Without strict rules and regulations, gorillas would be no more, there wouldn’t be gorilla tourism. However Authorities in charge of Wildlife and conservation in Uganda and Rwanda, have ensured to conserve and protect wildlife sustainably. For this reason, they put rules and regulations for trekking gorillas. These have over the years enabled tourists to visit mountain gorillas and enabled the mighty giants thrive, multiply and flourish in their habitats.
So plan to trek gorillas knowing well the dos and don’ts which will help you keep and observe the laws of conservation yet having the best gorilla trekking safari. Trekking gorillas, is a day activity lasting between 2 to 8hours depending on where the gorillas are at a particular time in the forest. When you meet a gorilla family, you are allowed to be with them for only one hour.
Before Trekking Gorillas
Of course you should possess a gorilla permit to be allowed to trek, in Uganda a Gorilla permit costs $700 where as in Rwanda it costs $1500. It is very important for the trekkers to know that Gorillas are wild animals. And in order for people to get into contact with them, they have to be habituated. There are over 12 habituated families of gorillas in Uganda and a maximum number of 8 tourists is allowed to visit each gorilla group in a day to minimize any risk of human diseases or behavioral disturbances.
The allocation of which family to trek is at random before the group briefing is done, only special treatment is given to maybe the elderly or the sick to track the nearest gorilla family.
Only those above 15years are allowed to trek. And anyone that shows signs of an infectious illness or a cold might not be allowed to trek. And ensure that you wash or sanitize your hands before you start the trek in the jungle.
During the Trek
Pay closer attention on the nesting behaviors of gorillas since the trek begins from where they spent a night.
Follow the leading of your ranger guide, whatever he says follow through as he will alert you when you are soon meeting the gorillas.
Don’t shout; keep your voices low. You will be able to spot different butterfly and bird species and other wildlife species in the jungle.
Don’t litter rubbish while in the park, come out of the forest with everything you entered it with.
While with the Mountain Gorillas
Gorillas are wild, so NEVER attempt to touch them. Always maintain 32ft distance from where you are and the Gorilla family because getting closer to them can disturb them.
Still keep your voices low, and ensure that you don’t separate from the ones you are trekking with. If you have any questions, ask the ranger guide.
You are not allowed to eat or drink or smoke when near them because you might attract their attention or the droplets of drinks or food can transmit human diseases to the gorillas.
Avoid taking photos with your flash on, ensure that you use the right settings of your camera.
While in their presence, be very careful and walk slowly. It is also better not to wave at them or point fingers.
In case a gorilla charges, don’t panic or run away, just follow your ranger guide’s example; bend down slowly without looking directly in the gorillas eyes and wait until it passes.
Tourists are allowed to spend only one hour with these gentle giants. Although in the cases where gorillas seem nervous or restless, the ranger might end the visit before the hour elapses, this is for both the gorillas’ and your safety.
The trek is mesmerizing and after you might be excited, kindly don’t make a loud noise, keep your voice low until you are 250m away from them.
Health Precautions in General
Mountain gorillas are prone to diseases from humans because they have 90% DNA similar to that of humans. Hence a few health precautions are listed below for you to follow while near gorillas.
Respect the imposed limits on how many tourists visit the gorillas. They prevent the risk of spreading human diseases to them.
Don’t leave any kind of rubbish in the forest.
In case you want to sneeze or cough while in the presence of the gorillas, it is advisable that you turn away and ensure that your mouth and nose are fully covered to control the spread of viral or bacterial infections.
In instances where you would like to use a toilet while still in the forest, talk to the ranger guide such that he can help you dig a 30cm deep hole and after using it cover it up.
If you have a contagious disease or you feel sickly, you could volunteer to remain behind for the safety of the gorillas. Another chance for trekking will be availed for you or even.
What to Carry for Gorilla Trekking?
Carry a good camera, together with a memory card or spare batteries
Put on comfortable sturdy shoes suitable for hiking different kinds of terrains
Bring or hire a pair of Binoculars
Pack or wear an insect repellent and don’t forget the rain gear and a hat, it being a tropical forest, the weather cannot be predictable.
Wear a pair of long trousers and a long sleeved shirt if you can
Bring packed lunch and some energy snacks
Have spare batteries
Carry enough drinking water
Have at least two face masks
In conclusion, if you desire to go for Gorilla trekking in either Uganda or Rwanda, it is advisable that you make your gorilla permit bookings while it’s still early. Most people purchase their permits a year, 6 months or even 3 months before the tracking date. However the earlier the better, because it gives you opportunity to get a sector of your choice and also be able to get the lodge of your choice when your payments are made early. Otherwise Gorilla trekking is a very rewarding experience which every lover of wildlife should do.