Gorilla trekking

An beautiful experience you will remember

GORILLA TREKKING

Gorillas share 97%-98% identical DNA with humans. After chimpanzees they are our closest living relative. They are the largest of the great apes and are highly endangered, with most recent counts in the last few years putting their numbers at approximately 800 mountain gorillas left on the planet.

Gorilla trekking allows you to spend time with gorillas in the wild. The gorillas visited on a trek have been watched by researchers for some time as they go about their day to day in the gorilla park in the wilds of the cloud forest of the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. As this is the case they have become habituated to people being around them. Each and every trek is then a totally unique spontaneous wildlife experience allowing you to see the gorillas at quite close quarters as they while the day away. Unlike a zoo visit, it is much more personal, a lot closer, quieter and more intimate.

With so few of these highly endangered animals on the planet it is very important that rules are set to protect them including limiting the exposure the gorillas have to people day to day to avoid the transmission of human borne disease, to avoid stress and behavioural disturbances and endeavour to keep their day to day environment as undisturbed as possible

As this is the case there are only a limited number of permits available in each park for each day’s trek. Every visitor must obtain a permit before they can embark on a trek so it is essential to book well in advance. The permits do book out.

How does the day go when gorilla trekking?

Your permit allows you to trek a family of habituated gorillas on a set date. We have a specialist guide based near the parks to assist for each and every trek. He will meet the group and brief you prior to leaving camp to meet the parks authority.

Each trek starts early in the morning. Once ready to go we have a drive to the start point of the actual trek, which could be anywhere from 30 minutes up to 3 hours. For some treks you may even head to a campsite closer to the start point the night before depending on where you are trekking.

Just 8 people in each trekking group head out plus the allocated rangers who will explain the rules and who are expert at locating the gorillas. There is also always security quite close for your trek. The trek itself often commences with a stroll past flower farms before we reach the fringe of the forest. We then head into the jungle for a steady climb into the lower part of the gorilla’s mountain home.

The trek can be over quite quickly or take all day depending on the location and the time it takes to find them. Some sections of the trek can be quite steep and you will trek through very dense (seemingly impenetrable!) vegetation at quite high altitude, up to 3,000 metre. (The highest point in Bwindi is 2,607 metres.) The gorillas can move around as well so it can take a while to find them, and it can be quite wet and slippery underfoot.

Whilst there are never any guarantees you will see the gorillas, on 99.9 % of treks the gorillas are located, and usually they are found within a few hours. We take on average 30 clients to the gorillas a month, and over the past 30 years only a hand full of clients have not seen the gorillas, so your chances of seeing the gorillas are very high.

Once found you have an hour with them as they continue on with their daily routine – feeding (which they do for about 30% of the day), slowly moving and foraging which usually absorbs another 30% of the day and then for the rest of the time they sleep and sunbathe. Sometimes they are found in thick vegetation, perhaps in a bamboo stand. Other times a group might be found in a clearing, which is a very special privilege. Whilst every trek is different once found the guides will carefully push back the vegetation as much as possible without disturbing the gorillas to enable everyone in the group the best views.

You will need to take your lunch, drinking water, hat, sunscreen, something warm and waterproofs with you as well as your camera on your gorilla trek. Gloves are not a bad idea as there are stinging nettles in the park. Tuck your trousers under thick socks to protect yourself from ants. If you are carrying a heavy rucksack or bag, it is worthwhile employing a porter for about USD 10 or 20 a day. This will enable you to slip and slide without worrying about dropping your camera and leaves you hands free to support yourself. A walking stick is also useful.

GORILLA RULES

  • No littering in the park
  • No coughing or sneezing in the direction of the gorillas. Please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
  • No eating or drinking in the vicinity of the gorillas
  • No spitting in the park
  • Do not point at the gorillas
  • Do not touch the gorillas
  • Only speak in whispers
  • Movements around the gorillas must be unthreatening
  • No venturing behind thick shrubs. You may surprise a gorilla
  • If a nettle stings you, do not cry out, scream, shout-out loud or make any sudden moves.
  • If a gorilla charges or vocalizes, do not look directly at it. Stand perfectly still unless the guide asks you to crouch or move back.
  • Keep a minimum distance of 7 meters from the Gorillas.
  • No flash photography

REMEMBER TO TAKE

  • Long pants (jeans/khakis) and a long sleeved shirt. Take your trousers into thick socks. I Good well-worn hiking boots. (Sturdy walking shoes are essential)
  • Cap/Hat
  • A warm item of clothing
  • Camera (no flash)/ personal camcorder
  • Your lunch and plenty of drinking water
  • Basic first Aid Kit
  • If it rains, which it frequently does, treks will take place, so waterproof clothing is useful / Light raincoat
    Consider also taking: Leather gloves (there are stinging nettles in the park)

REMEMBER ALSO

  • Anyone that embarks on a gorilla trek must be in good health, fit and well equipped, as reaching the gorillas in their natural habitat can be tough, arduous and wet. Rules are set to minimize the risk visits might poses to the gorillas. Please abide by these.
  • Please remember also gorillas are very close to us genetically and so too very susceptible to human diseases. Do all you can to ensure you are fit and healthy for the day of your trek. If on the day of your trek you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, visiting the gorillas will not be permitted.
  • If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind.
    An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or we will do all we can to arrange a refund. Please note refunds are unfortunately not guaranteed so do take out travel insurance.

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