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Kinigi, Parc National des Volcans HQ

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Headquarters and meeting point for everyone going gorilla tracking in Rwanda ... more below
Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park HQ

Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park HQ

© Anouk Zijlma
You first stop is Kinigi, the park headquarters where gorilla permits ($500 each) are checked and coffee is served, which is handy since you'll be waiting around here for at least half an hour. As of June 2010, Rwanda has seven habituated gorilla groups, each varying in size and walking distance. 56 permits are issued daily and they are sold out months in advance, especially during high season (June - October). It is unlikely that you will get a spare one by hanging around here at around 7am, but you could try if you have no other means of getting one.

Note the lady in front is wearing gloves, a very good idea since the forests are filled with burning and stinging nettles. They actually went right through my jeans, so layers are also a good idea. Pulling your socks over your pants/jeans is a must to lessen the chance of red ants crawling up your legs. It becomes obvious as to why the gorillas have managed to survive in this region, it's not a pleasant place for humans to be wandering about in.

Once all the permits have been accounted for, the groups are formed and you will be told which gorilla family you will be visiting (see next photo). It's here you will meet your two guides who introduce the group to you and tell you a little about the trek and the rules you need to follow.

Gorilla tracking rules include: No pointing, no flash, no photos if you are closer than seven meters from the gorillas, and if you sneeze or cough you must cover your mouth. No one under 15 is allowed to track gorillas. People who have coughs or colds or are sick, cannot go tracking since they can pass their germs to the gorillas.

If you would like to visit a particular group, let your driver or a guide know as soon as you get to Kinigi. I had twisted my ankle rather badly about a week before and was lucky to have the chance of specifying that I wanted to opt for a shorter hike. While there are no guarantees, since the gorilla families move around every day, the Sabinyo group tends to be the closest to where you can park a car (not here in Kinigi).

Make use of the toilets here at HQ, it may be your last chance for a few hours until you get going on your hike.

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