Gorilla trekking is one of the most exciting adventures you can have on the “dark continent” and is certainly one of the most exciting experiences in life. Mountain gorillas now number about 700 individuals that live in the cool, forested heights of the Virunga Volcanoes, which straddle three countries — Rwanda
and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This is the region which the renowned but controversial primatologist Dian Fossey undertook her studies. Because the respective governments of Rwanda and Uganda do value the great apes for the foreign currency that they attract, efforts to conserve the remaining gorillas and provide opportunities to view them are extremely good. Correspondingly, security for tourists traveling to these areas is superb.
About 19 miles (30 km) to the north of the Virunga Mountains is Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which provides a refuge for an additional 300+ mountain gorillas. Gorillas are perhaps the most charismatic of all animals, and a close encounter with a free-ranging family in their forest home will never be forgotten.
A typical experience involves an uphill hike through thick vegetation in the company of a park ranger, trackers, porters and two armed guards.
Once Habituated family groups are located, and you’ll watch for an hour as they feed and go about their business. Due to the threat of gorillas contracting potentially fatal human diseases, visitors are encouraged to keep a fair distance from them. The maximum group size is limited to 8 trekkers and gorilla visits are limited to 60 minutes.
Rare mountain gorilla twins in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park .Given the physical exertion required, gorilla trekking is recommended only for travelers in reasonably good hiking condition.
Stretchers are in fact available at some lodges to carry elderly or handicapped individuals that could not make the trek on their own. A large and growing number of people have been inspired to visit these peaceful relatives of mankind, and permits are at a premium in terms of both cost and availability.
Mountain gorillas are currently best seen in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda) and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and lowland gorillas in Odzala-Kokoua National Park (Republic of the Congo).. Permit fees, which provides funds for conservation, are as of this writing 1500 per visit at Volcanoes National Park. The minimum age for trekking is 15 years . Permits for gorilla trekking are limited and gorilla safaris should be booked very far (a year if possible) in advance.