Mountain gorillas still remain the leading tourist attraction within the countries they are found. Mountain Gorilla trekking is an exciting breath taking experience one would love to have each moment and day all year. Away from any other form of disturbance, except for the roaring sound of thick forest tree branches and leaves rubbing against each other by the gentle moving tropic winds, there would be no other greater experience one would have elsewhere than to feel at home with the hairy cousins in the dense shades of green vegetation. Mountain gorillas, just like humans live in family groups that range from less than 15 to more than 40 individuals open to visiting travellers.
Having gorilla permits and booking a hotel may not be just enough for a successful adventure, planning for gorilla safaris involves a lot of preparations done prior to travel, one needs to know the essentials.
Research on Gorilla groups and destination
This is quite a factor to consider while planning on gorilla trekking journey across Africa. Gorilla destinations are found in the East Africa regions of South west of Uganda in the Mgahinga and the Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park and the Volcanoes Mountains in northeast of Rwanda and in the Virunga mountains National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Knowing the different Gorilla groups especially those consistent of adults, particularly the males, Silverback and also with newly born infants are considered a more attractive group to trek.
Read and watch gorilla films, like the most common on, Gorillas in the Mist, a movie shot in Rwanda gives a really fascinating feeling of beautiful landscapes that leaves one extremely excited about getting to see and be part of mountain gorillas. The however book provides more insights about Dian Fossey studies on the Great Apes.
Despite being less aggressive, shy, and gentle creatures, it’s also recommended to learn the do’s and don’ts during gorilla treks. One ought to keep in mind that they are just visitors in the home of these mighty and powerful Apes. So respecting them and their environment is paramount. Just to add on, avoid direct eye contact, never run away from a gorilla, keep away flash camera lights, keep your distance, do not go trekking when you have a cold, and when coughing, do it in such a way by facing a direction away from the gorillas as they are prone to human diseases and of course as the saying goes, ‘a good visitor knows when to leave’. As these gorilla treks are of a maximum of an hour per group. This is so as to keep them from being stressed over lots of human contact per meeting.
Trekking Dress code
From top to arms to bottom, one has to carefully choose what is appropriate to wear. Lightweight long sleeve synthetic shirt, which dry quickly are highly recommended on the top and hand gloves to protect against stinging nettle plants and mosquito bites. At the bottom, long and thicker pants are good enough to keep warm. Outer layer rain jackets are essential since rain showers are always common in tropic forests not only in April and May where rains are at peak but also little droplets may occur even in the months where rains are not expected.
A proper, comfortable foot wear that fits above the ankle is a must when trekking through mud filled grounds of the forests. At times, the mud is as deep as high as knee height and so it is essential to wear gators going up to the knee. And of course wear woolen thick socks underneath.
A check on fitness level
Gorilla treks do involve hikes on mountains involving long distant walks. Individuals opt to different hikes; with the shortest ranging from thirty minutes to an hour; medium, from a range of an hour to three hours and lastly; the longest which can take a minimum of ten hours of hikes depending on fitness level. With this, one has to clearly understand their fitness level in order not to slow down other trekkers and also is able and fit enough to climb to highest altitudes then one can go in for the long walks. Thanks to the team behind scenes of Gorilla trekking tours, these include; the technical teams well equipped by GPS and satellite phone whose mission is to track gorilla movements within the park and the tour guides that have done the great job of allocations of gorilla groups enabling all groups of trekkers to find access to them.
Pack food staffs and water
Gorilla tracking tends to go as far as late afternoon or even longer hicks taken almost the whole day and requires lots of energy from the body. It is always recommended that you carry food snacks and at least a liter of water to act as food supplements as there is no other food and refreshing stops deep in the heart of national parks. These packed lunches are usually got from Safari lodges or more so snacks got way back from home.
Carry a camera along
Having a perfect photo shot for gorillas can be a troublesome one most times. National parks are dense mist covered with dark rainy clouds that makes light accessing these forests low. Gorillas at times are in dense forested areas of the forest. This makes type of camera and lenses you carry an important factor to consider. For misty and cloudy weather fast lens cameras with good high ISO performance is good enough. Super zooms like Panasonic FZ18 or Canon S5 can produce desired results when it comes to much clearer weather conditions. If possible one can carry more than one camera body with different lenses. Try as much to shoot videos since this is a life experience you would love to keep fresh on your mind each time you watch, and a recorded video can just do this for you Always put in mind to disable flash lights as these are not at all welcomed by gorillas as it can be quite irritating and disturbing . A point not to ignore is to carry along a waterproof bag to avoid losing your camera to rainstorms.
Dry season gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking can be done any time of the year, however trekking during the dry season is considered most convenient as no time is lost to heavy rainstorms coupled by muddy and slippery roads, and so you are guaranteed an awesome and satisfying walk through dry and dusty African tracks. This is mainly during the dry seasons of the year that run from January to February, June to late September and December. The months of March to May are peak of wet season that involves impassable muddy and slippery roads, difficulty photography as vegetations grow dense and tall.
So, with all these said, make the most use of your wonderful stay with gorillas, take as much photos and video shots as you would wish to and enjoy one of the most unforgettable experience in Africa.