Primate Safaris - Gorillas: Q&A
Q. What is the difference between gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda?
A. Rwanda is traditionally thought of as the easier gorilla trekking destination as the vegetation is thinner making for easier viewing and hiking. In Uganda the gorillas live in thick rainforest which makes for tougher walking. The gorilla parks in Rwanda are also easier to reach from the airport by vehicle so if you are short of time then this destination works well.
Q. How fit do I need to be and how long is the track likely to last?
A. Tracking gorillas can take anything from 40 minutes to ten hours. Anyone who is reasonably fit should be fine, but bear in mind that you can reach altitudes of 3,000 metres and that the jungle paths can be steep and slippery at times. Correct clothing and kit will make life easier and although lunch will be provided it's a good idea to take some sweets or energy bars in case you have a particularly long and arduous track. It is also essential that you are free from illness as a human ailments passed onto a gorilla can be fatal.
Q. What are the chances of not seeing the gorillas?
A. Our clients over the last ten years have had a 100% success rate in seeing the gorillas. If you are unlucky enough not to see them, you get your permit money refunded. This is one of the reasons why we always suggest you plan to track the gorillas twice.
Q. What is the minimum age for gorilla trekking?
A. Minimum age is 15 years.
Q. What is the accommodation like in gorilla trekking areas?
A. This varies from luxurious to simple. Please refer to the when and where page for further details.
Q. How long can I spend with the gorillas?
A. The permit entitles you to spend one hour with the group you track.
Q. How do I secure my gorilla trekking permit?
A. We can’t hold these provisionally. Permits are only confirmed on receipt of payment.
Q. Can I ask to see a specific gorilla family group?
A. In Uganda the permit is for a fixed gorilla group and can’t be changed. In Rwanda clients are assigned to a gorilla family on the morning of the trek so requests will be accommodated if possible.
Q. Do I need a porter?
A. This really depends on your personal fitness. However, we would often recommend you do take a porter. Not only is it a good way of supporting the local economy as you will pay a set fee directly to your porter, but on longer gorilla treks your day pack (containing cameras, water, spare clothing etc.) can feel quite heavy after a while.
Q. Can I take photographs of the gorillas?
A. Yes, but you must make sure the flash mode is switched off. With modern digital cameras you will still be able to get great gorilla photos without using a flash.
Q. What equipment do I need?
A. Aside from the usual safari kit you must have sturdy walking shoes and a pair of gardening gloves to trek gorillas. Sturdy shoes help because the paths can be rough and slippery and gardening gloves protect your hands if you grab slippery and thorny plants to assist the walking.
Q. Is gorilla trekking safe?
A. Very safe. Both Rwanda and Uganda have been successfully operating gorilla trekking operations for many years. You are accompanied by experienced National Park guides and armed game scouts.
Q. How many days should I trek for?
A. We suggest that you track gorillas twice during your trip. During the first gorilla encounter, most people will spend time clicking photos from behind their cameras. If you track them again you have time to actually observe these wonderful creatures properly. In the unlikely event of missing the gorillas on your first day, there is then at least the opportunity to look for them the next day.
Q. How do the guides know where the gorillas are?
A. There are trackers who stay with the gorillas until they find their nest for the evening. Once here, the gorillas will not leave until morning, by which time the trackers are back and ready to follow them. The guides have constant communication with the trackers and so is it therefore highly likely that you will see the gorillas.
Q. How close will I get to the gorillas?
A. Your guides will ask you to stay five to seven metres away from the gorillas. You can find yourself much nearer though if a gorilla decides to inspect you more closely.
Q. Other than tracking the gorillas, what can we do?
A. Depending on where you are, you can see golden monkeys, walk to Dian Fossey’s grave, take in superb bird life, climb a volcano, and visit local orphanages and villages.