What to Expect During the Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

One of the most motivations tourists travel to Africa especially to countries like Uganda and Rwanda is for gorilla adventure. Hence gorilla trekking is one of the most remarkable and unforgettable experiences which rewards any body’s endeavors to reach to destinations such as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Volcanoes National Park to enjoy these amazing creatures that leave tourists with an entire lifetime gorilla adventure experience. This golden opportunity shouldn’t be let go by any one! Staring into the eyes of these humble giants is an exciting moment one should not miss in a lifetime!
Travelers in most cases have been left in suspense especially when they develop multi-million questions at the back of their minds as they desire to undertake mountain gorilla adventure. These questions include among others, what do they require to trek the gorillas? Are there additional services offered? How long does it take to trek the gorillas? Which one is the easiest to trek? How fit does one need to be to track the mountain gorillas? These questions build on what to expect during the gorilla trekking day!

Below are highlights on what to expect during the actual of gorilla trekking.
During the gorilla trek, tourists are required to possess their gorilla permits; this means a single gorilla permit gives the client 95% opportunity to enjoy the attraction. Tourists will also be required to have the necessary gear such as the gloves, trekking boots, long sleeved wear, rain jackets, snacks and packed lunch, walking stick, among others. The actual day of gorilla trekking also requires that the client carries his or her passport to the park headquarters for an early morning pre-tracking briefing by park officials at 7:30 a.m. It is important that clients reach the park quarters or visitor center as early as possible!

With the gorilla permit at hand, the clients will be required to present it to the park officials to crosscheck with the passport so as to verify that a client is the right owner of the permit. Remember one permit is purchased by one client and can only be used by that person in whose names it was purchased! It is also important that visitors mark the name of the habituated family that is indicated on their gorilla tracking permit in order to ease the location of the trailhead along which the particular family of mountain gorillas is tracked. Tourists are expected to carry their packed lunch that can be provided by the hoteliers in a given accommodation facility the client is in, as it is uncertain how long it can take to see the mountain gorillas.

As tourists wait for a quick early morning briefing from the head ranger guide before setting off for that exciting moment, they are provided with a cup of tea of their choice as the local traditional dancers entertain them too. From this early morning briefing, tourists are able to know the rules and regulations to guide them on code of conduct while at the field enjoying the attraction. The tour guide in the lead to the trailhead will endeavor to remind his or her clients about the same rules and regulations as some clients may tend to forget. These rules and regulations are important for the protection of the endangered Apes and for their sustainability.

There after the anxiety here would have increased on what experience to follow, and tourists are expected to be on their safety measures. Clients are then grouped in groups of 8 persons per day and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek. This means the total of 80 gorilla permits is available per day and the clients must book in advance as the demand is very high through the year. To meet the expectations, there are many habituated gorilla families that tourists can attain their exciting experience in their life time for example, Rwanda has 10 gorilla families, hence 10 groups of 8 people each are allowed to track on a particular day while in Uganda a total of about 12 habituated areas are readily available.

Tourists are assigned groups based on their physical fitness and age. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads. However, tourists with special interests in specific groups may inform their guides to help them negotiate for those specific groups to be assigned to them. The park management allocates every gorilla tracking group a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group. This is purposely for protection of tourists in the forest against forest elephants or angry wild gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done. This is the policy of the National Park to ensure safety of their clients.

Each tourist group has a pair of trackers who will have been sent out prior to clients’ arrival in the park to find the location of the specific gorilla family and to assess where they may be headed. Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family. Tourists who feel that they are weak to carry everything, tour guide can help to hire for them a porter and this can he tourist only $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.

Trekking to find the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park
Part of the tourists’ excitement while trekking the rare mountain gorillas is when tourists are wondering where exactly they are to find the gorillas and the time it will take to find them. To meet a gorilla varies widely. Chances are, a tourist can take 30 minutes while in some cases 5-7 hours to find the gorilla family.
Mountain gorillas also live in high altitudes and the dense jungle lengthen the tourist experience in the field. The altitude and muddy terrain with steep volcano slopes can be tiring to some tourists and hence it becomes challenging for them, tourists are advised to pull themselves up the steep grades by simply grasping on to branches, nearby plant roots. All clients are expected to return to the point of departure in the number they left, thus they are required to follow the lead of the guide as to the best path and form to take. Tourists who need a break, they are allowed to inform their guide. It is also important that the tourists keep their own pace and take a lot of bottled mineral water to quench their thirst and gain more energy.

Actual encounter with the gorillas in Volcanoes
To see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats is the most rewarding part of gorilla trekking in a life time adventure experience! Tourists are advised to stay quiet, move slowly and avoid sudden movements in order not to irritate the gorillas. Where possible, tourists can sit down to avoid the direct eye to eye contact with the gorillas as this may also irritate them thinking that tourists want to fight them. An eye to eye contact with gorillas is not the problem, so long as it does not irritate them to charge against the tourist. When the gorillas charge against tourists, they are advised to stand still and lower their eyes to indicate that they are submissive. It is important that tourists follow the instructions given by the guide in the field! Tourists are allowed to take photos as many as possible but bearing in mind that the cameras used do not have flash lights and sounds.

The tour guide will try his or her best to find a clear view and tourists are called up on to take that direction to take clear photos, this also helps the guide to better his or her position while explaining and interpreting the body gestures and the behavior of the gorillas to the tourists to learn more. Tourists are allowed to follow the gorillas when they move but at recommended space of not shorter than 7 meters to avoid the spread of diseases. Tourists should not miss to experience the air of scream, then that rhythmic radio of sharp pom-pom chest beats from the mature male, the silverback then experience the moment the silverbacks are showing control of their territory! As the trackers clear the brush with their machete in front of the tourists, one should miss this adventure too!
In conclusion, gorilla trekking is an adventure associated with challenges that require every traveler to be well prepared. Some of the gorilla troops can be easily tracked while others take time. However, it is not always a guarantee that things will be easy or difficult as you expect them to be. Be among those who can strike the physical magnificence of the huge black bodies blended against the green thick forest foliage!