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5 Best Places Where to See Gorillas in Africa

Gorillas in Africa – Encountering gorillas in their natural habitat stands as an unparalleled wildlife experience, whether it involves mountain gorillas, Western lowland gorillas, or the rare Grauer’s gorilla. The sight of majestic silverbacks, playful juveniles, and the nurturing care exhibited by their mothers is profoundly captivating. But where exactly are the prime spots to witness these awe-inspiring creatures?

Most enthusiasts seek to track mountain gorillas, sparking debates over the best destination for a mountain gorilla safari. These incredible creatures are exclusively found in three countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With their population surpassing 1,000—markedly up from the 250 recorded half a century ago—conservation efforts have notably contributed to their resurgence.

In the lush rainforests of West and Central Africa, over 100,000 western lowland gorillas thrive. Classified as critically endangered, these gorillas are more challenging to track due to the inaccessibility of their natural habitats, resulting in fewer habituated groups available for tracking experiences.

Selecting the ideal gorilla safari destination hinges on personal factors such as budget and appetite for adventure. Here are the suggested top places to encounter gorillas in Africa: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each country offers a distinct and remarkable opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural domains.

Ultimately, the choice of the best gorilla safari destination rests on individual preferences, be it the allure of Rwanda’s well-established tourism, Uganda’s diverse gorilla families, or the raw, off-the-beaten-path experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The decision hinges on the level of adventure and budget constraints, ensuring a life-changing encounter with these incredible primates.

1. Uganda

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Adult Gorilla Relaxing

In Uganda, the ultimate mountain gorilla safaris unfold in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, home to approximately 400 gorillas divided among 13 groups. Though equally stunning, Mgahinga National Park, nestled within the Virunga Massif bordering the DRC and Rwanda, features only one habituated group, occasionally crossing borders.

Similar to Rwanda, Uganda operates with seamless efficiency, boasting skilled rangers and trackers, while local communities reap benefits from tourism fees. Trekking in Bwindi can be challenging, living up to its “impenetrable” name, yet accessibility varies among different gorilla groups. Permits are reasonably priced at US$700, offering access to these incredible encounters.

Moreover, Bwindi presents the Gorilla Habituation Experience, allowing a rare four-hour interaction with a semi-habituated gorilla group. While less predictable and not as accustomed to human presence as fully habituated groups, this experience provides a captivating insight into gorillas’ gradual acclimatization to humans. Priced at US$1500, it’s on par with Rwanda’s hour-long visit with mountain gorillas, offering an intimate and enthralling perspective into the lives of these remarkable primates.

If you have ever seem Magic, it’s in Africa

Africa is a home to a number of safaris with all travel budgets and offers a stunning and lifetime experience. If you would spend time on an adventure, it’s definitely in Africa.

2. Rwanda

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The Virunga Mountains, spanning Uganda, the DRC, and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, house a thriving population of over 600 mountain gorillas. Rwanda, dubbed the Land of a Thousand Hills, stands out as a premier destination for encountering these magnificent creatures. Featuring ten tracking groups, including the renowned Susa group atop Mount Karisimbi, which gained fame through primatologist Dian Fossey’s studies. While some groups inhabit lower slopes, making tracking more feasible, their wild nature leads to continuous movement.

In September, Musanze, the primary town for gorilla safaris in Volcanoes National Park, hosts the annual Kwita Izina ceremony, celebrating and naming newborn gorillas. This event draws thousands of visitors, adding cultural richness to the gorilla tracking experience.

Rwanda’s gorilla trekking permits, priced at US$1500, are relatively expensive. However, with the emergence of high-end accommodations in Musanze, Rwanda is establishing itself as the ‘Botswana’ of gorilla tracking, delivering exceptional experiences at a premium cost. Rwanda boasts efficient travel infrastructure, featuring well-maintained roads and numerous tour operators offering comprehensive trips, ensuring hassle-free exploration of this captivating country.

3. Democratic Republic of Congo

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stands out as the sole country hosting both lowland and mountain gorillas. Among the Virunga Mountains’ three nations, it remains the least frequented, offering a more adventurous experience at a relatively affordable cost of US$400 for permits. Within DRC’s Virunga National Park, four mountain gorilla groups reside, although the park had temporarily closed due to security concerns following the kidnapping of British tourists. As of February 2019, the park has reopened, assuring visitors of its safety.

Exclusive to DRC, the Grauer’s or eastern lowland gorillas, boasting an estimated population of 5,000, are the largest among the species. Kahuzi-Biega National Park harbors approximately 250 Grauer’s gorillas, providing an exceptional opportunity to observe these remarkable creatures. The charming lakeside town of Bukavu offers comfortable accommodation options within colonial mansions.

Due to the volatile nature of the country, staying informed about the security situation is crucial. Opting for an organized trip is advisable when planning to encounter gorillas in Congo, ensuring a safer and more guided experience amid DRC’s unique and captivating wilderness.

4. Congo Brazzaville

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Distinct from the more tumultuous Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the serene Republic of Congo (also known as Congo Brazzaville) stands as an excellent destination to witness western lowland gorillas. Positioned in the peaceful surroundings of Congo’s northwest, Odzala-Kokoua National Park houses two habituated groups amidst a lush, untamed tropical rainforest. Although not the most budget-friendly destination due to its remote nature, it offers an exclusive encounter with small groups of only four people. The rustic luxury accommodation complements the adventurous tracking experience. Neptune, a charismatic silverback, leads one of the groups, providing a particularly rewarding sighting.

Additionally, western lowland gorillas thrive in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park near Mbeli Bai, where a camp frequently attracts visits from a resident silverback. This area caters more to intrepid travelers seeking a unique and immersive wildlife encounter.

5. Central African Republic

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Gorillas in Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR), alongside Congo, is one of the rare countries where habituated western lowland gorillas reside, but it’s not an expedition for the faint-hearted. CAR’s Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, nestled within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sangha Trinational Reserve, encompasses a tropical rainforest ecosystem that stretches across protected areas in Congo and Cameroon.

Renowned for hosting the world’s highest concentration of western lowland gorillas and forest elephants, the prime location to witness them is Dzanga Bai, a captivating area within the reserve. For accommodations, Sangha Lodge offers an ideal stay. Although traversing this country demands resilience due to its challenging travel conditions, the experience promises immense rewards. Additionally, by visiting, travelers can support the local Ba’aka people through the lodge’s initiatives.

It’s imperative to acknowledge that CAR faces challenges, making it vital to stay updated on travel advisories and seek guidance from the lodge for the most current information before planning a visit to this remarkable but troubled country.

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