Gorilla trekking is one of Africa’s major tourism highlights and the activity is more pronounced in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where mountain gorillas live. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda protects the largest population of mountain gorillas and the park has the highest number of habituated gorilla families (15).
How many mountain gorillas are there in the wild?
There are currently about 1,063 mountain gorillas in the wild according to the latest gorilla census. The population of mountain gorillas has been steadily increasing over the last 4 decades thanks to the intensive conservation efforts from governments and non-profit conservation organisations. Before the gorilla census of 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified mountain gorillas as critically endangered species but they were upgraded to the endangered category following their steady rise in number.
Where are mountain gorillas found?
There are 3 national parks within the Virunga Mountains which protect mountain gorillas in addition to Bwindi. These include Virunga National Park in DR Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Each of these parks has got habituated gorilla families which are visited by tourists on a daily basis.
What is so special with mountain gorillas?
Mountain gorillas as well as other gorilla species are the largest apes known and they share up to 98% of the human DNA. This makes them man’s closest relatives and this relationship is easily noticeable in the jungle when tourists come face-to-face with these gentle giants. Unlike other wild animals which are very hostile towards humans in the jungle, gorillas are often friendly and they only charge at their visitors only under unusual circumstances.
How to get a gorilla trekking safari
Gorilla trekking safaris are organised in all the 3 countries and travellers are required to book their trips at least 6 months before travelling. Travellers mainly book their gorilla safaris online where they get in touch with local tour agents who organize trips on their behalf by acquiring gorilla permits on time, book accommodation and prepare transport and guiding services.
How much does gorilla trekking cost?
A gorilla permit which is used as a park entrance license for travellers to visit mountain gorillas is sold at different prices in all the 3 countries. DR Congo’s permit is the cheapest at $400 per person followed by that of Uganda at $700 per person while Rwanda sells it at $1,500 per person.
What are the gorilla trekking rules?
Due to the need to promote gorilla conservation, several rules were put in place to guide the gorilla trekking activity to ensure that these great primates continue thriving in their natural habitat with limited interference. These among others include limiting the number of tourists visiting a gorilla group to 8 per day and they are permitted to spend not more than an hour in their presence. Others include maintaining silence in the presence of gorillas, avoiding direct eye-contact with them, not littering their habitat, among others.
When is the best time for gorilla trekking?
Gorilla trekking is carried out throughout the year in all the 3 countries but the dry months of December to February and June to September are the most ideal for this encounter. This is because mountain gorillas are found at high altitudes in montane rainforests which makes the terrain very difficult to trek during rainy days.
What to pack for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is a tenacious activity and sometimes it is carried out in unfavourable weather conditions which requires travellers to have some gear for a better experience. These include hiking boots, gloves, pair of hard trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, and a rain jacket while it is recommended for travellers to come with a camera to take pictures from this memorable experience. Snacks, drinking water and a walking stick are usually provided to the trekkers by their lodges and park authorities.