The Gorilla Trekking Guidelines are for you planning on trekking Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda or the D.R – Congo. The following briefing information would apply equally well in any of the 3 countries where you may trek Mountain Gorilla’s. Much of the extract has been taken from the printed leaflet by the Uganda Wildlife Authority ‘Gorilla Rules’ with additional information added!
Lets kick this off with the easiest most neglected tip – before departing for your Gorilla Trek – Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
On The Way To The Gorillas
• A maximum number of 6 visitors (8 in DR Congo and if trekking one of the larger groups in Rwanda) may visit a group of habituated gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
• Please always keep your voices low. You will then also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
• DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you.
• You will be taken to where the guides observed the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail to find them. Look out for the gorilla’s nesting sites along the way!
• When you approach the Gorillas, the guides will inform you to get ready.
When You Are With The Gorillas:
• A 5 meter distance should try to be observed at all times (15 feet) from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
• You must stay in tight group whey you are near the gorillas.
• Keep your voices down at all times. However, it is OK to ask the guide questions.
• Do not eat or drink while you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking inevitably will increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases
• Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not try and take pictures and do not attempt to run away. Running away will increase the risk.
• Flash photography is not permitted – When taking pictures move slowly and carefully.
• Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals. They might look cuddly but!!.
• The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will finish the visit early.
• after the visits keep your voices down until you am 200 metres from the gorillas.
General Gorilla Health Rules:
• Remember gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them:
• Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
• If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.
• 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 viruses.
• Always stay 5 metres (15 feet) away from the gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
• Do not attempt to touch the gorillas.
• Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are with the gorillas.
• Do not leave any rubbish (eg. food wrappers) in the Park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
• If you need to defecate, whilst in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30cms deep and fill it in when you are finished.
When To Visit Gorillas
The rainy season is from March till May and October till November. Light rain season falls in November and December. Dry seasons are from December to February and June to August. The best time, the best months of the year would be December to late February and from June to September.
What To Expect On The Gorilla Safari
Uganda is suitable for travel any time of the year. Uganda is sunny most of the year with temperatures rarely rising above 29 degrees (84 degrees Fahrenheit). The average annual temperature is about 26 degrees Celsius (78° Fahrenheit). For a gorilla Safari you need to be fairly fit, equipped for the humid, muddy conditions of a rainforest hike, and healthy. You will not be permitted to go gorilla trekking if you have a cold or similar illness because gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases. The region’s mid-December to February and June to September dry seasons are the best time to go gorilla trekking but you can still expect a tough day on foot: it’s sometimes humid, wet and muddy with steep slopes and tangled vegetation. Nevertheless, the chances of finding a gorilla family are often around 95%.
Once a habituated gorilla family has been located by your guides, you can settle down for an hour to observe them as they feed and groom while their babies tumble about the undergrowth – all under the watchful gaze of the great silverback male. Sitting only a few meters from a gorilla and looking into its soft brown eyes is a spine-tingling experience not easily forgotten.
How Are You Contributing To The Conservation Of The Mountain Gorillas?
The mountain gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla Berengie), the world’s most endangered ape, is found only in small portions of protected afro montane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern DRC. The mountain gorilla is one of many species unique to these forests. The forests are also home to many wonderful birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects and plants and also ensure continued water and medical plant resources for the local communities.
The mountain gorillas are divided into two populations and current figures estimate the total population to be about 600 individuals. One population is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), in S.W. Uganda, covering about 330km2, and the ecologically homogenous (salem flora and fauna), covering three contiguous National Parks in three countries.; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcano National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, covering an approximate total area of 300km2.
The threats to the remaining gorilla population and its habitat are many. One of these threats is the possibility of disease transmission form humans to gorillas and vice versa. In order to address the issue of potential disease transmission to the gorillas and to mitigate behavioral disturbances to this fragile population, the gorilla rules have been developed.
By following these rules and through the purchase of the permit, YOU too are contributing to the conservation of the mountain gorilla. Uganda Wildlife Authority uses the funds generated from the sale of this permit for the management of the National Parks. A percentage of the funds raised from Park entrance fees are also donated to local communities living adjacent to the parks to contribute to their development and improve natural resource management in the region.