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: 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 of 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 a “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 up to 2 years to get used to human presence before tourists can visit.
Regulations and Rules for Gorilla Trekking:
Nevertheless, as wild animals, there are certain rules to follow while trekking gorillas for the safety of both sides. Here are some of the rules:
- A maximum of only eight people are allowed to visit a habituated gorilla family in a day. This reduces the risk of behavioral disturbances to the gorillas.
- Do not litter the park or forest. Whatever you bring with you to the forest should be taken back with you, no matter how small.
- Keep your voices low while trekking mountain gorillas. Shouting or making noise is not allowed.
- Maintain a distance of 7 meters while observing gorillas. This keeps the group relaxed and undisturbed. However, if gorillas come close to you, you can interact with them freely.
- Tourists must stay close to each other while observing gorillas. You will not be allowed to scatter all over.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before heading to trek mountain gorillas.
- Do not smoke, eat, or drink in the presence of mountain gorillas, as this could increase their risk of diseases due to droplets or passive smoking.
- In case of a gorilla charge, follow the guide’s instructions, such as not looking gorillas directly in the eyes. Crouch down slowly and never attempt to run away.
- When photographing gorillas, move slowly and carefully. Flash cameras should be turned off, as they scare gorillas.
- Visitors are not allowed to touch gorillas. They are wild animals.
- After finding and observing the gorilla group, 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. If gorillas feel disturbed, the guide might end the visit early. For gorilla habituation, you will spend up to 4 hours.
- If you are carrying a contagious disease, you will not be allowed to visit mountain gorillas. Please volunteer to stay behind if the warden doesn’t notice your disease to avoid transmitting it to gorillas. Gorillas do not have the necessary immunity to fight diseases, and one sick gorilla could endanger the entire family.
- If you need to relieve yourself while in the forest, the guide will dig a hole at least 30cm deep for you. Cover the hole when you’re done.
- If you feel like sneezing or coughing while with mountain gorillas, turn your head away from their direction to minimize the risk of disease transmission.
- Children under the age of fifteen years will not be allowed to trek mountain gorillas.
- Gorillas live on the slopes of mountains, so bring along good hiking boots for steep muddy slopes, raincoats, warm clothing, socks, and garden gloves, as the weather can be unpredictable, and rain may fall.
- Trekking gorillas can take many hours, so carry packed lunch, energy snacks, and drinking water.
- The best time for trekking mountain gorillas is during the drier months of June to September and December to February. During this time, the roads to the parks are more accessible, and the trekking trails are less muddy, with lower chances of rain. In the wet season, it might be challenging to reach the parks, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle may be necessary. Also, bring raincoats and warm clothing.
- Gorilla permits cost $400 in Congo, $1500 in Rwanda, and $700 in Uganda. Permits must be obtained in advance, especially for the peak season, through the respective countries’ governing bodies or tour operators.
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