What kids can do when adults go gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Planning an African safari that will include the famous gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a big challenge for families, or parents that will be traveling with children/kids. This is because the gorilla trekking in Rwanda has an age limit, that is, only persons aged 16 years and above can do the trek. There is no exception as long as an individual is not aged 16 years and above, she or he would not be allowed to track the gorillas in Rwanda.

One may ask, why are children not allowed to participate gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

Children (below 16 years) are not allowed to go tracking the gorillas for reasons such as;

  • they may not have the physical energy to climb the mountains. The trek can be physically demanding as it can take many hours or even a full day of climbing the mountains to find the gorillas.
  • children are susceptible to communicable diseases such as cough which can easily spread to the gorillas, and
  • there is also the fear that children do not have the maturity to remain calm or behave appropriately around the gorillas in situations when the gorillas become agitated or moody. Children may also not have the discipline to adhere to the trekking rules…because kids are kids!

So, parents who will be traveling with their children are always concerned about what their kids will be doing when they (parents) are away for a full day trekking in the mountains to see the gorillas.

Some parents want an activity the kids will enjoy to compensate for missing out on the exciting gorilla adventure. Other parents are concerned about who will manage or take care of their children in their absence and if they can trust those people.

In this article I discuss what options are available for children when adults are tracking gorillas in Rwanda.

Nature walk in Buhanga forest

Buhanga forest is a small patch of forest not very far from the Virunga mountains in Musanze district. The forest has a huge cultural and historical significancy to Rwanda. It is said to hold the origins of the nation Rwanda. The forest provides a nice nature walk through several species of trees. A child, say 10 years old and more, can learn so much from the nature walk including the different types of trees, birds, geography of the area and also the historical traditions attached to the forest. The walking trail also goes through a cave which offers a nice ancient experience.

Village walk near the park

A child can be taken for a guided walk in the village to see rural Rwanda and learn how other people live, see gardens and about how different crops are grown, etc…

Biking in the villages

For biking enthusiasts, bikes are available even for kids as young as 10 and can go on a guided biking adventure through Musanze to the villages and enjoy the views of the rolling landscape. Neat village paths and paved roads that are safe are available in Musanze. One can take a biking trip to the twin lakes, Mukungwa river or a wetland.

Play kids games at the lodge

Kids can be kept busy at the lodge by engaging in kids’ games, painting and drawing challenges. Most upmarket lodges do have these options available to kids.

Cancelling a gorilla trekking ticket/permit in Rwanda – Can I be refunded?

You need a gorilla trekking ticket or permit to do the gorilla tour in Rwanda. Without the ticket you cannot do the trek. The permit costs a whooping USD 1500 (fifteen hundred US Dollars) and you need to get it in advance because a small number is available per day. Only 8 people can track one gorilla group and there are 12 habituated groups for gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

You therefore need to book the gorilla permit well in advance so that you do not miss your preferred dates. More so, if you are planning to do the gorilla trekking during the high tourism season which is from June to mid-September.

After booking and buying the pricey Rwanda gorilla permit, one wonders what happens in case one cannot make it for the tour or trek? The covid 19 pandemic has made this question the more relevant after travel was interrupted and many people cancelled their travels or postponed them.

So, can you be refunded when you cancel a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda?

No!

Unfortunately, the gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda is not refundable after purchasing it.

Can the gorilla permit/ticket be postponed?

Since the start of the covid pandemic till the end of 2022, the government of Rwanda allows postponing a ticket/permit to another date two times.

Can I resell my permit/ticket?

Yes, you booking agent/tour operator can resell your permit to a new client or another tour company (if there is one inquiring to trek on your dates). This may be the best option for tourists that cancel and have no plan of visiting any time soon. However, to easily sell the permit your agent may discount it hence you may not get the full amount of the permit. This is something you would agree with your tour operator.

Cancelling a gorilla trekking ticket in Uganda – Can I be refunded? cancellation terms and refund policy

The gorilla trekking permit or ticket is central to a safari in Uganda that includes the popular gorilla trekking or tracking activity. Without the gorilla trekking ticket/permit you cannot take part in this once in a lifetime experience, and yet the tickets are limited in number as only 8 are issued per day for each gorilla family that is available for the gorilla trekking tour. In fact, before confirming any other arrangements of the safari trip to Uganda, confirming the date of the gorilla trek and buying the ticket is the priority.

The gorilla ticket is purchased many months in advance before the gorilla tour and one becomes tied to the trip because of it.

However, a concern for many travelers is what happens if they cannot make it for the trip or trek due to unforeseen issues? Is the gorilla permit/ticket refundable? Can it be rescheduled? Can I resell it?

Below I discuss about cancelling the gorilla tracking permit

Can the gorilla trekking permit in Uganda be refunded? Yes, the gorilla trekking permit/ticket can be refunded.

Here is the cancellation and refund policy by the Uganda Wildlife Authority which is body of the gorilla trekking tickets in Uganda:

Cancel less than 8 days to trekking date – no refund at all

Cancel 9 – 45 days to trekking date – 25% refund

Cancel 46 – 90 days to trekking date – 50% refund

Cancel 91 days and above to trekking date – 70% refund

What happens I travel for the gorilla trek and on the day of the trek I wake up and cannot trek because of a sickness or injury? Do I lose it all?! No you don’t lose it all

If on the day of the trek you are unable to join the gorilla tracking because of the an injury or a sickness, especially if you catch a contagious disease that can put the gorillas at risk, you can be refunded 50% of the ticket.  You will have to report to the park office a day before or early in the morning of the trek. You will be required to present a doctor’s report for processing your refund.

Can I instead reschedule a gorilla trekking ticket and come another time?

Once you have bought a permit, you are allowed to reschedule it once to a new date as long as there is availability on the new date.

Can I resell the gorilla tracking permit?

This may be the best option if you are cancelling and planning to come another time. You can resell your permit if there is demand on your dates. However, this option is easier if you have booked your ticket or tour through a local tour agent who would easily sell to another tour agent or would know if someone is looking for a ticket on your cancelled dates.

A big five safari in Uganda – What are the chances of seeing the big five (5) animals in Uganda?

Nearly every traveler’s dream is to tick off all the famous Big 5 animals (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo) on their safari trip in Africa. Uganda is one of the countries that offer this possibility, having all these animals in many parks and wildlife reserves. And, being home to the mountain gorillas, a safari in Uganda gives you the chance to see the Big Five and the famous Mountain Gorillas – two of the biggest highlights of an African safari holiday.

However, one wonders what the chances are of seeing the big five animals in Uganda and which destinations have the best chances to see particular animals

The Big Five in Uganda and best places to to see them

Rhinos in Uganda

The Rhino is the least widespread of the Big Five and the most endangered mostly because it is highly poached for its horn.

The rhinos in the wild in Uganda are found in only one destination, that is, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The sanctuary was started in 2015 as a program to reintroduce the rhinos back into Uganda’s wilderness after they were poached and wiped out during the insurgencies of the 1970s. The fate which befell many rhinos in Africa. The rhinos have been thriving on the sanctuary and from the 13 White Rhinos that were originally introduced have since multiplied to more than 30 rhinos.

The sanctuary offers a guided rhino tracking activity for tourists to see the rhinos on foot. You therefore are guaranteed to tick off the rhinos in Uganda when you visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Note, there are NO Black Rhinos in Uganda at the moment.

Lions

A safari is not complete without seeing the “King of the Jungle”, the Lion. It is therefore the most sought after Big Five animal.

You can see lions in three savannah park of Uganda – Murchison Falls Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, Kidepo Valley national park.

If you ask which park will give you the best chance of seeing lions in Uganda? First of all, none of the parks guarantees seeing the lions on a normal game drive. But if you visit at least two of the parks there is a high probability you will see them at least in one of the two parks.

Murchison Falls National Park offers slightly better chances to see the lions. The park is also located in the same direction and close to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, so the shortest tour to see the all the big five in Uganda is combing these two destinations in a 3 days Murchison Falls tour with rhino tracking.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for the tree climbing lions and is one of the few parks in the world where lions have developed this unique capability to climb trees like leopards. Queen Elizabeth National Park also offers a lion tracking activity where tourists join researchers to monitor collared lions. You should include lion tracking in your itinerary if you want to guarantee seeing the lions during your safari vacation in Uganda.

Leopard

Leopards are arguably the most widespread of the big five and yet the most difficult to find. They live in most of the parks and wildlife reserves across Uganda. They are very solitary and stealth, and a sighting is by pure luck. The savannah parks have provided the best chances to see leopards in Uganda, and one park in particular is the Lake Mburo Park which is the smallest of the savannah parks. For better chance to see the leopard you should do the night drive when leopards are most active. All savannah parks allow a night game drive.

Elephants

You sure cannot miss seeing the Elephants in Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park all have plenty of elephants.

Buffaloes

Buffaloes are a constant sighting in all the savannah parks in Uganda.

Big Five Safari trips in Uganda

3 days Murchison Falls tour with rhino tracking

6 days Murchison Falls and Kidepo park safari

12 days Best of Uganda wildlife safari

The Big Five (5) animals in Akagera National Park

What started out as a dream is now a reality. Rwanda is now a Big Five destination hosting all the big five animals in Akagera National Park, the country’s only savannah destination. What has famously been labeled a Mountain Gorilla destination, Rwanda will now be a Mountain Gorilla and Big Five destination. Tourists will not need to go elsewhere to see the African Big Five before visiting Rwanda for the popular gorilla trek.

Reintroduction of rhinos and lions in Akagera National Park.

The rhinos and lions had been absent from Rwanda for decades. After years of reviving the park and putting in place strong safety measures including constructing an electric fence, it was time to bring back these animals and complete the big five in Akagera National Park and Rwanda.

In 2015 lions were reintroduced back into the park, and two years later the first batch of rhinos (Black Rhinos) were brought in. Both animals are thriving and reproducing.

Status of the Big Five in Akagera National Park and the chance of ticking them off your bucket list

Rhinos

Akagera National Park has both the black rhino and the white rhino species. Not many parks and wildlife reserves are lucky to have both species.

The black rhinos were the first to be reintroduced in the park in 2017, numbering 15. These live in the woodland southern area of the park that has a lot of acacia woodlands and forests, the ideal habitat for black rhinos that are browsers, feeding upward on tree leaves. Chances of seeing the black rhinos are very minimal because of the habitat and small number of the rhinos.

30 white rhinos were translocated into the park in 2021. These are thriving in Akagera and a calf has been born from this group in May 2022. White rhinos are grazers feeding mostly on grass and are therefore found in the grassland northern region of the park, particularly around the Kilala plains.

There are better chances of seeing the white rhinos than the black rhinos.

Akagera park also offers a rhino tracking activity where visitors can join park rangers on their morning routine to monitor the rhinos. If you want a sure way to tick off the rhinos you can book the rhino tracking activity.

Lions

In 2015 the “king of the jungle” made a comeback into Akagera National Park when 7 lions were translocated into the park. The lions have thrived and multiplied seven times as of 2022 and chances of seeing them on a safari trip to Akagera have increased over time.

The lions have been spotted both in the south and the north of Akagera, however the best chances are in the north near the plains where plenty of antelopes and other grazers occupy the grasslands and make the perfect hunting grounds for the lions and other cats.

At the end of the long game drive from the south to the north you will likely find the lions relaxing under a tree after the morning hunt in the plains. The entrance of the park is in the south and is the base for starting safaris in Akagera National Park.

Buffaloes

Buffaloes are the commonest member of the big five in Akagera National Park and can be seen in a variety of habitat throughout the park. About 4000 buffaloes are present in the park.

You will find large herds of buffalo in the northern plains.

Elephants

A few decades ago, elephants were on the same path as the lions and rhinos of being wiped out in Rwanda. They were severely poached during the civil wars. But kudos to the government of Rwanda and African Parks organization that has been managing the park for the last 10 years whose efforts to have one of the most protected national parks in Africa has seen the elephant population steadily recovering. There are about 133 elephants in Akagera National Park according to the previous animal census in 2021.

Ten years ago it was sheer luck to find a herd of elephants let alone lone individuals during a safari in Akagera. Now you will be unlucky not to see a herd of elephants on your safari in Akagera National Park.

Leopard

This is the most elusive of the African Big Five that requires some luck to see. The leopards are solitary and very stealth in their movements. The night safari drive will increase your chances to see the leopard who are more active at night. The night drive is available both in the south and in the north for the residents of Karenge Bush Camp.

Trips to Book to see the Big Five in Akagera

2 days safari trip to Akagera National Park

3 Days Akagera National Park tour with optional rhino tracking