Gorilla Trek Africa: The experience of a lifetime

The tracking of a mountain or a lowland gorilla will be one of the most thrilling experiences of your life that many people only ever dream about. This monumental journey is one that needs to be thoroughly planned for, to ensure that your experience is as incredible as possible. This guide will cover the various locations where you get to see the gorillas, what you should expect from your gorilla trekking experience, and what you need to pack for your gorilla trek.

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Gorilla trek Africa: Why do it?

Gorillas are truly one of the most incredible natural wonders, sharing about 98% of their DNA with humans. These marvelous creatures can weigh in at about 180kg (almost 30 stone) and stand over 170cm tall, making them a huge attraction for tourists who are longing to interact with these beautiful animals and reconnect with nature. Due to years of poaching and disease, these creatures are on the endangered species list but through recent years of conservation efforts and eco-tourism, the number of African mountain gorillas has exceeded 1000 individuals and your journey to visit these gorillas will directly benefit the local economy and aid in the conservation of these animals.

Favorite destinations for our gorilla trek packages

At Journey’s intent we are regularly asked which destinations we select for our gorilla treks in Africa. In short, we first select which destination is politically stable and safe to travel to and then see what conservation efforts are in place for the gorillas. We then ensure that the park fees paid towards the viewing of the gorillas, during these gorilla trek Africa packages, goes towards the conservation of these gorillas.

At the moment Uganda and Rwanda are regarded as the safest and most accessible destinations to view the mountain gorilla and the two governments have put in place incredible conservation and protection policies to try and save the species. If you are specifically interested in seeing the lowland gorilla, then Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea would be the best places to go. The lowland gorilla is a critically endangered species and we are not sure of the exact number of gorillas left because accessing these animals is incredibly difficult, with the gorillas living in extremely dense and remote forests which scientists battle to get access to.

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In terms of safety, the Congo is probably the safest of them all to see the lowland gorillas, but it is incredibly difficult to access which makes getting there and planning the entire safari a very complicated and expensive matter. However, a gorilla safari to the Congo is not entirely impossible so if you are interested in wanting to exclusively see the lowland gorilla, do contact us and we can give you the most up to date advice and help so we can assist you in planning.

Our most popular destinations for our gorilla treks in Africa would include Uganda either as a standalone safari destination, or Rwanda and Uganda as a 5-day extension safari from another East African safari out of Kenya or Tanzania for example. These gorilla trek Africa packages can be customized to your preferences and you can choose to add other activities as extensions also which could give you the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture of the countries you visit. If you are interested in these options and want to find out more, do not hesitate to contact us and we can provide you with more information on the local activities.

What does my gorilla-trek Africa package entail?

Your gorilla trek package could be exclusively planned as just as a standalone gorilla trek package or as an extension from a larger safari. Whether you choose Uganda or Rwanda, the basic information will be similar, and all gorilla trek permits will be pre-booked through Journey’s Intent. This means that if you book with Journey’s Intent for your gorilla trek Africa, you will be guaranteed a gorilla trek on a specified date and location which we will communicate with you.

The only way to view these magnificent creatures in the wild is on foot so for this trek one needs to be reasonably fit and able to walk at least a few football fields at a brisk pace without getting out of breath. Your trek to your designated gorilla group could be an hour or could take a few hours depending on the pace of your trekking group. Before you start your gorilla trek Africa you will receive an extensive briefing at the park headquarters.

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This briefing will teach you about the biology and family structure of the gorillas including the name of the designated group that you will be trekking to. The briefing will also teach you about safety such as the minimum distance to keep from the gorillas, which is between 22-32 feet. The safety section of the briefing will educate you on what to do and what not to do if the gorillas get a little too inquisitive and decide to come up to you or your group.

It is of paramount importance to behave in the correct manner, as instructed in the briefing, and to have the flash functionality on your camera or phone switched off at all times. Flash photography of the gorillas is not permitted and could potentially aggravate the gorillas. All of the rules and instructions from your educated guides and rangers are there for a good reason and are for your own safety so please do not take them lightly.

From the starting point of the gorilla trek, you will be in a pre-designated group of between 8-10 tourists and you will be escorted by 2 or 3 trained national park rangers. These rangers will help guide you through the dense forest and manage the ‘sighting” once you are with the Gorilla group. The rangers are in place to protect the tourists as well as the gorilla families, specifically from poaching, so they learn about the location of the gorilla families on a minute-to-minute basis which ensures that your group will definitely be able to find your designated gorilla group.

Once you have “found” your gorilla family, the rangers will ensure that you are at a safe and acceptable distance from the group and you will be allowed to spend only 1 hour with the group. During this time, you will be allowed to take flash free photo’s, talk in very low hushed tones and will observe the gorillas playing and interacting. When the hour is up, the rangers will notify you and you will slowly move away from the group and will trek back to the starting point.

In terms of safety for both humans and the gorillas, it is important to have a medical check before you embark on this gorilla trek Africa to ensure that you are healthy. Many human diseases, like a common cold, are contagious to the gorillas and could have a devastating effect on a group of gorillas. These human illnesses can cause multiple deaths in gorilla groups, so it is very important that all potential tourists visiting groups are fit and healthy with no colds, sniffles and other infectious illnesses that could affect these magnificent apes.

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What do I need to pack for my gorilla trek Africa?

Journey’s intent has created a detailed packing list that will be sent to you well in advance, before your departure so that you are thoroughly prepared, but below are a few important details and items that you should be aware of:

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• The most important item that is worn on a gorilla trek will be ankle protecting hiking boots with descent hiking socks. Gore-Tex waterproof boots are preferable, but if not, it is not the end of the world. Whichever boots you choose need to be stable and need protect your ankle from potentially twisting as you trek through the dense and uneven forest.

• Trousers with a long-sleeved shirt. While lightweight travel clothing is still acceptable, some of the forests have stinging nettles and for this reason a thicker fabric similar to denim or thick cotton will be the most beneficial for protecting yourself from stinging nettle. If you do have quick drying shirts, wear a thick sweater or jacket that could help protect you against the stinging nettles as well as leather gardening gloves which will protect your hands from the nettles whilst on the gorilla trek.

• A small backpack needs to be either on your back, or you can pay a porter at the park headquarters to carry the bag for you at a nominal fee. In the backpack you need to have a raincoat, sunblock, bug-spray, a camera and a water bottle. If you have specific medications that you would require during the day, then pack them in your backpack also.

• Binoculars for the avid birdwatcher is a good idea. If you do want to take along a pair of binoculars, then remember that you have to carry them and they may get in the way when you have to go through dense forestry. For this reason, be sure to pack binoculars that are small and lightweight, and which will be able to fit in your backpack.

• Walking sticks are an item that many trekkers opt for and can come in very handy. You can either bring your own or you could potentially buy or rent some from the park headquarters at a small cost.

• Last but not least, a hat and sunscreen to protect you from the sun and forest. You might be in the forest and in the shade, but it does help to keep leaf matter and flying insects from getting stuck in your hair. A hat also helps absorb some of the sweat during your hike, remember, you are in a tropical rainforest after all.

How challenging will my gorilla trek in Africa be?

Firstly, the terrain will be uneven and unpaved. The gorillas make their nests in various locations and change regularly, this means they are off the beaten track and it means the park rangers would need to clear a basic path for the tourists to walk through. If it rains, the terrain can be slippery and muddy, so good boots, the raincoat and a walking stick does come in handy during this hike.

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The duration of the hike could be from a brief hour one way to numerous hours, depending on the location of the group you have been allocated for the day. It is important though, that at the time of booking, you make sure you highlight any mobility issues you have so that we can plan ahead and see if we could request you to go to a group that is typically closer to the park headquarters.

Whilst Journey’s Intent has to book permits in advance, we cannot book a specific gorilla group in advance. This is decided on the day of the trek. It would therefore be impossible to predict which gorilla group you will trek on the day, what the conditions of the trail will be before you trek or how long your trek will be so in short be prepared for a potentially challenging gorilla trek Africa.

We at Journey’s Intent have done the gorilla trekking ourselves and would be able to give you the most accurate and up to date information to help you plan your gorilla trek. So do contact us and we would be happy to help you plan your long-awaited gorilla experience and will ensure that this journey lives up to all of your expectations.