If you were one of the many people overwhelmed by David Attenborough’s 1979 encounter with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, you will understand what makes so many people long to meet these wonderful creatures. Mountain gorillas may look fearsome and dangerous on account of their size but they are, in fact, very gentle, intelligent and usually quite relaxed.
Where to see mountain gorillas
You can take a mountain gorilla trekking holiday in Rwanda or Uganda. All Africa reports that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, one of the few places to see mountain gorillas, is among the World Heritage Sites that are threatened by climate change. There are fears that rising temperatures will cause the loss of mountain rain forest and that as much as 75% of the gorillas’ current habitat could be lost.
Although trekking in Rwanda is easier and less strenuous, some people prefer the challenge of a wilder trek in Uganda, and there is also the advantage of cheaper permit costs in Uganda.
Treks are organised by companies such as steppestravel.co.uk. Whichever trek you choose, you will be guided and supervised by park rangers. Since the locations of the gorillas are monitored, and park staff are kept informed, you are virtually guaranteed to see a troop. Following a compulsory briefing, groups of up to eight visitors, along with porters and guides, are allocated to a gorilla troop. Your permit allows one hour with the gorillas, but the trek can take between three and nine hours, depending on the troop’s location.
Meeting the mountain gorillas
When you reach the location of the gorillas you may be feeling exhausted, but that will all be put behind you when encounter the troop. Many people have claimed to feel a deep connection with these creatures, and the experience can be intense and unforgettable, moving many trekkers to tears.
There are strict rules to be observed when meeting the mountain gorillas. Anyone with a cold will not be allowed to take part in the trek because the gorillas have no immunity. You should keep seven metres from the animals and remain quiet, speaking only in a low voice if you need to ask your guide anything. You can take photographs, but flash photography is not allowed.
The intimacy of this experience is what makes it really stand out from other wildlife treks.