Life Changing Gorilla Encounters

For many, the film Gorillas in the Mist sits in the fantasy bracket of what is actually possible in terms of wildlife encounters in the modern world.
It just seems too surreal that encountering the most majestic of the world’s great apes in the flesh would be an actual possibility. Yet Wilderness Safari’s Bisate Lodge in Rwanda was constructed to craft this exact experience for its guests.

Perched on the slopes of an extinct volcano in the Virunga Range, the lodge looks out over an incredible view of two more volcanoes, Bisoke and Karisimbi, whose days of eruptions have long been consigned to the pages of history. The former of the two rises above where Diane Fossey herself situated her research centre (the name of the centre, “Karisoke” came from combining the two names).
The coming of morning reveals the tendrils of mist made so famous in Fossey’s book, weaving their sinuous way through the treetops before eventually being burnt off by the African sun. Exotic birds flit through the camp and announce the arrival of the day, and you know it’s time to head up into the mountains on your gorilla trek.

Family gorilla troops are known to the rangers and their whereabouts tracked, meaning that encounters are close to a sure thing, although the distance required to hike each day might vary considerably based on the gorillas’ movements. Due to the gorillas’ susceptibility to human diseases, the time allowed for encounters is limited to an hour per day, but the intensity of the experience is such that these 60 minutes can feel like you’ve fitted a lifetime into them!
Infants play around barely an arm’s length from you, whilst adults move slowly by, feeding as they go. If you are lucky the dominant silverback might be in attendance; imagine looking into the eyes of a 150kg ape at only two metres distance.
The intimacy of these gorilla encounters is what blows peoples’ minds. When you look at them, you know they are looking back at you for the same reasons. There are hidden depths behind their eyes; you can tell that they are working you out just as surely as you are working them out.

While Gorilla trekking is the star attraction of Bisate lodge, it is certainly not the only reason to visit. The nearby Volcanoes National Park offers multiple other adventures: golden monkey trekking; the Fossey hike or even scaling Mount Bisoke itself.
On the property of the lodge itself, explore nature trails where local and unique bird species proliferate and where recent camera trap footage even recorded a discreet visit by a silverback! Get involved in Bisate’s reforestation project by planting a tree, thus helping to lure wildlife back to the area. Or follow the hum rising from the local villages below, and integrate into the community whose lives are so integral to the lodge.

With fewer than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild, there are very few places where one can have such a moving, potentially life-altering experience as this. Being on foot with an animal that is so similar yet so different to us is utterly profound, and one is left pondering one’s place in the grand scheme of things long after the adrenalin of the encounter has worn off.

If this sounds like the experience you are after, get hold of our sales team now at

There are some unbeatable specials currently running, so don’t wait to get in touch…

Gorilla Trekking: The Time is Now!

Africa’s most diverse protected area is the Virunga National Park; a third of the world’s mountain gorillas occur here, as well as over one thousand species of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibians.
Yet the national park itself is just a sample of the incredible wildlife experience the region offers. The Virunga Mountain range, which runs along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, is home to perhaps Africa’s greatest wildlife encounter, which can be experienced in a number of places and from a number of lodges in the area; Gorilla trekking.

Coming face to face with the great apes in the wild is an emotional experience. Time stretches out before you yet goes by so fast at the same time. You feel like you have been holding your breath for the whole duration of the encounter.
Sitting barely a metre from a huge silverback male is something very few people have the opportunity to do, and with only a small population surviving in the wild, it may even be that the current generation is the last on planet earth to be able to have these encounters.

The fantastic news is that the experience has suddenly become far more accessible than it has been for years. A special on gorilla trekking permits for African citizens is currently running and will be continuing until the end of 2022. The often prohibitive cost of $1500 for a permit has been reduced to just $500, so there literally isn’t a better time to go than right now!

Mountain gorillas, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda

With a number of lodges in the Virunga region currently running specials as well, the combination of reduced permit prices and discounted accommodation has seen a surge in interest in the experience.
Given that space is limited in most of the lodges and only a certain number of guests can participate in each trek, be sure to contact us as soo as you have dates in mind over which you might like to visit.
This is truly a bucket-list adventure, and there was never a better time to go!

Face to Face with Mountain Gorillas: a Life-Changing Experience

It’s an odd thing to look at yourself looking back at you, but not in a mirror.

No, you are far removed from where you would normally find a mirror. Surrounding you is damp montane forest, the air is filled with strange bird cries, and the eyes that gaze back into yours are fringed all around by dense black fur. They are not human but somehow are. You know they are looking at you just as intently as you are looking at them, and behind those peaceful, sad eyes is… something.

Photograph courtesy Sonke Moolman-Pautz

This is gorilla trekking; this is the encounter people fly around the world for. The chance to come face to face – literally – with something that is so undeniably human, yet isn’t.
It is the type of experience that changes lives.

Photograph courtesy Sonke Moolman-Pautz

The few mountain gorillas left in the world are mostly confined to the Virunga Mountains, a range of volcanoes that run along the border between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a number of national parks between the three countries ensuring the continued protection of the great apes. Rwanda and Uganda are by far the more popular destinations, and the Volcanoes National Parks in the latter and the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks in the former are usually the destinations of choice for those wishing to experience the magic first hand. A wide range of lodges dotted around the region ensures visitors have a lot of choice when it comes to selecting the right fit for them, and Iconic Africa are able to help you work your way through the options.

Dramatic landscapes are a hallmark of the gorilla trekking regions. Photograph courtesy Sonke Moolman-Pautz

Recent Gorilla-trekker and Iconic Africa guest Sonke Moolman-Pautz stayed at Singita Kwitondo lodge, and had this to say about the experience:

This trip exceeded all of our expectations and we had really high expectations to begin with! We had such magical encounters with the Gentle Giants of the Forest on both of our treks – so grateful that the Team at Iconic Africa suggested that we meet up with the Gorillas twice. It really is so worth it!

Singita Kwitondo is an absolute sanctuary of warmth and solitude. Exceptional in every way! But I think the most unexpected part of our adventure is the lasting effect that Rwanda has had on all of us. It honestly is the most incredible country with the most gentle and kind people that I have ever encountered. And to think what they have had to endure. It really has changed us, so much to learn! I honestly cannot wait to go back.

Iconic Africa arranged a completely flawless trip for a large group during a difficult and fluid time (Covid). So thoughtful with so many personal touches! We were treated like absolute VIPs from start to finish. Highly recommended!

A little family disagreement amongst one of the local troops. Photograph courtesy Sonke Moolman-Pautz

With some amazing specials on offer right now, there simply has not been a better time to see the gorillas. This is honestly one of those life-changing travel experiences that has to be lived first-hand to be understood.

Get in touch with Iconic Africa here to start planning your trip…

Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia Open for Travel

We are excited to let our international travellers know that entry into Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia is now open.
Do not hesitate to book your trip to the land of a thousand hills and endless jungle; the finest wildlife entertainment in Africa; and world-class predator activity!

Rwanda is the ultimate jungle escape for the adventurous traveller. Its gorgeously green and misty forests are home to the magnificent, world-renowned Silverback Gorillas. Rwanda is fondly known as the ‘land of a thousand hills’ because of its remarkably hilly landscape and its spectacular volcanoes.

Rwanda African Luxury Saafari Gorillas

One of Rwanda’s most luxurious lodges, Bisate Lodge is a sight to behold—striking in its unique design and set against the backdrop of Rwanda’s verdant forested landscape, Bisate Lodge allows guests to marvel at the wonder that is Rwanda.

Bisate Lodge Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Rooms

And no Rwandan adventure is complete without a gorilla trekking tour! This magical experience will, no doubt, take your breath away and render you speechless. You will be in awe of this most unbelievable and unforgettable, encounter. It is an intimate experience like no other and has been known to bring many people to tears. One hour is certainly not long enough but it is an hour that you will remember for the rest of your days.

Gorilla Trek Tours Rwanda Iconic Africa

Gorilla Trek Africa Rwanda Iconic Africa 3

Rules for entry:
*All countries can visit.
*All countries must fill out a pre-arrival form. Before travelling to Rwanda, passengers must fill out a Passenger Locator Form. To fill out this form, passengers must be able to provide passport information, travel details, negative PCR COVID-19 test results, and booking confirmation at one of the designated hotels for a 24-hour quarantine upon arrival.
*All countries must produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of boarding. The negative test must be emailed to before your departure and a printed copy of the results brought with you upon entry into Rwanda.
*Upon arrival to Rwanda, visitors will be taken to the designated quarantine hotel of their choice at the cost of the traveller. They will be required to quarantine in their hotel room until they receive a negative COVID-19 result.
*A test will be done upon arrival. The results should be available after 8 hours. Plus another test 48 hours after arrival, both at the cost of the traveller.
*Any traveller who has their negative-PCR test in hand, and is showing no symptoms, will not have to quarantine upon arrival into Rwanda.
*Re-Testing may be done before going on in-country tours or treks.

Popular parks such as Volcanos National Park, Nyungwe National Park and Akagera National Park have all reopened to international tourists, but some protocols need to be followed.

Kenya is an Approved and recognised user of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Safety Stamp. Kenya promises the very best game viewing, hospitality and endless breathtaking landscapes, the origin and epitome of the true safari experience. It is without a doubt the ultimate safari destination. Exquisite luxury lodges and magical tented camps are aplenty, easily accessible and waiting to welcome you with open arms.

Your choice for luxury 5-star accommodation is endless. Take your pick between Giraffe Manor, Mara Expeditions, Ol Donyo, Bateleur Camp, Mara Plains and Angama Mara.

Giraffe Manor Breakfast Feature

Great Migration Tanzania Masaai Mara East Africa Safaris Angama Mara 2

Rules for entry:
*Entry into Kenya is permitted if the passenger does not have a body temperature above 37.5°C (99.5°F); does not have a persistent cough, difficulty breathing or other flu-like symptoms, and has a negative PCR-based COVID-19 test conducted within 96 hours of arrival.
*All passengers arriving on international flights are required to quarantine for 14 days at a government-designated facility or at their Kenyan residence.
*If there is a reported case of COVID-19 on a flight or if the above symptoms are detected, all passengers within two rows of the passenger with the symptoms will be quarantined for testing. If the test results are negative, they will be allowed to leave the facility.
*It is mandatory for all passengers arriving in Kenya to complete the Travelers Health Surveillance Form by the Ministry of Health. The form must be completed online prior to disembarkation. Passengers will receive a QR code after completing the form and will be required to display it to a Port Health Official to proceed through immigration.
*Health screening procedures are in place at airports and other ports of entry.
*The Government of Kenya established an online portal to extend visitor and resident visas.
*Testing is available at Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, and Kenyatta National Hospital. The charge for the test is approximately USD 100 at private health facilities and USD 50 at government hospitals. Test results are available within 48 – 96 hours.
*Commercial flights and public transportation are operating.

Here in the warm heart of Africa lies one of the continent’s greatest secrets, the birthplace of the walking safari, Zambia! Sitting on a sprawling plateau, this little gem boasts the Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa rivers, and shares one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the Victoria Falls with neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Mchenja Zambia South Luangwa - The South Luangwa is renowned for its world class predator action

There is no better way to get up-close-and-personal with the African bush, and its wildlife, than to go on a walking safari. It is, without a doubt, the best way to fully experience and appreciate the magical intricacies that make up a regular day out in the bush. Even if you’ve had many safari experiences in the past, this iconic adventure will, no doubt, take your breath away.

Zambia African Safari Travel

Zambia boasts magical accommodations from South Luangwa National Park to Liuwa Plains and Lower Zambezi Valley. Mchenja Bush Camp, King Lewanika and Chongwe are surrounded by unspeakable beauty and luxury.

Mchenja Zambia South Luangwa - The style and comfort of the suites make you feel like an early explorer on an authentic safari

King Lewanika - Gather after your exciting game drives and swap tales under the stars_

Zambia is open to foreign nationals and issuing visitor visas upon entry into the country. Limited domestic flight schedules are operating twice-weekly between Kenneth Kaunda International Airport and Mfuwe International Airport, and between Kenneth Kaunda and Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone.

Royal CHundu Iconic Africa Why Us

Rules for entry:
*All international visitors are screened on arrival. If you show any signs of COVID-19, you will have to quarantine for 14 days.
*All arriving passengers must have a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test that has been conducted within 3 days of arriving in Zambia.
*Visitors will be expected to adhere to COVID-19 regulations like physical distancing, wearing face masks, and personal hygiene. They will also need to monitor themselves daily for 10 days for symptoms of the virus and report any occurrence to the nearest health facility.

Strict control measures have been implemented in these countries and have to be followed: social distancing, good hand hygiene, and the wearing of masks remain mandatory. Contact us HERE for more information on your next African safari adventure!

Experience of the Month – Safari with a Purpose 

This month’s top and not-to-be-missed experience is a Safari with a Purpose. Embark on a journey with meaning… with one of four hand-crafted adventures. Submerge yourself in something bigger. Wander off the beaten track, interact with indigenous tribes, help conserve Africa’s wildlife and give back to wonderful projects so that the world can, in turn, give back to you. Iconic Africa, in partnership with Wilderness Safaris, would like to offer the discerning traveller the opportunity to find their travel purpose in Rwanda, Seychelles, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa by taking part in a world of philanthropy, conservation, wildlife, culture and adventure. 

Whether it’s working with endangered mountain gorillas, collaring wild dogs or elephants or conserving sea turtles – we’ve got just the thing for you here:

Great Apes and Rainforests: Experience behind-the-scenes conservation work in Rwanda; meet the Endangered mountain gorilla and help habituate chimpanzees for future ecotourism.

Travel With Purpose Gorillas

Paradise with Purpose: Explore one of the most beautiful islands on earth while actively participating in a survey and ringing of the Seychelles white-eye population and translocating some of the North Island population to other islands to further protect the species.

Travel With Purpose Turtles

Kenya Natural Wonders: Experience the Great Rift Valley, a dormant volcano, a vital water tower and learn more about the rare and elusive Critically Endangered mountain bongo.

Travel With Purpose Rift Valley Children

Hwange Elephant Collaring: In west Zimbabwe, amongst its grasslands and mopane woods are large herds of elephant. Help collar elephants, count wildlife, discover anti-poaching patrol, and meet neighbouring communities.

Travel With Purpose Elephants

Enquire about adding one of these experiences to your itinerary with one of our team members. You can have a magnificent time with plenty of adventure and also leave a positive impact on the place you’re visiting at the same time.



Rwanda or Uganda for your gorilla safari?

“Spending time with these gorillas changed my life.” – Ellen Degeneres.


Global tourism has been mesmerised by this spell-bounding experience and we are already taking 2022 bookings! Availability is going fast! No wildlife adventure can compare with coming face-to-face with a wild gorilla – truly the ultimate wildlife experience. 

There are less than 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild – with infants born only every 4 years. Half of these gorilla families are found deep in the forests of Rwanda and Uganda. Getting up close to these majestic giants can be physically challenging, expensive and daunting… but completely worth it! This awe-inspiring experience should be bumped to the top of your travel bucket list before it’s too late. 

So that leaves the question, where do you go to see these great silverback gorillas – Rwanda or Uganda?

Well, wherever you go, you will need to trek – up slippery paths, down narrow pathways, through muddy hills and thick vegetation. But as soon as you catch a glimpse of the first infant or family of gorillas, any exacerbation will fall void and you will feel nothing but joy as you see them groom each other and amble around. 

Safari trips to Rwanda and Uganda are becoming increasingly popular, especially among U.S. travellers, but the available numbers remain limited and are planned and booked almost 18 months in advance. Here are our top reasons to visit both Rwanda and Uganda for your ultimate gorilla safari:


The vegetation is less dense in the Rwandan forests making sightings easier. 

Travel distances between places are short making road travel more pleasant and convenient. 

You have panoramic views of the volcanoes which are a sight to behold. 

The treks are shorter, despite the higher altitudes. 

You can visit the Dian Fossey Foundation. 

Travellers looking for the ultimate luxury accommodation nestled in the heart of the forest can look to book at Bisate Lodge or Singita Kwitonda. 

Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit with magnificent views and lush forests. 

Nyungwe Forest has over 100kms of trails and home to 13 different primates. 

Golden Monkey trekking adds an additional experience to your visit. 

Gorilla trekking is a sustainable operation that benefits local communities in Rwanda. 

Rwanda has better infrastructure. 

The permits required for trekking and luxury accommodation contribute to the sustainability of wildlife operations and communities. 

A mother and child, Titus Group, Bisate Lodge, Wilderness Safari, Rwanda

Freshly baked goods and Rwandan coffee make breakfast heartwarming, Bisate Lodge, Wilderness Safari, Rwanda
Traditional Dancers stir the mood, Bisate Lodge, Wilderness Safari, Rwanda

Mountain gorillas, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda

Bisate Lodge Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Rooms Gorilla Trek Tours Rwanda Iconic Africa Bambo Forest Gorilla Trek Tours Rwanda Iconic Africa


Uganda is significantly more affordable than Rwanda – both with permits and accommodation.

There is a wider variety of accommodation from entry-level to luxury lodges.  

Trekking in Uganda can be challenging due to the frequent downpours, steep slopes and thick vegetation, but there are amazing chimp-trekking programs that make this adventure worthwhile. 

Experience interactions with the indigenous Batwa people in the Bwindi region. 

Gorilla trekking is a sustainable operation in Uganda as the public/private partnerships are designed to save endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda and benefit communities. 

Gorilla tracking permits bring in more than $1 million dollars a year. 

Expeditions have also contributed more than $1.18 million to transform Bwindi Community Hospital, reducing infant mortality by 50%.

Both Rwanda and Uganda offer great opportunities for gorilla trekking, and the choice often lies at the availability of permits – especially if you’re booking last minute. 

Both countries allow only 8 guests to visit a gorilla family per day and require guests to know their fitness level before deciding. If you’re looking for ultimate luxury accommodation, Rwanda would be the ideal destination. However, if you’re looking to experience the wonders of the mighty Silverback gorillas and other outdoor adventures on a smaller budget, Uganda is preferable as it has over half of the world’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas. 

Due to the huge demand for a safari & gorilla combo prices have increased and we have thus carefully crafted an incredible 7-night tour at a combination of our selected Sanctuary Retreats giving you a MASSIVE 33% saving! Read more here. 

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Gorilla Safari Combo

“Spending time with these gorillas changed my life.” – Ellen Degeneres.

No wildlife adventure can compete with coming face-to-face with a wild gorilla – it truly is the ultimate wildlife experience. 

“They are so incredible and so closely linked to us, sharing 98 per cent of our DNA. There are only 880 of these majestic creatures left on this planet,” adds Degeneres. So don’t leave it too late!

Due to the huge demand for a safari and gorilla combo, we have carefully crafted an incredible 7-night tour at a combination of our selected Sanctuary Retreats giving you a MASSIVE saving! Save over 33% on this amazing experience. Witness the iconic mountain gorillas now and bask in unimaginable luxury surrounded by the densest vegetation and the world’s most revered wildlife population. Pay a visit to the elephant orphanage in Kenya; see large prides of lion in Tanzania before stopping in Uganda to visit the majestic mountain gorillas. 

Best times to visit:

The best times to visit the gorillas are December to March and June to September as the rainy season is from April to May and October to November, with the wettest month being April. You can expect tropical climates and change in weather depending on your altitude.  

When to book:

Bookings fill up quickly and we recommend securing your trip between 12 and 18 months beforehand. 

Our very own director John Holley travelled to Rwanda to see Gorillas up close in their natural habitat. He had no idea how close….. that could be. Here’s a sneak peek… to give you an idea just how close he came!

See below for full itinerary:

Spend 1 night at the Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi on a Bed & Breakfast basis. 

Situated along the Nairobi River in beautiful Kenya, Nairobi is East Africa’s most cosmopolitan city. It serves as an excellent starting point for African safari trips around Kenya. Nairobi is Africa’s 4th largest city and is a vibrant and exciting place, with some fascinating attractions: its cafe culture, unbridled nightlife, the National Museum, the Karen Blixen Museum and most notably just 20 minutes from the city centre wild lions and buffalo roam in the world’s only urban game reserve. Make sure you pay a visit to the elephant orphanage operated by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

This journey will then take you to the Masai Mara National Reserve offering wonderful scenery and plenty of game. It is perhaps the only region left in Kenya where the visitor may see animals in the same super-abundance as existed a century ago.

Spend 4 nights at the Sanctuary Olonana Camp in the Masai Mara on an all-inclusive basis. 

The Masai Mara together with Tanzania’s Serengeti form Africa’s most famous wildlife park, the Masai Mara National Reserve. The image of acacia trees dotting endless grass plains epitomises Africa for many, then add a Maasai warrior and some cattle to the picture and the conversation need go no further. The undeniable highlight of the Masai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly the annual wildebeest migration traversing the vast plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. It is known as the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet – with more than a million animals following the rains. Large prides of lion, elephants, giraffes, gazelles and eland can also be spotted in the reserve. Aside from horse riding safaris and traditional vehicle safaris, hot-air ballooning over the Mara plains has become almost essential.

Finally, fly to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in southwestern Uganda. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and accessible only on foot, it is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa providing habitat for over 90 mammals (including 11 primates), 346 species of birds (including 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics), 202 species of butterflies, 163 tree species, over 100 species of ferns, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and other endangered species. chameleons, geckos and other endangered species.

Spend 3 nights at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on an all-inclusive basis.

Located in southwestern Uganda, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is said to be Africa’s oldest rainforest. It is world-renowned for its excellent gorilla-sighting opportunities. The rugged landscape features dense jungle, cascading waterfalls, sparkling mountain streams, deep valleys and steep ridges. This untouched forest has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its breathtaking natural beauty and unique ecological significance. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the spectacular Virunga Volcanoes. Bwindi is, however, most notable for her 340 Mountain Gorillas, about half the world’s population of this critically endangered primate. 

The opulence doesn’t end with your luxurious room! All guests visiting &Beyond safari lodges can now enjoy the use of a complementary pair of Swarovski binoculars, for the entire duration of their stay!

This offer is in high demand and difficult to get availability for, so don’t wait to book your once-in-a-lifetime experience. This offer is based for 2 adults sharing. The percentage discount varies based on selected property, seasonality and length of stay.  

*Please be sure to carefully check your passport & visa requirements for yourself and all the guests accompanying you on your trip.