Mountain Gorillas of Africa-Gorilla Trekking Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo
Mountain gorillas are highly social creatures and among the world’s largest primates. Naturalist Dian Fossey famously studied them in Rwanda. And they are now so endangered that they can only be found in three places: Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
But today the 3 countries are stable and relatively safe and tourist numbers are on the rise, with visitors doubling. As their name implies, the gorillas live in mountains peaks that reach thousands of feet above sea level and are thick with vegetation and so can only be tracked on foot. Some visitors will even hire porters to carry their day pack or carry them up the mountains.
Stinging nettles, safari ants and steep, slippery slopes are par for the course. The gorillas are nowhere near as abundant as elephants, Cape buffalo or other animals you might see on a classic African safari. And to top it off, they are fast-moving targets, known to travel several miles.
The numbers of visitors to the parks are limited to issuing a maximum of eight permits per gorilla family per day. When going for gorilla tracking, the park guides give rules and guidelines to follow. For instance if gorillas are found, to spend 1 hour with them, Flash photography, eating and drinking are prohibited, to keep at least seven meters (23 feet) away, unless a gorilla approached. And, since gorillas share 98.4% of our DNA, anyone feeling unwell would be barred from the hike so that not to infect the gorillas.
You have to pull socks over your pant legs because Safari ants can quickly climb up under pants and inflict painful bites. It is necessary to ware thick leather gloves to protect from the stinging nettles that can tear through clothing and skin. Carry walking sticks for the uneven terrain, though these would have to be set aside just before seeing the gorillas, who can become distressed around people with objects that might be weapons.
It is necessary to stay close together, as one unit, and if a gorilla approached, particularly the silverback, the dominant adult male gorilla with distinctive gray fur on its back you are to adopt a submissive position, looking down and avoiding eye contact, to avoid provoking him.
When you enter the forest at first glance, the tall trees looks like any you might find in the Pacific Northwest. But the unusual bird calls, clicks and other curious sounds not to mention the supersize bugs quickly dispelled that illusion.
The sun shine brightly through the canopy, making the previous day’s showers a distant memory. Men with machetes and AK-47s protection against a rogue gorilla or guerrillas from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo will accompanied you, along with a team of local villagers (Porters) who are hired to carry day packs for 15 USD.