equipment. Part of the gorilla permit fee goes to communities living around the gorilla parks.
Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. Gorilla viewing can be denied at short notice because of national park or border closures, security changes or gorillas going out of range. In such circumstances refunds are at the discretion of the authority and are not within the company’s control. Obtaining a gorilla permit therefore is not a guarantee of seeing a gorilla.
One hour is allowed with the gorillas, at a distance of at least 7 metres. Flash photography is not allowed, so fast film is useful (400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Professional film makers require permission and need to purchase filming permits.
At the National Parks you will meet your ranger who explains the rules for tracking gorillas and will take you up to the gorillas. Please follow the rules stated.
• Restaurants: 3-5%
• Lodge/Camp staff: US$ 3-5 per person per day for a stay of 1-3 days
• Guides/Drivers: US$ 10 or more per day per person
• Community walk guide/Batwa trail guide: US$ 5 per person
• Channel/boat trip staff: US$ 5-8 per person
• Gorilla tracking rangers/guides: US$ 10-15 per person per day. There will be one main
guide and several rangers. It is advised to pay the main guide separately. The rangers can be given another donation.
• Porter at park/ on gorilla treks: US$ 20-25 per person per day. Porters can be hired at park entrances. When gorilla tracking they will help carry your bags and help you with the thick foliage and the steep terrain.
• Hotel/lodge baggage porters: US$ 1 – 2 per person.
For personal expenditure cash is best; US$30-50 per day is a reasonable minimum. One US Dollar is about 2500-3000 Ugandan Shillings and 660 Rwandan Francs (March 2015).
Please be aware that only post-2006 US Dollar bills are usable. Bills should be in excellent condition with no stains or tears.
Credit cards are accepted by very few outlets in Kampala and Kigali and a few hotels/lodges up-country. Only cash is accepted by most places.
ATM machines are available in Kampala and Kigali only.
Flash photography is not allowed, so fast film is useful (400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Professional filmmakers require permission and need to purchase filming permits. Those interested in photographing gorillas should note that photography is often easier when the weather is not sunny.
Use safe deposit boxes where available; secure travel documents and valuables. Do not walk unescorted at night. If in doubt seek advice from your guide.
Most European or American mobile phones with a roaming agreement work in Uganda and Rwanda. Local SIM cards can also be purchased in many outlets. Internet facilities are available in Kampala and Kigali and in most major towns in Uganda and Rwanda although the quality and speed of the connection varies. Our guides have cell phones which can be used for incoming calls.
Gorilla tracking can be muddier but remains open. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 21°C and 30°C and in the mountainous areas they can go down to 10°C in certain months.
Our advice is to travel when it is most convenient and usually the rain, which is often for short periods, is part of the great experience.