What is Gorilla Trekking?
When talks turn to gorilla trekking whether in Uganda, Rwanda, or Democratic Republic of Congo; the only three countries in the world where mountain gorilla live, it basically means following mountain gorillas in their natural habitats.
Gorilla trekking involves a group of 8 tourists walking through dense tropical montane forests (for about 1-8 hours) in search of habituated gorillas until they find them and spend an hour with them in their natural habitat, learning about their;
- Taking photographs, and
- Recording the moments
We share up to 98.5% of our DNA with gorillas but for decade most encounters with gorillas were, sadly, from behind the inches-thick Perspex of a zoo enclosure, or as a slapstick caricature in a cheap horror movie.
But now gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo gives visitors a rare opportunity to witness every interaction of these gentle, mysterious apes in their natural environment.
This has been made possible thanks to the rapid progress made by the Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo Authorities, who have recognized the importance of gorilla conservation and the role that well-regulated tourism, can play in protecting the species, and as a vital source of revenue.
Gorilla treks are led by a professional ranger guide who accompanies the visitors through the dense montane forests.
Trekking gorillas is not is not very easy, though it worth it. It requires some degree of physical fitness and gorilla permits that give you access to the gorilla are not cheap. Trekking rules and regulations are strictly enforced, for example;
You must stay with the ranger guide and at least 7 meters away from gorillas. This sometime implies slowly moving to regain a 7 meter distance as these peaceful creatures can move in for a closer look.
This is intended to protect the gorillas as visitors; due to the fact that gorillas can wild pick up a human virus for which they have no immunity and which could wipe out the whole population.
Photographs are taken but no flash.
Speak in low voice and make no sudden movement
If necessary to cough, turn away and cover your mouth, the main cause of mountain gorilla death is pneumonia.
Treks are limited to a maximum of 8 persons per group.
The weather and climate in the gorilla parks is variable and unpredictable. Visits commonly include cold, cool, and hot weather as well as rain and sun. Therefore;-
- Waterproof hiking shoes are essential,
- Gardening gloves to protect against stinging nettles.
- Long sleeved shirts
- Safari trousers
- Light waterproof jacket
- Warm sweater
As of today, there are about 1063 in the whole world and Uganda is home to more than half of mountain gorillas on Earth.
- Gorilla treks in Uganda are done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with a population of about 459 gorillas and Mgahinga gorilla National Park, in the southwestern region of the country.
- Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done in Volcanoes National Park in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Rwanda has the second highest population of mountain gorillas in the world.
- Gorilla trekking in Congo is Virunga National Park in Eastern part of the country for mountain gorillas and Kahuzi Biega National Park for lowland gorilla trekking.
History of Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa
- According to history, mountain gorilla trekking in Africa dates back to 1902, when Robert Von Beringe, a Germany captain, and the first European observed the Mountain Gorillas on the Sabyinyo Volcano. Later the Mountain gorilla was named Gorilla beringei by Matschie in 1903.
- In 1963, American primatologist and conservationist, Dian Fossey began her study on mountain gorillas, their protection and habituation.
- She was murdered by heartless and cruel poachers in volcanoes National Park having spent 18 years of her life saving and protecting these precious apes that were on the verge of extinction.
- Her work is best described in the internationally acclaimed movie; “Gorillas in the Mist” that exposed gorilla trekking to the world.
- The 1978 BBC television series, “Life on Earth”, featuring David Attenborough’s encounter with the mountain gorillas also brought the whole plight of saving these mighty primates to a craze, bringing thousands of travellers to this part of the world just to spend a few moments with our cousins
- Stories said about the encounter differ only in narration, but the experience is generally one to cherish forever.
- Environmentalists and governments have been jealously protecting the mountain gorillas since the early 1980s, with numbers increasing from 254 in 1981 to 1,063 in the recent 2018 census, thanks to these efforts anyone can go and see them.
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