Gorilla Trekking

Information about Gorilla Trekking

No one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes – intelligent, gentle, vulnerable – can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes…

George Schaller

Only some 700 mountain gorillas remain on our fragile planet, of which approximately 320 are located in Uganda and 380 are located in the Virungas (a mountain range spanning the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo). The mountain gorilla faces several threats to its survival, namely loss of habitat, vulnerability to human disease, poaching and civil strife. Gorilla viewing is strictly regulated, and the high permit fee charged is an important source of revenue for mountain gorilla conservation – a relatively small price to pay for the privilege of viewing such a critically endangered species.

Currently eighteen family groups of gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC have been habituated for tourism purposes and are studied in detail. Of the three countries, Classic Africa Safaris offers gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda.

For many clients the reality of taking a trek into the forest in search of a group of Mountain Gorillas gives rise to adrenalin filled, thrilling, spine-tingling sensations however it is perfectly natural to feel a little daunted at the same time. Sufficient preparation is the best way to overcome any anxieties.

A typical day

After breakfast we take a short drive to Park Headquarters and meet with excellent local guides and trackers who will give a talk on the etiquette of gorilla trekking. We then hike into the forest to where the gorillas were seen the night before and track from that point. The trekking can take from 1 to 6 hours and climb to altitudes not in excess of 7,500 feet.
The terrain is rough and at times muddy. Although the hike is physically demanding the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make the trekking worthwhile. Once the gorillas are located all fatigue is forgotten, as the experience is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world. Picnic lunches are provided and it is important to take plenty of water. Cameras and plenty of fast speed film are recommended. It can rain at a few minutes notice, hence waterproof clothing is a good essential including zip lock bags for cameras and film.

Please note: We can not guarantee seeing the gorillas.

Is Gorilla Trekking better in Uganda or Rwanda?

This is a debatable question. The answer is probably that they are as good as each other. Whilst there are no guarantees in either Rwanda or Uganda that gorillas will be sighted, it is extremely rare for clients to be disappointed. As Mountain Gorillas forage for food in the forest over a fair distance in both Rwanda and Uganda, the trek can be either easy or strenuous at both locations. If an easy trek is desired, the best chance is to go during the green seasons (April-May and November) but we reiterate that there are no guarantees! The accommodation available is vastly superior in Uganda than in Rwanda, although we are hoping to see improvements at Gorilla Nest Lodge in the coming year.

What are the chances of finding the Gorillas?

It must be stressed that whilst you have a good chance of finding the gorillas, we cannot guarantee success. National Park regulations stipulate that if the gorillas have not been found by 1.00pm, trekkers must turn back to avoid tracking in the dark back to camp. Refunds are only considered if a client is sick, this being at the discretion of the Senior Warden at Park Headquarters prior to the trek. No refunds are entertained if clients decide not to trek because they are tired or turn around because they are in poor shape and thus incapable of completing the trek. N.B. To minimize the risk of transmitting childhood diseases to the gorillas, the lower age limit for tracking is 15 years. This minimum age limit is strictly observed and all passport details including the date of birth are required at the time of booking. Anyone of questionable age will be required to provide proof of age at Park Headquarters.

Clothing for trekking and what to take

Strong hiking boots with good tread and ankle support are essential. Gardening gloves and gaiters are useful optional extras. Dress in a long-sleeve top to protect your arms against scratches from thorns and long pants (tuck the ends into your socks) to minimise possible bites to your legs from safari ants. Dress in layers so you can peel off the outer layers as you work up a sweat during the hike. Picnic lunches are provided and it is important to take plenty of drinking water and high energy snacks. It can rain at a few minutes notice, hence waterproof clothing (muted colours) should be carried as well as zip lock bags for cameras and film. For photography, flash use is not permitted, we recommend fast speed film. Take along your daypack to carry your items and pack a sweater/fleece and spare top in case you get wet as well as basic first aid items and a flashlight. Porters are available for hire at park headquarters and are highly recommended as not only does this supply the local community with valuable employment but the porters will provide you with physical assistance should the trekking prove tough.

Safety on trek – are guides armed?

All trekking groups will be accompanied by National Park guides, trekkers, porters and UPDF soldiers. Both the National Park guides and the soldiers are armed – this is not intended to cause alarm, rather a precautionary measure to reassure tourists that both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Government consider tourist safety and wellbeing of paramount importance. The National Park guides carry hand-held radios and are in constant communication with both the Park headquarters and the other trekking groups.

Useful Links

Classic Africa Safaris is 100% Carbon Neutral

Carbon Neutral 2012

As part of our corporate social responsibility program Classic Africa Safaris is carbon neutral. We are the FIRST safari company in Uganda and Rwanda to become carbon neutral, and one of the first safari/travel companies in East Africa to officially 'GO GREEN'.