what is gorilla trekking?
Gorilla Trekking is a top forex exchange earner in the tourism industry in Africa, with the activity earning millions of dollars for countries that offer the activity. Gorilla trekking activities attract a large number of tourists who travel to Africa in order to see gorillas in the wild/natural habitat.
Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves trekkers hiking gorilla inhabited areas such as; montane and sub montane forests, as well as tropical rain forests in an effort to locate a habituated gorilla group.
Most tourists travelling to the African continent want to trek mountain gorillas compared to other subspecies like the eastern lowland gorillas, western lowland gorillas and the cross river gorillas. Mountain gorillas, which are relatively larger than the eastern lowland gorillas, are considered to be the largest primates in the world. The subspecies is highly sought after by most gorilla trekkers, and can be tracked from Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gorilla trekking usually involves tracking a specific habituated gorilla group using various tracking techniques such as tracking fresh gorilla foot prints, fecal matter, food left overs like fruits, bamboo shoots, and also locating fresh nests that were made by the gorillas a night before.
Gorilla trekking mainly aims at conserving gorillas which are a critically endangered species in the world today. The survival of these species is under threat from poachers who continuously hunt them down and sell off their body parts as bush meat, trinkets, and hunting trophies. Gorilla trekking is much more than just looking at gorillas in the wild and taking their pictures; the activity looks at educating tourists on the importance of gorillas to the environment, their economic benefit to the countries in which they are found, and factors threatening their existence/survival.
Gorilla trekking is usually done in groups of 8 members each per gorilla group. Trekkers are always accompanied by armed park rangers to ensure the safety of both trekkers and the gorillas; as well as park guides who are very experienced and know where and how to locate the gorillas.
How long does gorilla trekking take?
Gorilla trekking involves hiking in forests for hours depending on how fast and easily trekkers can locate a gorilla group/family. Now, how easily trekkers can locate a given gorilla group entirely depends on a number of factors, one of them being how far the gorillas have moved into the forests in their search for food. For this reason, gorilla trekking can take several hours, specifically between 2 to 7 hours to be exact.
Once trekkers have located a specific gorilla group, they are given only an hour to spend in the midst of these magnificent apes. This is the part where your camera will come in handy. Make sure that the flash light on your camera/phone is off or disabled, because gorillas are sensitive to flash lights and shutter sounds. Also endeavor to ensure that you pack extra batteries in case you are planning to take lots of pictures or videos.
What is the age limit for gorilla trekking?
Since gorilla trekking involves a lot of hiking and trekking activities, the activity has been limited to adult visitors aged 15 and above years. Trekkers with conical illness such as high blood pressure and conical heart diseases, will need to get clearance from their doctors giving them permission to do gorilla trekking.
What are the best places for gorilla trekking?
The best places for tourists to do gorilla trekking would be in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. There are 18 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, with 15 groups available to tourists for tracking and two habituated gorilla groups in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Alternatively, trekkers can opt to do gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda which has 10 habituated gorilla groups available for tourists to trek. Gorilla trekking can also best be done in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has 8 habituated mountain gorilla groups; or in Kahuzi-Biega National Park which is a great place to trek the Eastern lowland gorillas.
How much does gorilla trekking cost?
The price of gorilla trekking varies from one country to another. In Uganda for instance, a gorilla trekking permit goes for USD 600 to USD 700 dollars per person; USD 400 for a gorilla permit in DRC and USD 1500 in Rwanda. The cost of the gorilla trekking permit covers expenses such as; park entry fees, park guide and ranger fees, and government taxes. However, the gorilla permit doesn’t cover personal expenses like; plane tickets, accommodation, meals, transportation, and visa fees.
What to pack when going gorilla trekking?
In case you are wondering what to bring along with you on your gorilla trekking tour, here is a list of some things you can pack; a good pair of hiking boots, sunscreen, a hat/ cap, a rain coat in case it rains, a walking stick (you can get one at the national park), long sleeve shirt, long trousers, a camera, your packed lunch, and mineral water to keep hydrated throughout your trekking activities. Also make sure to carry your gorilla trekking permit on the day that you are going to trek gorillas, as you will be required to present your gorilla permit at the park headquarters.
Rules and regulations of gorilla trekking.
Trekkers are usually given a set of rules and regulations to follow when trekking gorillas, and here are some of them;
- Gorilla trekking can be done ONLY by visitors aged 15 years and above.
- Senior citizens who wish to take part in gorilla trekking activities should be both physically and mentally healthy. In cases where a visitor has a health condition e.g. heart conditions, asthma, or acute/high blood pressure; one will have to sign a Release of Liability taking full responsibility for any accident that he/she may get while trekking gorillas.
- Do not trek gorillas in case your have a cold, cough or any air-bone diseases.
- Gorilla trekking activities take place in groups of a maximum of 8 members only.
- Visitors must have a valid passport (at least 6 months valid) and East African tourist visa.
- Visitors should wash their hands before and after gorilla trekking.
- Gorilla trekkers should always stick to your groups. Do not wondered away from your trekking group.
- Keep your voice down throughout your trekking activities.
- Do not litter the national park.
- Once the gorillas have been located, maintain a safe distance of 7 meters between you and the gorilla group.
- Do not maintain eye contact with the gorillas especially a Silverback.
- Visitors should not eat, drink or even smoke when in the presence of the gorillas.
- Visitors should avoid unnecessary movement when in the midst of gorillas.
- Always stay calm in case a gorilla charges at you, and carefully listen to the instructions given to you by your guide.
- Flash photography is prohibited especially when you are with a gorilla group. Visitors should always ensure that your camera’s flash is disabled.
Gorilla trekking activities mainly look at bridging the gap between humans and the gorilla, by creating a better understanding of the gorilla species, their contribution to society and the environment. Through gorilla trekking, we are able to realize the importance of conserving these species for future generations to come.