RWANDA + UGANDA + CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE + DRC
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Gorilla trekking has been described by many as a life-changing experience. Time spent with this fellow great ape is a humbling and profoundly spiritual experience that has to be at the top of your bucket list.
Perhaps more importantly, your gorilla trek has become a vital financial lifeline for conserving the last remaining mountain gorillas and their highland habitat. Scroll past the safari packages below to find out EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about trekking for gorillas, including advice on which gorilla trekking lodge to stay at.
Your trek usually involves hiking for several hours to find your allocated gorilla family group - with your guides starting to track from the previous day's last-known position. Once you have located your gorilla family group, you will spend one hour with them. Your trek group size will be limited - usually to six participants.
You can trek for mountain and lowland gorillas - which inhabit different habitats and protected areas. There are four species/subspecies of gorillas. Get to know more about the gorilla species here - including where to find them. The ready-made safaris on this page include our suggested options for which gorilla-trekking lodge to stay at.
The world's rarest gorilla - Cross River gorilla - has an estimated population of 200-300 and is critically endangered. The gorilla has a tiny distribution in Nigeria and Cameroon that is logistically too challenging to offer gorilla tracking to tourists.
The only area in the world where you can see mountain gorillas is what is known as the Albertine Rift - a mountainous area wedged between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Populations of these gentle giants are concentrated in two regions within the Albertine Rift:
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Bwindi offers the standard one-hour gorilla encounter and a more extended gorilla habituation experience which involves tracking non-habituated gorilla families and spending up to four hours with them.
Lowland gorillas are more widespread than mountain gorillas, but the most easily accessible places to trek for them are
Trekking rules are essential to protect the health of the gorillas, which are susceptible to human diseases. Gorillas will be stressed if there are too many visitors or if visitors behave inappropriately.
If you show any sign of illness on the day of your trek, please let your guide or the park staff know. They may decide to prevent you from trekking on that day. Exposing gorillas to disease may be catastrophic for the entire population. Also, if you are in the company of gorillas and need to cough or sneeze, please look away and cover your face with a cloth. Some parks expect you to wear a mask when in the company of gorillas and chimpanzees.
Each gorilla group is visited daily - only once. Group size is limited to 6 or 8 tourists and the interaction is limited to one hour.
The minimum age for tourists is 15 years old - to prevent exposing the gorillas to childhood diseases such as mumps, chickenpox, measles etc.
Flash photography is not permitted - the flash may frighten the gorillas or provoke an aggressive reaction.
Tourists must remain at least seven metres from the gorillas. Gorillas may approach you, in which case you should retreat slowly if possible.
Try to remain in a tight group - to make it easier for your guides to manage the situation and to prevent the gorillas from feeling threatened.
Remain seated or crouching and keep your arms at your side when spending time with gorillas. Keep quiet - even when filming a selfie. Shouting, standing or gesturing with your arms may be perceived as a threat by gorillas. Silverback gorillas have been known to beat their chests, roar and even charge at tourists. If this happens, remain seated and avoid eye contact with the gorilla. These threat displays look and sound scary but the gorillas soon calm down and go about their business without harming anybody.
No eating, drinking or smoking is permitted anywhere near gorillas. This may attract their attention, leading to unwelcome close encounters. Your food may also be bad for gorilla health.
Please go to the bathroom before you set out. If you need to go to the toilet whilst in the forest, you will need to dig a deep hole to bury your faeces and fill the hole up afterwards. Your guides will lend you a machete for this purpose but you will need to bring your own toilet paper.
Please keep all of your rubbish in your backpack and deposit it back at your lodge after the trek.
The dry seasons - mid-December to early February and June to September - are more comfortable for trekking. That said, don't be completely put off by the rains of November and March-May, as you will have the forests and mountains to yourself, the guides and the gorillas.
A mountain gorilla trek permit usually costs US$ 700 per trek in Uganda, US$ 1,500 in Rwanda and US$400 in DRC. A gorilla habituation experience permit in Uganda costs US$1,500. These prices sometimes change during off-peak trekking periods, and there are often discounts for local or regional travellers. The proceeds of these permits go directly toward protecting these species in the respective countries. We will advise you of the exact prices when you let us know your travel dates. The cost for your gorilla-trekking lodges varies based on luxury level, location and time of year. Our ready-made packages provide our suggested lodge options.
Other animals in the region include forest elephants, forest buffalos, duikers, forest hogs, bush pigs, golden cats, jackals and civets. It should be noted, though, that sightings are rare due to the thick vegetation. There are 1,074 bird species in the Albertine Rift, of which 42 occur only there - and you can expect to tick off many colourful birds as you hike.
The hiking pace is relaxed - expect frequent stops to admire the incredible views or identify a bird. But high humidity and steep hills take their toll - you should be fit enough to walk for 2-4 hours at a relaxed pace.
The minimum gorilla trekking age is 15 years. There is no maximum age
What to pack: Water, snacks for while you walk, lunch, raincoat (all available from your lodge), several layers of clothing including a warm top, long-sleeved shirt and long pants, wide-brimmed hat, hiking shoes/boots, towel, insect repellent and equipment such as binoculars, cameras and lenses. Here is a complete packing list for your African safari;
Backpack: Take a day pack for the above items;
Porter: Hire a porter for the hike - he will carry your backpack - freeing you to carry only binoculars and perhaps a camera. The cost is a fraction of your daily expenses in gorilla-land, yet it makes a big difference in the porter's life;
Photography: The forest is dark, and the use of large lenses will be limited. Keep that big lens in your backpack, and use a general-purpose lens on your camera. Keep a dry lens cloth handy to wipe away dew and raindrops. Flash photography is not permitted while with the gorillas;
Waterproofing: Carry a few waterproof bags for equipment in case of showers and high humidity;
Mask: Many gorilla treks require the use of a surgical mask while you are with the gorillas;
Weather: Gorilla treks are at high altitudes in high rainfall areas. The weather can swing from clear and hot to torrential rain and cold in minutes.
Each ready-made gorilla-trekking safari listed on this page suggests the best lodge to stay at during this epic adventure. Our selection is based on location (proximity to gorillas), service levels and price - let us know if you prefer a different lodge.
Chimp trekking occurs in lower-lying forests than gorilla trekking. Although chimpanzees do occur in gorilla areas, they are unhabituated and seldom seen (although you may hear them pant-hooting as you track gorillas. Find out more about chimp trekking safaris.
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