Best Places to see Gorillas in Africa

Arguably one of the most fascinating species on the planet, gorillas are amongst the closest living relatives to humans due to their DNA, around 98% similar to humankind.
They have feet and hands like humans with big toes, opposable thumbs, and individual fingerprints.
Another important feature in common with humans is their intelligence: they can grieve and laugh, they are able to use tools, and according to some research they might have even spiritual and religious feelings.

Herbivorous, they are the world’s largest primates reaching up to 270 kg weight and 180 cm height, with an average lifespan between 30 and 40 years, although some zoo gorillas have registered a maximum age of more than 50 years (the longest living gorilla was the 61 years old Ozoum “Ozzie”, died the 25th of January 2022 at Zoo Atlanta, United States).

Adult male gorillas, after reaching the age of around 12 years, develop some characteristic grey/silver hair on the back, hence the nickname “silverbacks”.
The dominant silverback is the undisputed leader and makes all the most important decisions of the troop, choosing the movements, the feeding sites, and protecting the whole group.

There are around 5,300 gorillas in the wild and all their species and subspecies are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Mountain Gorilla © Maciej / Flickr



Thanks to the brilliant primatologist Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 to 1985, gorillas are no more depicted as violent and aggressive against humankind. Some of Fossey’s young gorillas became famous after they had been filmed playing with David Attenborough in 1979 for the tv series Life on Earth.
However, gorillas, if threatened, can be extremely dangerous and aggressive, but usually, most of the violence is directed towards other gorillas.

There are two species and four subspecies of gorillas:

  • Western Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla), divided in Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Diehli),
  • Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei), divided in Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei) and Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Graueri).

Best places to see gorillas in the wild

Gorillas live in only Central Africa, more precisely in Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola (Cabinda area), Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda.

Gorilla distribution map

Angola
You can find Western Lowland gorillas only in the Cabinda region, but there are few tourist infrastructures. You can see gorillas in the Maiombe Forest Reserve.

Cameroon
Cameroon is home to both Cross River gorillas (West, border with Nigeria) and Western Lowland Gorillas (South).
Cross River gorillas are quite difficult to be seen, due to their small number and the lack of tourism infrastructures.
There are great chances to see Western Lowlands gorillas at Ndzanga Sangha National Park and Lobéké National Park,
At Limbe Wildlife Centre and Mefou National Park, you can find rescued gorillas in rehabilitation.

Central African Republic
The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is one of the best places to meet Western Lowland gorillas in Africa. WWF started a project in habituating two groups of this species.

Republic of Congo
The Republic of Congo is home to more than 120,000 Western Lowland gorillas. The best areas to meet them are the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in the northwest of the country, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park around Mbeli Bai. In the Léfini Reserve you can meet rescued gorilla rehabilitation.
The best time to go is during the dry seasons, from June to September and from December to February.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Three out of four subspecies of gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but check the security situation of the country before planning your trip.
Eastern Lowlands gorillas can be found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences.
Great chances to see Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest national park in Africa.
You can see some Western Lowland gorillas west of the country in the Madiakoko Mountains, Bas-Congo.

Equatorial Guinea
There are no groups of habituated gorillas and tourist infrastructures in Equatorial Guinea, but you can avail of local tourist guides to bring you across the Monte Alen National Park to meet some Western Lowland gorillas.

Gabon
Gabon is one of the best areas to see Western Lowland gorillas: in the Lopé National Park visitors can see them on generic safaris, and the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park is one of the places with the highest density of gorillas in Africa.
The best choice for gorillas sightseeing is the Loango National Park, home of the only group of habituated gorillas in Gabon.

Nigeria
Although Nigeria has lately invested in tourism infrastructures, the chances to meet Cross River gorillas in the Cross River National Park are still low, due to their small number and given that they are not habituated.

Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of the best places (and one of the most famous, thanks to Dian Fossey’s research) to see Mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is home to around 30% of the overall population of Mountain gorillas.

Uganda
About half of the remaining population of Mountain gorillas live in Uganda.
Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park have a considerable number of habituated gorillas and excellent probability of sightseeing.

Where to see Gorillas
Chances to see gorillas in the wild

WHEN TO GO
Dry seasons (December to February and June to September) are the best periods, but guided tours are available all year round, and in the low seasons, permits might be discounted.

PERMITS
Gorilla safari permits might be very expensive, the cost is around 400$ per person in Congo, 600$ in Uganda and 1500$ in Rwanda.
The reason for these prices is the high demand and the limited availability, but mostly due to the need for found to protect the primates: 75% of the amount is to conserve the gorilla surviving population, 15% goes to the governments and the 10% goes to the local communities.

Nubian Pyramids, Sudan

Nubian Pyramids
photo © Wufei07

Less famous than the Egyptian pyramids but not less fascinating, those burial monuments belong to the ancient kingdom of Kush, a rival to Egyptian settled from 2500 BC in the Nubian Valley (modern Sudan) to AD 350, when the kingdom of Axum invaded and conquered the capital Meroë and ended the Kushite dominance.

Compared to the Egyptians, they are more recent (built a thousand years after), smaller (the highest is less than 30 meters, Giza’s is 139 meters), and with steeper sides. There are around 200 pyramids in the Nubian Valley, more than in Egypt.

Meroë, located 240 kilometers north of Khartoum, is the biggest and best-preserved sacred area, where 30 kings, eight queens, and three princes are buried.

Although relatively unknown (the last group of pyramids was discovered between 2009 and 2012), the Nubian pyramids are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

It seems a bit weird that a river doesn’t reach the sea, but this is what happens to the Okavango, the fourth longest river on the African continent. It rises on the Angolan mountains to finish his race in Botswana, flowing into a sandy sea: the Kalahari desert.

The origin of this phenomenon dates back to the ice age, when the river flowed into the great Makgadikgadi lake, now a desert.
At its mouth, it forms an internal delta, a cradle of unbelievable biodiversity considered one of the best-preserved natural areas where huge quantities of animals can be found, of almost all the species of the African continent.

Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta from space © ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Okavango Delta
© Mario Micklisch

Irta’Ale volcano, Ethiopia

Irta'Ale volcano
photo © Petr Meissner
The Irta’Ale (or Erta Ale) volcano, located in the northern area of Ethiopia, Danakil depression, is one of the few existing volcanoes with permanent lava lakes (since the beginning of the 20th century). 
 
613 meters high, it is one of the most spectacular formations of Northern Africa (like the nearby Danakil depression).
 
From Addis Abeba and Makelle there are organized tours for tourists: the ascent is about 3 hours, rather easy, but pay attention to the hot temperature.

the White Desert, Egypt

The Sahara el Beyda, well known as the White Desert, is one of the most spectacular deserts in the world. Its chalk rock formations, after millions of years of wind and sand erosion, have bizarre shapes like, for example, the rock named “The chicken and the mushroom”.

The area is a National Park located about 50 km North of the town of Farafra, Egypt.

The desert was also the location of the music video of the song Echoes, the first single released by the British rock band Klaxons, from their second studio album, Surfing the Void.

Unfortunately, due to the armies and Islamist militant presence, the area is not safe, though local agencies organize trips for tourists.

Tassili n’Ajjer Nat. Park, Algeria

© hanming_huang / Flickr

The Tassili n’Ajjer National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, is an outstanding plateau of about 70.000 km² composed mostly of black and red sandstone that, due to the erosion, has spectacular shapes of canyons, natural rock arches and volcanic ridges.

The National Park, located in the south-eastern area of Algeria at the borders of Mali, Niger and Libya, reachable from the town of Djanet, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, with a well-preserved collection of remains and over 15,000 rock engravings and drawings dating back to the Neolithic era.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater
© Vincenzo Gianferrari Pini

With 16 km of diameter and 265 square km area, the Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera. Formed three million years ago by a massive volcano, it is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania). Due to its climatic conditions, the crater area has its own, unique, ecosystem.

 
Around the Magadi Lake, in the middle of the crater, live an impressive variety of animal species, among which elephants, black rhinos, leopards, lions, buffalos, hippos, hyenas, crocodiles, cheetah and thousands of pink flamingos, giving the area the appearance of a large water park for wild animals.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the only one Tanzania’s Park in which the Masai population can live and move freely.