Gorilla trekking is every tourist’s favorite tourism activity during their Africa safari on their holidays or vacation as they learn more about the primates. Gorilla trekking generally means tracking and locating the gorillas in their natural habitat as well as spending approximately one hour with these endangered primates. The gorillas are found in the dense montane forests in the mountainous areas, for example, the mountain gorillas are found in the dormant volcanoes in the eastern part of Africa. Additionally, you will also find the eastern lowland gorillas that live in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo but not in the forests.
Generally, in Central and East Africa, we have two subspecies of gorillas that is the mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland gorillas that live in their natural habitats that were established to protect them from getting extinct.
Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei)
The mountain gorillas are one of the endangered subspecies that can only be found in the eastern part of Africa. these endangered primates live in the Virunga Massif that is composed of three national parks that is to say Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. In addition, Uganda has another national park known as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that is home to about half the population of mountain gorillas in the world.
Trekking the mountain gorillas
Trekking the mountain gorillas will involve a great number of activities along the way as you head deep in the tropical forests and the dormant volcanoes. Since these mountain gorillas are found in high altitudes, one needs to be healthy and ready to hike because it can take even a day just hiking one group of gorillas. The best part about mountain gorilla trekking is that most of the gorillas are habituated making it more reasonable to track these primates and making the trip experience more exciting and adventurous.
Additionally, you can trek the gorillas as you hike or climb the mountains at the same time. This is due to the high vegetation that you have pass-through via the forest trails to locate the mountain gorillas. Bird watching is another activity that can be done on the way and forest walks. Importantly, all the activities in the gorilla safari are similar in most of the national parks. This means the traveler has the advantage to choose their best site to travel to.
Eastern lowland Gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri)
The eastern lowland gorillas are found in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo deep in the forests. Two national parks have been established to protect these lowland gorillas that is; Kahuzi-Bienga National Park and Maiko National Park. These national parks consist of lowland forests that enable these primates to survive in the world. The eastern lowland gorillas are the largest gorillas among the four gorilla subspecies in the world. These eastern lowland gorillas are very peaceful, sociable and live in groups. The groups are about 2-30 members moving together and feeding together.
The Eastern lowland gorilla trekking
Trekking the eastern lowland gorillas is not a popular activity but it is one of the eye-catching activities when you travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo. One has to participate in the forest walks via the forest trails that lead you to the habituated groups in the national parks. Additionally, along the way you get to view different wildlife such as the wonderful bird species that make pleasant sounds for the travelers. You are only allowed to be with the lowland gorillas for approximately one hour and you are not allowed to get in contact with them.
Things to note before you embark on gorilla trekking
The fact that gorilla trekking is the famously done activity in Africa, the activity has some guidelines that travelers need to follow so as to satisfy all parties. Most importantly, travelers need the gorilla permit that will enable them get access to the national parks. The gorilla permits differ in prices in different countries for example; if you want to carry out gorilla trekking in Uganda, the cost of a gorilla permit goes for USD700 and in Rwanda the price is doubled to USD 1500. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the gorilla permit price is about USD400 and this was done to attract more travelers to the national parks.
Another thing to consider are the rules and regulations followed during the trekking encounter in the national parks these include;
- You should not trek when you are sick such as having a cold or having any communicable disease to prevent gorillas from contracting the diseases
- You are recommended not to get into physical contact with the gorillas during trekking. You to be at least 8 m away from the gorillas.
- You are recommended not to eat during the one hour with the gorillas
- You are also advised not to make noise in the presence of the gorillas
- During trekking, you are advised to carry a raincoat and hiking shoes to enable you to have a smooth trekking exercise deep in the forests.
Best time to visit the gorillas
The gorillas in Africa can be visited in either the high season or the low season of the year. However, the gorilla permits are available every day and gorilla trekking is done every day in the national parks regardless of where you prefer doing it.
High season: In the high seasons, the rains are less making it favorable to tourists to trek the mountain gorillas. The high seasons occur in the months of January, February, June, July, August, September, and December where there are fewer or no rains at all. During traveling in the high season, travelers are not affected by the weather making gorilla trekking beautiful experience. Most importantly, you should know that the demand for gorilla permits is high and you are advised to book prior to arrival on your African safari.
Low season: The areas experience heavy rains that disrupt the trekking activity. In the months of March, May, April, and November are recorded to have the heavy rains and this discourages a great number of travelers. On the other hand, the low seasons are the times of the budget travelers. In this season the prices are on discount because of the low counts of travelers in the region. The accommodation facilities in this low season are very favorable since the occupancy rate is low.
All in all, gorilla trekking is a thrilling and adventurous experience that no one should miss on their African safari. The most important thing is booking your gorilla permit prior to arrival on gorilla trekking expedition. You can travel to any national park you prefer and I guarantee you that you will have the same experience and satisfaction.