The Ultimate Gorilla Trek

Encounter Silverback Gorillas with Craig Sholley, renowned conservationist and Senior Vice President of the African Wildlife Foundation.


Sun Jun 21 – Wed Jun 24, 2020








Ultimate Safari Alisa Boewn
Alisa Boewn

Exclusive Premium Permit Gorilla Trek

Experience a wildlife encounter like no other and view Silverback Gorillas alongside an expert guide. During this exclusive Adventure, you will encounter silverback gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park on Premium Permit treks with Craig Sholley, renowned conservationist and Senior Vice President of the African Wildlife Foundation. These Premium Permits will allow you to hike into the protected habitat of the silverback gorillas. Additionally, this Adventure will include a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial with a private presentation from the Museum’s Director, Honore Gatera.

Due to park permit requirements, this Adventure requires 14 participants for an exclusive access Premium Permit; if we acquire less than 14 participants, the trek can still operate however the permit will be based on standard access with a slightly reduced cost to be advised

Please note that gorillas have fragile immune systems and minor illnesses in humans such as a common cold can be life-threatening to the gorillas. Since they are considered a critically endangered species, participants must be in good health or they will not be allowed to engage with the gorillas. 

Who can participate?

THIRDHOME Exchange Club and Adventure Club Members, along with their family and friends can participate. Per Rwanda Gorilla Trek permit regulations, you must be 15 years of age or older to join the trek. This trek requires strenuous mountain trekking for several hours with rest stops.



Craig Sholley’s experiences with wildlife and conservation began in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire, Africa. He has worked and traveled extensively since that time providing conservation expertise in a variety of world arenas. As an L.S.B. Leakey grant researcher in the late 1970’s, Craig studied mountain gorillas at Rwanda’s celebrated Karisoke Research Centre with Dian Fossey. Returning to the US, he redirected his interests designing natural history educational programs and wildlife tours for the Baltimore Zoological Society. Concurrently, Craig led nature expeditions and photographed wildlife throughout Africa, South America, and Asia.

In late 1987, Craig returned to Africa full time to direct Rwanda’s internationally-known Mountain Gorilla Project. Turning the project over to the Rwandan government in early 1990, Craig continued in Rwanda acting as Scientific Advisor for the award-winning IMAX film, Mountain Gorilla. Craig has served as a Senior Associate of the African Wildlife Foundation and on AWF’s Board of Trustees. He has also served on the Board of the Ecotourism Society. Throughout much of the ’90s, Craig was Director of Conservation and Education for International Expeditions, an organization widely recognized for its ecotourism initiatives.

Craig returned to Rwanda in 1995 on assignment with the National Geographic Society surveying the conservation status of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, DR Congo, and Uganda in the aftermath of Rwanda’s civil war. The findings of that trip are the basis of a 1995 article in National Geographic Magazine on mountain gorilla conservation. Craig has worked full time with the African Wildlife Foundation for the last 16 years and presently serves as Senior Vice President.

Craig has led countless safaris to natural destinations throughout the world. His favorite continental travel destination remains Africa and he has a strong positive bias for Uganda and Rwanda.


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Depart from your home location.


Travelers who are beginning their journey in Rwanda will fly to Kigali where they will be met and transferred by a representative. Continue onward to the Kigali Serena Hotel where you will meet Craig Sholley from the African Wildlife Foundation. Overnight at Kigali Serena Hotel with dinner included. Meals included: Dinner


After breakfast, you will explore Kigali before visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the final resting place of more than 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Through education and peacebuilding, the museum honors the memory of the Rwandans killed during this horrific time. After touring the memorial, the group will receive a private presentation by the Museum’s Director, Honore Gatera, whose personal story of a family loss is a compelling microcosm of the majority of his fellow countrymen and women. Lunch is at a local restaurant before driving to Volcanoes National Park, home to a large percentage of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. The park protects the steep slopes of the magnificent Virunga Mountains, a chain of extinct volcanoes that tower up to nearly 15,000 feet. It also protects the rich mosaic of montane and bamboo forests that provide the habitat for the world’s most endangered great ape. Volcanoes National Park was the base for famous naturalist, Dian Fossey, who carried out her research on gorillas. She is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. Your accommodations for the next three nights are at the luxurious Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. The concept for the lodge was crafted by the African Wildlife Foundation 10 years ago. At the time, the idea of local community ownership in a high-end tourist lodge was cutting-edge; paving the way for a business philosophy that simultaneously benefits wildlife conservation and improves the livelihoods of local people. This evening, enjoy personal stories and experiences from Craig’s lifetime memories with the gorillas and working with Dian. Craig will also provide an orientation on mountain gorilla behavior, conservation and help you prepare for the gorilla trek again for our next day. Overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Today you will encounter the mountain gorillas ‘on their turf.’ THIRDHOME has arranged for exclusive access and will divide the party into two small groups in order for each to visit one of the gorilla families. Exclusive access also means that you will bypass the bureaucratic and time-consuming process of attaining a visitation permit, and get straight to visiting your pre-assigned gorilla family. With guides, you will travel by vehicle to a specific departure point to start the trek. The trekking can take from one to six hours and climb to elevations, not in excess of 9,000 feet. Although the hike can be physically demanding, and the terrain is rough and muddy at times, the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make it well worthwhile. Once you’ve found your gorilla family, you will be able to observe the special nature of this family group and their interacting dynamics. This wildlife contact is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world. Picnic lunches are provided and it is important to take plenty of water. Cameras and plenty of flash card memory is recommended. These are wild animals, but experienced guides are with you and will share their knowledge, expertise, and stories. Overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Today you may choose another outing. Choose to gorilla trek another day (with exclusive access) to gain a second experience with a gorilla family (14 participants are required per trek to operate). Or you may opt to not trek, and instead visit the fascinating Golden Monkeys. These primates have a prominent golden fur coat, which adds to their unique attractiveness. The Golden Monkey is an endangered species and are endemic to the Virunga Mountain ranges that cover the whole Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Their habitat is amongst the bamboo forests and the verdant jungle of the Volcanoes Mountains. There are two habituated troops within the Volcanoes National Park and the larger troop found in Sabyinyo has approximately 80-100 members. Spend your afternoon at leisure to relax before dinner. Overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


After breakfast enjoy a morning at leisure. Depart Sabyinyo Lodge by ground transportation to Kigali for your onward flight home or to continue to the following phase of this exciting Adventure, The Ultimate Floating Safari! If you are joining The Ultimate Floating Safari, you will take a June 25th evening flight departure from Kigali (3-hr flight) to Johannesburg. A connecting flight onward to Kasane (2-hr flight) is required for embarkation of the Ultimate Floating Safari. Meals included: Breakfast

What is the Ultimate Floating Safari? This exciting safari offers unique vantage points of wildlife and is available as an extension to The Ultimate Gorilla Trek, for an all-around incredible safari experience. First, spend time onboard the Zambezi Queen and float down the Chobe River, and after, visit Victoria Falls with a stay at the Tongabezi Lodge.
Click here for more information about The Ultimate Floating Safari.


1-Night Accommodations at the Kigali Serena Hotel

3-Night Accommodations at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Located within the Volcanoes National Park and set at the foothill of the Virunga ranges. The lodge offers up wonderful views of the Virunga Volcanoes and surrounding countryside. In addition to the cottages, on the grounds you will find a library, game room, bar and restaurant.

What’s Included

  • 1 night accommodations in Kigali at The Kigali Serena Hotel with dinner
  • Escorted visit of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum and private presentation by the Museum Director
  • 3 nights accommodations at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner during stay at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  • Laundry services, room service, wines, beers and sodas
  • Exclusive Premium Permit for one hiking encounter with the Silverback Gorillas with Craig Sholley
  • Educational Silverback Gorilla species and regional habitat discussions with Craig Sholley, Senior Vice President at the African Wildlife Foundation
  • All ground transportation and naturalist guide services
  • Optional: Additional Exclusive Premium Permit Silverback Gorilla trek with Craig (minimum participant requirement involved) or a guided tour to encounter the rare Golden Monkeys
  • An included $1000 voluntary tax-deductible contribution has already been added to the price of The Ultimate Gorilla Trek. This contribution will go to the African Wildlife Foundation International Gorilla Conservation Program, which focuses on the conservation of the species.

What’s not Included

  • Premium Drinks (champagnes, liqueurs and spirits)

Passport & Visa Requirements

  • Passports must be valid for 6 months (or more) beyond the scheduled return date.
    Click here for information about visas and additional entry requirements for US Citizens.
    Click here for inoculations information. 

Adventure Pricing


$7670 per person (based on double occupancy)

Deposit required upon booking:  $3835 per person (non-refundable)

FINAL Payment due MAR 1, 2020

Participation requirement: The Volcanoes National Park mandates a minimum of 14 participants for each gorilla trek. If we are unable to obtain the required 14 participants for The Ultimate Gorilla Trek, then the adventure would not be able to operate.

EXTENSION: The Ultimate Floating Safari

JOIN into the Ultimate Floating Safari:  If you are joining into the Ultimate Gorilla Trek, you have the option to extend and add-on the 5-star boutique Zambezi Queen Ultimate Floating Safari after the trek ends. If you are opting to extend and add-on the Ultimate Floating Safari, then on June 25 there will be a required late PM flight from Kigali to Johannesburg, then onward to Kasane to begin embarkation of the Zambezi Queen floating safari.

Adventure is 100% non-refundable after final payment. THIRDHOME strongly recommends the purchase of Travel Insurance. Please refer to THIRDHOME Adventures Terms & Conditions for more details.

THIRDHOME strongly recommends that all travelers purchase travel insurance prior to participating in a THIRDHOME Adventure and that all such insurance be purchased when a tour deposit is made. THIRDHOME travelers can purchase travel insurance through (1) the THIRDHOME preferred provider Allianz Travel or (2) the traveler’s insurance provider of choice. THIRDHOME will require proof of such travel insurance protection when a tour deposit is made.   

Any traveler that elects not to purchase travel insurance, by either of the above means, agrees to release THIRDHOME from liability for any loss of funds incurred due to the cancellation of a specific THIRDHOME Adventure as a result of, but not limited to, an act of God, a failure to purchase travel insurance, the cessation of business with respect to a tour operator/ground operator, the failure of a tour operator/ground operator to refund consumer deposits or payments within 120 days following the cancellation of a THIRDHOME Adventure or a material failure to complete performance of a THIRDHOME Adventure.

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