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There are few wildlife encounters that rival sitting with endangered gorillas in their natural habitat, while observing the fascinating family dynamics of our ancient relatives. Gorilla trekking in the Congo will take you into a verdant rainforest world where the gorillas share their home with forest elephants, buffalos, and hundreds of bird species.
Conflict and disease have drastically reduced gorilla populations in the Congo, and tourism is a vital part of gargantuan conservation efforts to protect those that remain – while supporting surrounding communities. A gorilla trek is a profound and humbling experience made more meaningful by knowing that your travels are directly contributing to their survival.
Which of the Gorilla Species Will You Encounter in the Congo?
The western lowland gorillas are cousins of the mountain gorillas and are smaller in stature, recognisable by their heart-shaped nostrils, shorter hair and wider skulls. The silverback males are also known to have accentuated silver adorning their backs, with silverback gorillas weighing almost twice as much as the females.
They are the smallest of the gorilla subspecies but no less beautiful. When standing, they can reach a height of 5 feet and 6 inches. These adept tree-climbers have smaller family groups of up to ten members and are critically endangered – hunting, habitat loss and disease being their greatest threats.
Western lowland gorilla families have found refuge deep within the forests and swamps of the Congo and trekking to find them is quite the adventure as they are known to travel vast distances during the day before settling to eat. Elusive and rare, encounters with western lowland gorillas is a sought-after experience, where you will be wonderstruck by the similarities between humans and apes – they share over ninety percent of our genetic code.
What Can You Expect When Gorilla Trekking in the Congo?
To meet the western lowland gorillas, you need to venture through rivers, long grasses, rainforest and swampy terrain – one of the most intrepid journeys on the African continent. You are no longer just an observer of the natural world, but part of it. Attuning to the crunching sounds of your exploring feet, the intoxicating smell of the forest and marvelling at incredible sights.
A proper trek can take anything from one hour to five hours, depending on where the families are found, and it’s best to wear the most comfortable shoes. You will be accompanied by a professional guide and expert tracker who will keep you riveted with their passion and knowledge along the way.
You will learn fascinating insights into the lives of these magnificent creatures, as well as the more intricate details of the landscape and its vegetation, insect life and exotic fruits. You could also come across other species including forest elephants, chimpanzees and mangabeys (forest-dwelling monkeys).
What Happens When You Come Across Western Lowland Gorillas?
Once you have hiked across the terrain and meet a family of gorillas, you will wear a mask to minimise the risk of spreading germs. Gorillas have no immunity to many human ailments, but they are as susceptible to getting sick as we are, and it can prove fatal for them. This is also why, when you encounter them, a respectful distance of seven metres (23 feet) must be kept at all times.
You will spend up to an hour with the western lowland gorillas, and to make them feel safe, your movements will be careful, slow and quiet, keeping in mind camera manners with no flash photography and your hands to yourself.
While there is an element of risk when dealing with wild animals, your guide and tracker will never put you in harm’s way, and they have intimate knowledge of how to make the experience as rewarding as possible. It will be a soul-stirring hour of observation that will have the spirit of Africa coursing through your veins.
Ready to Plan Your Gorilla Trekking in the Congo Experience?
Our African Safari Experts have first-hand travel experience with gorilla trekking in the Congo. Get in touch with them to plan your great African adventure: