The only area in the world that wild mountain gorillas can be found is the Virunga ranges of central Africa, shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Rwanda, many gorillas live in Volcanoes National Park situated in Musanze province, in the north-west of the country. The national park harbours over 480 gorilla species, which is the largest number of all three gorilla parks of the Virunga massif region. Rwanda gorilla tours have greatly boosted the country’s tourism potential and placed the Land of a Thousand Hills as one of the best gorilla travel destinations in the world.
About mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas live in small groups, with silverbacks acting as the head of family units. An adult silverback can weigh over 200 pounds, making the mountain gorilla the largest primate on earth.
Gorillas predominantly feed on plant leaves, shoots and wild fruit. They share 98% of their DNA with humans, and display many human behavioural traits such as emotions, playing and crying; with females even nurturing their young in a similar way to us. They are very sensitive creatures and are also prone to many contagious human diseases like colds, flu and diarrhea.
Like all wild animals, mountain gorillas can be very dangerous when provoked, and can be seen groaning and beating their chests when they feel threatened. In cases such as this, tourists are usually advised to slowly retreat, being careful not to cause any alarm to the animals, as it can be very risky.
Mountain gorillas have suffered the threat of extinction for a long time due to civil wars, poaching, human encroachment and disease. This has forced the government and concerned bodies to come up with necessary measures to help protect the lives of these creatures.
It was not until the 1960s that Dian Fossey formed the Karisoke Research Center for the conservation of mountain gorilla populations. This was followed by several other measures that were employed by the government with an aim of protecting and conserving wildlife species.
A number of mountain gorilla trekking rules were introduced to limit human threat to gorilla populations. Only eight visitors are now allowed per gorilla family group in a day, and only for an hour at a time. Authorities have also decided on a reasonable distance for tourists when visiting the animals and stop sick tourists from visiting the national parks to minimise the risk of gorillas falling ill. They also work to educate the local communities about the advantages of these mountain gorillas and wildlife, and keeping them protected.
These established protection and conservation measures have registered some success over the years and have seen the number of existing mountain gorillas increase overall.
Helping through exploration
Mountain gorilla trekking is by far one of the major trending tourist activities in Africa, and especially in Rwanda. Many travellers from around the world flock to Rwanda for the adventure of a lifetime, and every year the number of visitors received in the country grows.
To visit Rwanda gorillas, tourists must pay for the gorilla trekking permits as well as the park entrance fees which are later injected back into funding the conservation programmes and projects, thus protecting and conserving the animals.
Local community development programmes and projects have also been established. Part of the revenue collected is used as salary payment for the game and park rangers, guards and tour guides, many of whom were previously poachers and hunters. Developing the community and providing income has helped to stop locals engaging in the anti-conservation activities and made Rwanda a safer place for wildlife.
In addition to the revenue collected from the gorilla trekking permits, tourists visiting local communities and villages at times make direct contributions to the development projects which all help with the protection and conservation of mountain gorillas and wildlife at large.
For visitors interesting in mountain gorilla safaris, a gorilla trekking permit from Rwanda Development Board will cost US$750. This may seem like a lot, but an encounter with these marvelous creatures can’t be compared to anything in the world.
These safaris can be taken at any time of the year, though the dry season is the most recommended time for visiting. To book a gorilla safari, visit Simba Africa Expeditions.