What is gorilla trekking?
Gorilla trekking is an extraordinary experience involving hiking through mountainous terrain to see our closest primates in their natural habitat. Gorillas are found exclusively in Africa and are considered an endangered species – due to deforestation and hunting, they currently number around a thousand. Participating in a gorilla trek is a great way of contributing to conservation efforts to maintain and grow the gorilla population. These kinds of treks are possible because gorillas have been habituated, so that they are accustomed to human interaction and that reduces the chance of human-gorilla conflict.
Where can you go gorilla trekking?
There are three main countries that offer gorilla trekking: Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has the largest population of gorillas while Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is much smaller. In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park (where Dian Fossey was based) sits across the border from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Virunga National Park in DRC, all part of the same Virunga Mountains massif. You can also see the rare Eastern gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site, further south in DRC from Virunga National Park. Uganda has the highest population of gorillas compared with Rwanda and DRC.
What is involved in a gorilla trek?
With an experienced guide leading the trek, you hike in the mountains (the distance and time will vary) until you encounter a gorilla family. Once the gorillas are spotted, you typically spend an hour observing as they engage in their daily activities, such as grooming, playing and hanging out. Trekkers are not allowed to touch the gorillas and must not disturb them with loud noises or aggressive movements.
How much does it cost to go gorilla trekking?
Most people who go gorilla trekking go on an organized trek with a tour company, who organizes permits, lodging, transportation and guides. Permits are cheapest in DRC, costing about $400 per person, while in Uganda, permits are $700 per person, and in Rwanda, permits are more than double, at $1500 per person. In Uganda, about 80 permits a day are issued, while Rwanda issues about 56 per day and DRC about 40 permits per day. Tours are booked months in advance in order to secure a permit for the location and dates that trekkers want to go.
When to go gorilla trekking?
The best months of the year to go gorilla trekking are during the two dry seasons in the countries: December – February and June – September. While the rainforests where the gorillas live will always have some rain, going during the rainy season makes the trekking more arduous and can reduce the chance of seeing the gorillas.
Why go gorilla trekking?
You not only get to engage in this once in a lifetime experience of seeing gorillas in the wild, but you are supporting conservation efforts which the three countries engage in to help preserve the gorilla population. As well, fees paid by trekkers help enormously in supporting local employment and the livelihoods of those in the community, who might otherwise turn to poaching, an issue all three countries have had to deal with.
There are many tour operators offering gorilla trekking services in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Choose one and embark on this magical adventure!