Gorilla tours have over the years become the most demanded safari tours in the East African region. Many adventure travelers like to meet the mountain gorillas some of mans’ closest primates.
The East African region is blessed to have four mountain gorilla national parks where gorilla tours can be enjoyed. Today we shall be exploring these rare apes in depth discussing all you need to know about them.
About Mountain Gorillas
Mountain gorillas are primates that live in forested mountains of the Virunga massif and Bwindi impenetrable forest. They are covered with black thick fur that help them a great deal in managing the cold temperatures of the area.
They live in families or groups that are headed by strong and dominant male gorillas often called Silver-backs. The other individual mountain gorilla members include female gorillas, infants and juvenile gorillas often called Black-backs. These are usually in groups ranging from 5 to 20 gorillas or more depending on the family size.
Over 98% of a mountain gorilla diet comprises of plant leaves. They also feed on bamboo shoots and small insects. Given that plant leaves are usually wet with dew, mountain gorillas rarely take water.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking Destinations
The region has four mountain gorilla national parks where gorilla tours are conducted. In these national parks there are habituated mountain gorilla families accustomed to human beings presence.
In Rwanda, Gorilla tours are enjoyed in Volcanoes national park. Its just 3 hours drive from Kigali Rwanda’s capital city. The park has over 10 habituated gorilla families that are open for tourism.
In Uganda, you can have gorilla tours in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla parks. Bwindi has the highest mountain gorilla population with over 15 habituated gorilla families open for tourism. Mgahinga gorilla park has one gorilla family and its very exclusive when it comes to gorilla tracking.
Lastly in DRC you can track gorillas in Virunga national park that has about 10 habituated gorilla families.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking Regulations
Given the fact that the Mountain gorilla population is under threat because of gorillas habitat loss, disease and poaching, there are set regulations on gorilla tours. These are clearly told to tourists ahead of gorilla tracking at the park headquarters during briefing. They include;
- You must be 15 years and above to be allowed on any mountain gorilla tours in the national parks. This is done to ensure that minors don’t get any emotion disturbances with their encounters with mountain gorillas.
The hike to get to the mountain gorillas is sometimes tough and you ones might not be able to manage it.
- In-case you are feeling ill especially with flue, cough or any contagious disease its better not to track gorillas. This is because you can easily infect the mountain gorillas with your illness.
- Only 8 tourists are allowed to track a mountain gorilla family per day. This is done to reduce on the direct ecosystem impact by humans. Given that Mountain gorillas have over 95% DNA similar to humans, a limited number of tourists also helps to reduce behavior change
- Tourists while in the forest are supposed to keep their voices down to avoid making noise as this can disrupt gorillas and other wildlife species.
- Everyone is supposed to keep in the group to avoid straying away as you can easily get lost.
- Littering in the forest is highly prohibited
While With The Gorillas
- On Getting to the gorillas tourists are allowed to only spend an hour in their presence. This helps in reducing disease spread from humans to gorillas or from gorillas to humans. It also helps in reducing behavior change in mountain gorillas
- You are supposed to keep at least a 7 meters distance away from the mountain gorillas. Even when they come your way ensure to move back or away from them.
- One should also avoid wearing bright colors while going for the trek.
- Flash photography is strictly not allowed as it can irritate the mountain gorillas
Best Time For gorilla tracking
Mountain gorilla tours can be enjoyed throughout the year as the East and Central African regions have the best weather. The most enjoyable gorilla treks are had in the dry season from June to September and December to March. During the dry season rainfall disturbances is minimal and tracking trails are a bit dry making hiking easy.
The wet season from April to May and October to November are also great times to travel. Here you enjoy a bit of exclusivity with the limited tourist numbers.