Over the years Gorilla Tracking has been the number 1 top activity for most tourists who travel to Uganda / Rwanda. According to census data released by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (November 2012), there are a few Mountain Gorillas left in the world and over 400 of those live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest alone. Others can be found in Mgahinga gorilla national park in south- western Uganda. In Rwanda they can be found in the Volcanoes national park which borders Uganda, DRC and Rwanda & Virunga national park in DRC. Gorilla tracking can be done all year through as it is always cold in the rain forests. But however it’s advisable to travel mid-year as the roads leading to these parks won’t be muddy. It’s somehow dry in the months of July and August so anyone travelling to Uganda won’t need to be very cautious of the weather.
Regulation & Protocol for Gorilla tracking
Tourists are permitted to spend no longer than an hour with the gorilla, and it is forbidden to eat or smoke in their presence. It is also forbidden to approach within less then 5 meters of the gorillas, a rule that is difficult to enforce with curious youngsters (and some adults) who often approach human visitors. Gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases, and it has long been feared by researchers that one ill tourist might infect a gorilla; resulting in the possible death of the whole troop should they have no immunity to that disease. For this reason, you should not go gorilla tracking with a potentially airborne infection such as flu or a cold, and are asked to turn away from the gorillas should you need to sneeze in the presence. To the best of our knowledge, no tourist has ever been seriously hurt by habituated gorillas. An adult gorilla is much stronger than a person, and will act in accordance with its own social codes. Therefore, it is vital that you listen to your guide at all times regarding correct protocol in the presence of gorillas.
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. 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. It is also advisable to always keep your voices low and this will ensure that you are able to observe the beautiful birds and other wildlife in the forest.
Certificates are required for vaccination against yellow fever. Check current medical advice on typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. It is advisable to start anti-malaria medications 10 days prior to arrival and continue with the same until 14 days after leaving East Africa. Our guests are also encouraged to take make their own insurance arrangements for the time they will be in Africa. You need to consult with your local Doctor for advice on Medication.
See full details about gorilla tracking health requirements here.
What to Wear and take for Gorilla Tracking
Whichever family group you visit during Gorilla tracking, you may have to walk a long distance in steep, muddy conditions, possibly with rain overhead, before you encounter any gorillas. Put on your sturdiest shoes. Ideally, wear thick trousers ad long sleeved top as to protect against vicious stinging nettles. It’s often cold when you set out, so start out with a sweatshirt or jerseys [which also help protect against nettles].
The gorillas are thoroughly used to people, so it makes little difference whether you wear bright or muted colors. Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking are likely to get very dirty you slip and slither in the mud, so if you have pre- muddied clothes you might as well wear them. When you are grabbing for handholds in thorny vegetation, a pair of old gardening gloves are helpful. Carry as little as possible, ideally in a waterproof daypack of some sort. During the rainy season, a poncho or raincoat might be a worthy addition to your daypack, while sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a good idea at any time of year. You may well feel like a snack during a long hike, and should certainly carry enough drinking water – at least two liters. Bottled water is sold in locally at the accommodation facilities.
Especially during the rainy season, make sure your camera gear is well protected – is your bag isn’t waterproof, seal your camera and films in a plastic bag. Binoculars are not necessary to see the gorillas. In the theory, bird watchers might like to carry binoculars, though in practice only the most dedicated are likely to make use of them – the trek up to the gorillas is normally much directed, and walking up the steep slopes and the thick vegetation tends to occupy one’s eye and mind.