The gorilla trekking rules in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo don’t differ. This article lists some of the rules you should follow when trekking gorillas. Mountain gorillas can only be found in three countries in the world. These include Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda respectively. You can trek them in any of these gorilla parks while following the respective rules for gorilla trekking.
Mountain gorillas share 98% of human DNA making them close relatives with chimpanzees. There are slightly over 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. These apes move in groups of 5-30 individuals led by a male gorilla known as “Silverback”. This alpha-male has the first and final say in the group. He leads, protects and has the only right to mate with females in the group.
Gorillas undergo a habituation process of 2 years maximum in order to get used to human presence. After this process, they can be visited by tourists. Nevertheless, these are wild animals so there are certain rules that ought to be followed while trekking gorillas for the safety on both sides. See some of the rules below.
Regulations and Rules for Gorilla Trekking
A maximum of only eight people is allowed to visit a habituated gorilla family in a day. This lowers the risk of behavioral disturbances to the gorillas.
You are not supposed to litter the park or forest. Whatever you bring with you to the forest should go back with you however small it may be.
While trekking mountain gorillas, your voices are supposed to be low. You’re not expected to shout or make noise during trekking.
A distance of 7 meters must be kept while observing gorillas. This makes the group more relaxed and not disrupted. However, if gorillas come close to you, you can play with them freely.
Tourists must stay close to each other while observing gorillas. You will not be allowed to be scattered all over.
Always wash your hands thoroughly when heading to trek mountain gorillas.
Do not smoke, eat or drink in the presence of mountain gorillas. This could increase their risk of diseases because of the falling droplets or passive smoking.
In case of gorillas charge, you should endeavor to follow the guides instructions like not looking at gorillas straight in the eyes. Crouch down slowly and never temper to run away.
When photographing gorillas, tourists should move slowly and carefully. Flash cameras should strictly be off as they scare gorillas.
Visitors are not allowed to touch gorillas. These are wild animals.
After finding and observing the gorilla group, you are supposed to keep your voices down until you are about 200 meters away from the group.
The maximum time you can spend with mountain gorillas is 1 hour but if gorillas feel disturbed the guide might tell you to end the visit early. For gorilla habituation, you will spend up to 4 hours.
In case you are carrying a contagious disease, you will not be allowed to visit mountain gorillas. If the warden doesn’t notice your disease, please volunteer and stay behind to avoid transmitting diseases to gorillas. Gorillas do not have the necessary immunity to fight diseases hence, if one gorilla falls sick, the sickness could wipe out the entire gorilla family.
In case you get the urge to ease yourself while in the forest, the guide will dig for you a hole that at least 30cm deep. You have to cover this hole when you’re done easing yourself.
If you feel like sneezing or coughing while with mountain gorillas, you need to turn your head far away from their direction. This also helps with the risk of disease transmission.
Children under the age of fifteen years will not be allowed to trek mountain gorillas.
Gorillas live at the slopes of mountains, so you will need to come along with good hiking boots for steep muddy slopes. You will also need raincoats, warm clothing, socks, and garden gloves as sometimes the weather gets unpredictable and rain falls.
Trekking gorillas take very long hours sometimes. You will need to carry packed lunch, energy snacks, and drinking water.
The best time of trekking mountain gorillas is in the drier months of June to September and December to February. During this time the roads to the parks are very accessible and the trekking trails are not muddy without any higher chances of rain. In the wet season, it might get hard getting to the parks. You will need a four wheel drive vehicle. You must also come with raincoats and warm clothing. Please see this recommended packing list for gorilla trekking.
Gorilla permits cost $400 in Congo, $1500 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda. The gorilla permits can be accessed through the respective countries’ governing bodies or through a tour operator. Please note that permits must be obtained in advance if you are buying them for the peak season.