Gorilla Trekking Rules in Uganda and Rwanda

Mountain gorillas are the big attraction. They are very special animals – rare, gently, like us yet so different.  Tracking gorillas is a unique experience – it leads you into a strange land to meet unusual creatures on their own terms.  This can be humbling and thrilling at the same time.

It must be stressed that, while you have a very good chance of seeing gorillas, success is NOT guaranteed!  They are wild creatures with no fixed routines.

The guides and trackers have helped to habituate the gorilla groups and know them intimately.  They will take you to the areas where they left the gorillas the day before.  Before leaving, they will be able to suggest how long the hike might take. While walking, please ask your guides to slow down if they are going too fast and if you need a rest. feel free to stop and look at the birds or flowers, etc. The guide will ensure that they do not leave you behind. Watch out for safari ants on the trail – they bite and hang on, and if you step in them and get covered, the only solution is to strip. The actual trail you will follow will depend on where the trackers left the group and what signs they find to indicate where the group has gone. They will be looking for crushed vegetation, broken plants that the gorillas might have been eating and also fresh dung and footmarks.  If you find the place where the group slept the night before, you will see the gorilla’s nests, which they make afresh each day before they sleep.

When you find the gorillas, there is no guarantee that you will be able to photograph them.  They often range in broken forest where vegetation is dense.

General Gorilla rules:

In order to minimize behavioral disturbance to the gorilla and the risk of exposure to human-borne disease some rules must followed:

  • Keep your voice low or be quiet. You will see and hear more if you do.
  • Do not point or waive your arms – this can be seen as an attack. Move slowly and if approached by a gorilla move slowly backwards to keep a 7-meter separation.
  • Do not use a flash when taking pictures. This can frighten the gorillas and cause an attack on visitors.
  • DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you.
  • Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
  • Keep a minimum of 7 meters (21 feet) from the gorillas. This is to protect them from human disease transmission.
  • You must stay in tight group when you are near the gorillas.
  • Keep your voices down at all times. However, it is OK to ask the guide questions
  • Do not eat or drink while you are near the gorillas to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example-crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes wait for the animals to pass. Do not try and take pictures and do not attempt to run away. Running away will increase the risk of attack.
  • Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
  • The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.
  • After the visit keep your voices down until you are 200 metres away from the gorillas.

General Health Rules

Remember gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following are ways to minimise the risk your visit might pose to them:

  • Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
  • If you are feeling ill, or have a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.
  • If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
  • Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away form the gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
  • Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are with the gorillas
  • Do not leave any rubbish (e.g. food wrappers) in the Park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
  • If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole. He will fill it when you have finished.