Rules and Guidelines for Gorilla Trekkers in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla Trekking- Rules – Guide Lines – The Do’s and Don’ts for Gorilla Trekkers
Simple Gorilla Trekking- Rules – Guide Lines help to keep everyone safe, secure and healthy. The same applies to the Gorilla Family you are visiting. They can catch a cold, the flu, intestinal problems and more. The Rules and Guidelines are there for the protection and well-being of the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Simple Do’s and don’ts that are easily followed and are strictly enforced. Gorilla Conservation is in the forefront, the trekker is secondary though important in the funding of conservation efforts of the endangered Mountain Gorillas that are found in the Virunga Volcanoes and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Your permit Dollars pay for the conservation of the Gentle Giants in the Forest, they also help the local community to see that Gorilla Trekking by receiving a portion of the Gorilla Permit which is used to pay for the infrastructure of nearby villages.
The Gorilla Trek begins with The right Trekking Gear, wearing the right footwear and clothing on the day of your safari and enjoying your time with a Gorilla Family.
Gorilla Trekking Gear
- Hiking Boots
- Thick Socks – tuck trousers into Socks
- Long Trousers
- Long-Sleeved Shirt
- Light Rain Jacket
- Tough Gardening Gloves
- Walking Stick and use Porter
Gorilla Trekking- Rules – Guide Lines The Do’s and Don’ts for Gorilla Trekkers
The Same Gorilla Trekking- Rules – Guide Lines apply to the 4-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience in The Rushaga Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda except there are only 4 participants.
On a daily basis, before the actual hike commences, Trekkers meet at the briefing point to go through a short briefing procedure in which some of the gorilla tracking rules and guidelines below will be reiterated.
Before gorilla tracking starts:
- A maximum of 8 tourists or visitors can be allowed to track a particular mountain gorilla family or group on a daily basis. This is in line with guidelines from promoters of ecotourism and protectors of these iconic species – the gorillas. This limitation reduces the behavioral disturbance that humans would cause to the mountain gorillas and minimizes the chances of transferring diseases from humans to the gorillas.
- Ensure to have your hands washed before you head out for the gorilla tracking hike, whether in Rwanda or Uganda. This is also aimed at encouraging the highest level of cleanliness like how the contemporary statement goes, “we are as clean as our own hands”.
During the hike:
- You are requested to keep your voices at a very low volume as you head to track the mountain gorillas and to even be quieter when you finally meet them. This is so that you do not disrupt their peace, but also to allow you the opportunity to enjoy other wildlife species along the trail especially the birds, golden monkeys and butterflies.
- Follow your tour guide through the gorilla tracking trails and stick to the group for both your safety, but also so that you can listen to him explain the attractions seen along the way to the mountain gorillas.
- DO NOT LITTER! Like in any national park or protected area, you are advised to keep any form of rubbish or garbage on you. If you have a backpack, please put all garbage into it and you can always empty it at a designated point when you return to the briefing point. This a fragile ecotourism site which needs to be kept free of any form of litter.
- Should you want to use the toilet, please speak to your guide to advise you accordingly on how to do it ecologically.
- As you approach the point where the rangers observed the mountain gorillas the day before, you will get the final briefing before your next few steps to where the family is. You are often requested to leave your walking sticks and baggage at this point.
When finally with the mountain gorilla family
- You are advised to keep a distance of about 7 meters from where the mountain gorilla family is. Though habituated, mountain gorillas are still wild animals and if they feel threatened, the silverback (alpha male mountain gorilla) will usually lead the family away or even charge at you in a form of retaliation. This distance is also maintained to reduce on the chance of transmission of diseases by humans to the gorillas or from the gorillas to humans.
- Eating or smoking while in the presence of mountain gorillas is prohibited.
- Before you reach the family, you are requested to switch off your camera’s flash. Flash photography is also prohibited while with the gorillas.
- You will be allowed a total of 60 minutes with the mountain gorillas to watch them foraging, playing and going about their usual business of the day, after which you will be required to leave the family.
Be in reasonable shape and have the level of fitness for the group you will be tracking depending on the terrain you will be covering. There are easier treks and you can ask for one. Remember the average trek is 5 hours plus in both countries with various levels of difficulty. People with Disabilities can be carried in and out on Sedan Chairs by porters.
Minimum Age is 15 for Gorilla Trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda, if you have younger than 15-year-old children we will provide an activity for them. Ig
Have no communicable diseases or cold or flu, TB, diarrhea, and any other communicable diseases, Having any communicable disease means canceling the trek, this is for the protection of the gorillas who can catch such things from humans.
To ease the burden of the Trek on you and keep you focused on the beauty of your surroundings engage the services of a porter and support a Ugandan and or Rwandan family. Obtain a tall walking stick to steady yourself on the Trek since often the path can be steep or there is no path.
Up to 8 visitors are allowed on a tracking (trekking) team since more would disturb and or emotionally upset the Mountain Gorilla group you are visiting. This limit of 8 visitors also reduces the Mountain Gorillas exposure to illnesses that humans may have.
The Gorilla Habituation Experience which is four hours with a gorilla family can also be taken in the forest and here only 4 visitors are allowed to a group.
As you travel through the forest keep your conversations low, silence might be the best since otherwise you might miss other wildlife or the abundance of birds found at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda and or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Pack it in and pack it out. Do not leave anything behind such as rubbish since it would spoil it for the next visitors and pollute the park.
Your Mountain Gorilla Tracking experience will begin where the guides found your Gorilla group the day before and track them to their new location since they move daily. Pre-trackers go out ahead of you to locate your gorilla group.
Keep a distance of about 6 to 7 meters which is about 15 feet from the Mountain Gorillas. This way you protect the mountain gorillas from diseases and illnesses humans may be carrying and not seem threatening to gorillas since you
Stay together as a group when you are in the presence of the Gorillas to reduce potential confusion of the gorillas.
Voices need to be kept low and it is best to keep silence and just treasure the moment with the Mountain Gorillas. Keep your voices down until you are well out of range of the Mountain Gorillas.
Do not take food or drinks and no smoking in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.
Don’t stare straight into gorillas’ eyes – this can be seen to be aggressive. Don’t ever run from a gorilla – if one approaches you just act submissive and crouch down. If you sneeze or a cough, turn your head away from the gorillas so as not to spread your germs. No flash photography is permitted. Do not make a lot of movement when taking pictures-keep it calm. There is no touching or attempting to touch the Gorillas.
Since Mountain Gorillas are closely related to us they are susceptible to diseases carried by humans. You, in turn, can catch diseases from them.
If you need to cough, sneeze, blow your nose, move your head away from the gorilla in order to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
No smoking, eating food or drinking of beverages is allowed in the presence of the Mountain Gorillas.
If you are ill- cancel your Gorilla Trek – this is best for all concerned including the Mountain Gorillas.
Before the Trek – eat right, drink right, take medications that you might need. Avoid getting cold, a runny stomach as they say here and anything else that could hinder your time trekking.
It begins with the right waterproof boots since often there is a muddy trail, an early morning mist or rain that soon evaporates as the sun comes
You will need long trousers such as sturdy jeans, you are in tropical Africa, however, if you wear shorts you can get stung by nettles, bothered by flies (not mosquitoes), you also avoid getting scratched by branches, burned by nettles. There is no straight trail to a Gorilla Family.
Long-sleeved shirt, not short-sleeved for the same reasons one does not wear shorts. Again, this is for your protection. A hat comes in handy especially a wide-brimmed one, but a cap like a baseball one will do, again for your protection once the sun comes out. You should have some gardening gloves to protect your hands, those that are leather like.
You should have a light day pack where you can pack two liters inside and anything else such as your lunch, some granola bars, etc. Inside of the daypack, you can also pack a poncho or light rain jacket.
The Gorilla Trekking- Rules – Guide Lines are there to protect you and the Mountain Gorillas – enjoy your time with the Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda. All put into place for the conservation of Mountain Gorillas and your safety.