Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda

Mountain gorillas are elusive, making their homes in the high altitude forested volcanoes of East Africa. In summer 2014, I spent several days photographing mountain gorillas in Rwanda, a beautiful and peaceful country in the heart of gorilla territory. It was an amazing experience I will never forget.

The cornerstone of Rwanda’s tourism efforts is Volcanoes National Park, home to the mountain gorilla. Today, the mountain gorilla is critically endangered, with the total population estimated at under 1000 (mostly concentrated in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo). Although their numbers are slowly increasing as a result of conservation initiatives, gorillas continue to face major threats from habitat loss and poaching. A burgeoning tourist economy focused on the gorillas is probably their best hope for long term survival.


Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500 second

Gorillas are peaceful and magnificent animals, living in cohesive groups of anywhere between five and thirty individuals (sometimes even more). Sharing 98 percent of their DNA with humans, gorillas are among our closest cousins in the animal kingdom. When looking into the unfathomable depth of their eyes, it is hard not to see us staring back.


Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, f/3.2, 1/400 second.

Trekking with gorillas is a remarkable experience. Depending on which family group you are assigned to, your trek can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as several hours. The trekking can be very difficult, as it is often steeply uphill at high altitude, through seemingly impenetrable thickets of stinging nettles. The guides and trackers do a great job hacking a path out of the jungle, and porters are available to carry heavy camera equipment. When you find your assigned gorilla group, you are limited to one hour of interaction, which never seems enough time to be among these gentle giants.


Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Canon 70D, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 160, f/2.8, 1/500 second.

It is amazing how close you can get to these wonderful animals, so I found my 70-200mm lens to be sufficient for most of my photography. My tripod was pretty much useless, as the ground was extremely uneven and the gorillas were almost always moving around; using a monopod or handholding your camera is a better option. The light was constantly changing, so I used my camera’s auto ISO setting, allowing me to keep my attention focused on my subjects.

To learn more about conservation efforts to protect mountain gorillas, go to the African Wildlife Foundation’s website: You can see more mountain gorilla photographs on my website: Dreamscapes – Mountain Gorillas.


About the author: World-renowned professional photographer and Tamron Image Master Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to several leading photo magazines and the author of numerous books and instructional videos. You can see more of Ian’s work at

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27 Responses to “Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda”

  1. Sophia

    Thanks for sharing this amazing information

  2. Sarah

    Mountain gorilla tracking in Rwanda, expensive price wise, but worth every dime. I have done it a number of times and do not regret my decision.

  3. Craig

    Mountain gorillas are special species and its the conservation efforts that have led to the successful growth of these species in Volcanoes National Park. I have seen and witnessed them play, feed in their natural habitat

  4. Ashiraf Kayima

    A customized gorilla trekking experience is captivating and one of a kind. The hospitality is top-notch right from when you are driving to the park by the 4x4 car hire with the driver to when you are in the wild under the guidance of the gorilla patron.

  5. Generation Solutions

    wow !!! the images alone uganda spectacular. gorilla trekking itself is magical and gorilla trekking in Rwanda is breath taking as you meet the gentle giants face to face

  6. Heath

    icannot stop looking at this shots , simply incredible.

  7. Heath

    Rwanda still stands as one of he top places to trek the endangered moutain gorilla species .

  8. Chris

    We visited Rwanda before the lockdown with and the whole experience was awesome

  9. Kiganda S

    Nice article about mountain gorillas. Welldone

  10. Trans Sahara Tours and Travel

    Thanks for nice article with educative information. I like the organization at the Rwanda Tracking centers. Tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda is very tireless and i usually recommend it to tourists.