Thousands of tourists visit Africa for a number of reasons. Exploring the amazing wildlife, cultural encounters, hiking adventures and study purposes are one of them. When it comes to wildlife, one of the popular things to do is gorilla trekking where travelers trek into thick tropical forests to see gorillas.
Gorillas are large, powerful primates that belong to the family Hominidae. They are considered one of our closest living relatives, sharing around 98% of their DNA with humans. They are known for their gentle nature and complex social structures, making them fascinating creatures to observe in the wild. They remain on earth in very few numbers that’s many don’t want to waste a chance seeing them before they get extinct. Gorillas in Africa are categorised into two main species of gorillas; the Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). Each species is further divided into subspecies.
The most popular of the further sub species is the mountain gorilla that belong to the Eastern Gorilla and is scientifically known as Gorilla beringei beringei. These can be easily seen on gorilla treks in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo in the whole world. They are called so because they primarily inhabit high-altitude mountainous regions. The “mountain” in their name refers to their natural habitat, which is the dense forests and bamboo forests found in the volcanic slopes and mountain ranges of the Virunga Massif and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda.
Where are they found
Mountain gorillas are native to the Virunga Mountains, a volcanic mountain range that spans across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The range includes several active volcanoes, such as Mount Karisimbi, Mount Mikeno, Mount Visoke (Bisoke), and Mount Sabyinyo. These majestic creatures have adapted to life in the rugged terrain and cooler temperatures of these high-altitude areas, making them distinct from other gorilla subspecies found in lowland forests.
Mountain gorillas are primarily found in two regions: the Virunga Mountains and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The Virunga Mountains are situated on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is located in southwestern Uganda.
In Africa, Gorilla trek safaris and tours are organized excursions that offer visitors the opportunity to hike through the forest with experienced guides to locate and observe mountain gorilla families in their natural habitat. These safaris and tours are meticulously planned to ensure minimal disturbance to the gorillas and their environment while providing an enriching and educational experience for tourists.
Rwanda and Uganda are the two most popular destinations for gorilla trekking. In Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is the primary location for mountain gorilla treks. In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offer opportunities for Uganda gorilla trek safaris. Mountain Gorillas can also be trekked in the Virunga National park of DR Congo.
Reasons for mountain Gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking in Africa is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers numerous rewards. Here are seven compelling reasons why you should try out mountain gorilla trekking:
Rare and Endangered Species
Mountain gorillas are critically endangered and can only be found in a few remote locations in Africa as earlier noted. Seeing these magnificent creatures up close provides a rare opportunity to witness one of our closest living relatives in their natural habitat as well as trekking through lush rain forests and rugged terrain allows you to immerse yourself in the natural world. The journey itself is an adventure, and the encounter with gorillas is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. In books, mountain gorilla population doesn’t exceed 1200 individuals remaining on earth with close to half living in Uganda.
Ethical and Responsible Tourism
Gorilla trekking is a form of ecotourism that contributes to the conservation of these majestic creatures and their habitats. The fees generated from permits go towards protecting the gorillas and supporting local communities, encouraging a sustainable approach to wildlife tourism. In Uganda, gorilla permits cost $700 each for normal tracking and $1500 each for the habituation experience. In Rwanda, gorilla permissions cost $1500 whicle DR Congo, $400 each.
Research and scholar purposes
Observing gorillas in their natural environment allows you to witness their behavior, social structure, and interactions firsthand. This experience fosters a deeper connection with these animals, leading to a better understanding of their ecological importance and the challenges they face. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest and Volcanoes of Rwanda also often involves interacting with local communities living near gorilla habitats such as the popular Batwa pygmies. This interaction offers another chance to learn about their traditions, culture, and coexistence with wildlife, providing a well-rounded and culturally enriching experience.
Unique Photo Opportunities
The encounter with mountain gorillas provides exceptional photo opportunities, allowing you to capture unforgettable moments with these gentle giants. Photographing them in the wild creates lasting memories that you can share with others to raise awareness about gorilla conservation. There is also a filming option where you can make commercial videos and photographs. However, prices for these are different and requires a special procedure to follow in case you want to try it out.
Before embarking on a mountain gorilla trekking expedition, ensure you follow all guidelines set by responsible tourism organizations to protect both the gorillas and their habitat. Remember that these are wild animals, and respecting their space is vital for their well-being and conservation efforts.