Hiking for mountain gorillas has become one of the most sought after activities on any safari to Africa. As more visitors flock into the country for the gorillas, conservationists realized that these apes need critical protection or else the human presence would have a deteriorating impact on their survival in their natural homeland.
With the 12 mountain gorilla families available for tracking in Uganda, 1 in Mgahinga gorilla national park and 11 in Bwindi national park, the Uganda wildlife Authority decided to come up with a set of rules / guidelines that visitors have to follow in order to enhance sustainability in the Gorilla tourism.
Below is a set of guidelines one is obliged to follow while on his/ her gorilla safari so as to protect gorillas in their natural habitat:
A maximum number of 8 visitors is allowed to visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. This minimizes social disturbance and stress to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
You are supposed to keep your voices low in order not to scare them away or irritate them. Noise may also hinder you from tracing their position in the forest if you do not pay attention to hear their vocal communications. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
You must not leave any litter in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you to avoid degrading the gorilla’s habitat and also the resultant diseases from such pollutants.
When you approach the mountain gorillas, you are advised to keep a distance not closer than 7 meters for your own good and the health of the mountain gorilla. You are guaranteed 1 hour to see, observe and take photos and even ask your guide all you need to know about the gorilla.
You must stay in tight group when you are near the gorillas and follow your guide’s instruction.
Smoking, drinking or eating when you are near the gorillas is prohibited. Eating or drinking inevitably will increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases.
If the gorillas charge (attempt to attack), follow the guide’s example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not attempt to run away because that will increase the risk.
Flash photography is highly forbidden. When taking pictures move slowly and carefully and make sure your camera is not producing any sound or flash.
Do not touch the gorillas because they are wild animals and therefore unpredictable. They can do anything at any time.
After the visit keep your voices down until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas.
If you are feeling ill, or you have a contagious disease like flue, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money. This is because the gorillas can be infected by any human disease and treating them is costly
If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or virus.
If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga / hoe. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep and cover it when you finish.
The above guidelines have played a key role in improving the gorilla population in the world by safeguarding their health and protection. You are expected to respect and follow them if you are to have a memorable trek.
For further information on booking gorilla permits in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo visit http://www.rwandagorillassafari.com/pre-booking-info/gorilla-permits.html and get detailed information.