Gorilla Trekking
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Gorilla Trekking…

Gorilla trekking in Africa is unparalleled. Nothing can compare to witnessing the critically endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Where are the mountain gorillas?

The world’s last remaining mountain gorillas can be found in three countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. You will find the population spread across four national parks.  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo). Due to the instability of the DRC, we strongly recommend gorilla trekking in either Uganda or Rwanda.

The most popular National Park for mountain gorilla trekking is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Bwindi is home to the largest mountain gorilla population (approx. 60%) with what is estimated to be around 400 gorillas. The total mountain gorilla population in the wild is estimated to be less than 1,000.

What should I do to plan for a mountain gorilla trek?

Firstly, when booking your trip to Uganda or Rwanda, the most important thing you need to get (at least one month prior) is a gorilla trekking permit. There are a certain number of permits allocated for each day in order to monitor the number of people trekking in the National Park. The permit system was created to ensure the gorillas aren’t overwhelmed by large crowds of people. You can get a gorilla permit from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority or some trusted local operators. When booking with African Travel Specialists, we take care of all of this for you. As well as accommodation and any thing else you require our team of trusted professionals will ensure you are comfortable and safe throughout your journey.

 When is the best time to go gorilla trekking?

Gorilla permits are issued everyday throughout the year. However, most people prefer to trek during the dry season which is  January – February and May – September. The price for permits in these months is usually higher than the rainy season, however you definitely won’t get wet while trekking.

Trekking in November or December can be a fairly safe bet for light rain.  As a result, gorilla permits will definitely be cheaper to increase tourism during this time. Crowds are significantly fewer and you’ll also be able to find better deals on accommodation.

What should I expect on a mountain gorilla trek?

A trek normally starts with a short briefing on the gorillas from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Small groups with a maximum of 8 people per group form.

The trek to find the gorillas is fairly manageable. However if you think you might struggle, there are local porters available to give you a hand.

Each group has its own gorilla tracker who guides you to a family of gorillas. Given that the gorillas are wild animals, it can take anywhere from one to six hours (sometimes longer) to find them. When you finally do, you are able to spend a precious 1-hour with these incredible primates. Longer than that could could be harmful to the gorillas making them agitated and uncomfortable.

During that 1-hour period, you are able to take photos, ask questions and observe these amazing animals that we share 98% of our DNA with. While you’re with the gorillas, there is no eating or drinking allowed as well as no flash photography. You must remain at least 7 feet away from the gorillas, unless they approach you, as they are highly susceptible to human diseases.

What should I wear on a mountain gorilla trek?

The most important tip we can give you is to wear layers! You’re in a rainforest climate, so one moment you’re hot and the next you’re cold.

  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Short-sleeve shirt
  • Long pants and long socks – you really don’t want those safari ants in your pants
  • Lightweight rain jacket – in case it rains, even if you’re trekking in dry season, the forest climate can be unpredictable

Its best to wear clothes that will blend in with your surroundings, so khaki, brown and green are safe options.

  • Gloves – not essential, however many people come back saying they wish they brought gloves, accidentally touching a thorny plant is common!
  • Shoes with a sturdy grip – any kind of hiking boots, or shoes with a strong grip will do

What should I bring on a mountain gorilla trek?

  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Insect repellent
  • Water
  • Passport – you’ll need to show your passport before you begin your trek
  • Any other documentation you may need including the gorilla permit
  • Local currency – for tipping or the purchase of souvenirs
  • Packed lunch – usually provided by your tour operator or lodge

What is threatening the survival of mountain gorillas?

Currently, less than 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in the wild. The two biggest threats to the survival of these critically endangered animals are deforestation and the increasing population of the region.

The soil of the forests where mountain gorillas live is fertile and rich in biodiversity. Because of the rich soil, approximately 85% of the population make their living by growing food on the land. As the population increases and people move closer to where gorillas live, they bring with them the risk of spreading human diseases to gorillas such as the flu and pneumonia.

In the DRC the main threat to the survival of the mountain gorillas is war. War in the DRC has resulted in the loss of more than five million lives since 1998. The mountain gorillas have been caught in the middle of this social and economic crisis.

The locals depend on the natural resources and wildlife-based tourism for their welfare. So, the future of mountain gorillas in the DRC is dependent on peace and prosperity through the land.

To help keep the gorilla population stable and potentially on the rise, the best thing you can do is go and see them. While it can be pricey, it’s an experience you’re going to remember for the rest of your life. You can also donate to the African wildlife foundation to support their efforts in ensuring the survival of mountain gorillas across Africa.

References:  Thank you to The World Pursuit, AWF, Packing List