No other wildlife encounter in Africa matches the astounding experience of spending time face-to-face with wild gorillas. Trekking takes place in a handful of far flung locations, adding a layer of exotic adventure to these safaris that is hard to match on any other itinerary. The fact that gorillas as a species are on the brink of extinction and treks are a highly restricted activity, encountering wild gorillas is considered a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
We’re proud to support trekking tourism that contributes directly to protecting rainforest habitats and conserving both mountain gorillas and western lowland gorillas. Thanks to income derived directly from tourism, the mountain gorilla population has stabilised, which gives us hope for the future of western lowland gorillas now that tourism has started in their Congo rainforest.
For a gorilla trek you need to be fairly fit, equipped for the humid, muddy conditions of a rainforest hike, and in good health – gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses but don’t have our immunities, which means a common cold can be deadly to a whole family of gorillas and you won’t be permitted to trek if you are unwell. Even in the dry season, the rainforest is a challenging environment: it's humid, wet and muddy with some steep slopes, plenty of insects and thick vegetation. It is absolutely worth the effort to spend time with gorillas in the wild, but be prepared to exert yourself on the trek.
Your professional guide and tracker lead you into the forest’s secret paths, looking for a habituated gorilla family. Once found, you’ll approach the gorillas quietly and settle down to observe them from between 7 and 10m (22 to 32 ft) away. You’ll spend between 40 minutes and an hour with the gorillas, watching the adults forage and groom each other while the babies tumble and play. You’ll be under the watchful gaze of the great silverback patriarch, whose soft brown eyes constantly sweep over his family protectively. Witnessing gorillas express typically human gestures and emotions is a truly profound experience and one of the reasons that gorilla trekking is such a life changing encounter.
In the Congo, you’ll don a face mask to protect the gorillas from human germs and have an optional fly net to keep the harmless (and stingless) but determined sweat bees from disturbing you. In Uganda and Rwanda, you’ll leave any personal items or bottled water you’re carrying with your porters and approach the gorillas with only your camera. You are not allowed to use a flash and it’s best to use a camera that doesn’t make loud clicks, whirring or other mechanical noises.
While you may see chimps and other primate species on your gorilla trek, there are several superb chimpanzee trekking destinations, including Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream and the forested corners of Uganda's Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks as well as Kibale Forest.
Chimpanzee trekking is quite different to gorilla trekking. Chimps are often found in easier trekking terrain than gorillas but they are wary of humans and harder to find. Only the habituated chimp families at Kibale Forest offer a similar encounter to gorilla trekking.
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