High-impact, adrenalin-pumping, truly off-the-beaten-track.Immerse yourself in the African wilderness separated only by canvas like an explorer of old!! Possibly the ultimate way to experience Africa. Get under the skin of the world’s most exciting continent through in-depth encounters with the local communities.
For most travelers, trekking the Gorillas ranks among one of the absolute highlights of a trip. Of all Africa’s wildlife encounters little can match the experience that is gorilla trekking. And given that these face-to-face encounters take place in only a few locations and involve animals quite literally on the brink of extinction, gorilla trekking is quite rightly considered, if not a life-changing experience, then at the very least a once-in-a-lifetime one. The spine-tingling feeling that you get being so near to one of our closest relatives is hard to describe!!
Mountain Gorillas are one of the world’s most endangered apes and it is estimated that there are only 720 (approximately) left throughout the world. Almost half of these can be found in Uganda, as well as populations in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Where to go
Professionally guided gorilla trekking is restricted to a handful of remote but thankfully accessible destinations. Western lowland gorillas are found in the primeval forests of the Republic of Congo; the world’s last 720 or so mountain gorillas live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Seeing these gentle giants can be a life-changing experience – living in their in their natural habitat in close-knit family groups, they reflect so much of our human family structure, affections and many of our emotional gestures, like delight, surprise and irritation.
How to go
While chimp trekking is still in its infancy, gorilla trekking is a tightly regulated activity and we strongly recommend using the experience and planning expertise of one of our Safari experts. Permits are not only expensive but extremely limited and difficult to secure. Immediate payment is necessary as permits are not provisionally held. Logistics can be a challenge, and you’ll need advice on matching an experience with your expectations. We advise you to book up to 3-5 months before your intended date of departure. We offer permits in Uganda (Nkuringo, Ruhija, Rushaga, Buhoma and Mgahinga), Rwanda (Parc National Des Volcano’s) and Congo.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
- A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group (family) of habituated Gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbances to the Gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
- Always wash your hands before you head out to the Gorillas.
- Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you.
- You will be taken to where the guides left the Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the Gorillas’ trail to find them. Look out for the Gorillas nesting sites along the way.
- When you approach the Gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
- Please always keep your voices low. This will ensure that you will be able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.
When with Gorillas
- Keep a minimum distance of 7 meters (21 feet) from the Gorillas. (This reduces the risk transmitting diseases between humans and Gorillas.
- Keep your voices low at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions.
- Do not eat or drink while you are near the Gorillas.
- Sometimes the Gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example by crouching down slowly, and do not look at the Gorillas in the eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you by and do not attempt to run away (this will increase the risk of attack).
- Flash photography is not permitted, when taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.
- Do not touch the Gorillas. They are wild animals.
- The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the Gorillas is one hour; however, if the Gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.
- After the visit, keep your voices low until you are at least 200 meters away from the Gorillas.
General Health Rules
- Remember Gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following guidelines are to ensure that you minimize the risk your visit might pose to them.
- Respect the limit imposed on the time that visitors are allowed with the Gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
- If you are feeling ill, or have a contagious disease when you are already at the park, please volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded (as per the gorilla reservation guidelines).
- 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 germs.
- Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the Gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
- Do not leave any rubbish e.g. food wrappers in the park. Such items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
- If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide, to dig you a hole. He will fill it when you have finished.
Africa’s great ape encounters don’t end with gorillas; chimpanzee trekking is rapidly becoming the continent’s newest wildlife experience. Although you may see chimps – and several other primate species – on your gorilla trek, several places have earned a reputation as stand-alone chimpanzee trekking destinations. Uganda’s Kibale Forest is considered as the best place for chimpanzee trekking, There is also a wonderfully diverse concentration of other primates (of any forest in East Africa in fact), including: Red Colobus, Red-tailed Guenon, White-nosed Monkey, Gray-cheeked Mangabey, Blue Monkey, L’Hoest’s Monkey, and the Black and White Colobus Monkey. In addition, you may see Olive Baboons, Bush Babies and Nocturnal Pottos, Chimpanzess can also be trekked in the forested corners of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks, Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream have a long-standing reputation for chimps as well.
Chimpanzee trekking is quite different to gorilla trekking. Often found in kinder terrain than gorillas, wild chimps are nevertheless harder to find than gorillas and chimpanzee tracking is often an add-on experience to a big game safari. But habituated chimp groups, such as those at Kibale, give you the same kind of face-to-face encounter you enjoy with gorilla trekking. Time spent with them is again restricted to an hour.
Chimpanzees can be located in 21 countries throughout Africa, but are most easily sighted in Uganda due to their dense populations and easy to access terrain. There are currently 4,950 Chimpanzees left in Uganda. Chimpanzees share 98% of human genes making them our closest living relatives.