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The drive to the park headquarters in Kinigi takes about 5-10 minutes from the 5 volocanoes Lodge. Registration is a simple procedure during which the park staff also determine who will visit which gorilla family. An experienced park guide will then explain the trekking procedures as well as the dos and don’ts for the one hour with the gorillas. After the briefing, the visitors board their respective vehicles with their park guide in order to drive to their personal starting point for the trek. Porters are available for a fixed amount of FRw 10,000 (approximately US$20) to carry backpacks, and can even give a push to less physically fit trekkers.
The usual trekking time is 3-5 hours, even though some groups take up to 8 hours in order to find their designated gorilla family high up in the slopes of the volcanoes. The guides allow frequent stops so that the visitors have a chance to rest and take photos along the way.
Once with the gorillas, it is important to note that a 7m distance should be kept at all times, even though this is not always possible, particularly if the gorillas move towards the group. Visitors are further required to stay in tight groups, to be as quiet as possible, not to smoke, eat or drink, not to use a flash when tak-ing pictures, and not to touch the gorillas under any circumstance. It is important to remember that they are still wild animals, even though they might look very peaceful and cuddly. Sometimes the gorillas charge themselves or the visitors. If such an incident happens, visitors are required to follow the guides’ example, and to crouch down slowly, not to look the gorillas directly in the eyes, and to wait for the animals to pass. It is imperative not to try to run away or to take pictures and make unnecessary moves.
Generally, gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. Hence, if a visitor is feeling ill or carries a contagious disease as simple as a flu, he/she will be asked to pass on the trek and stay behind. While in the presence of the gorillas, visitors are required to turn their head away and to cover their nose and mouth if they feel the urge to cough or sneeze. Also, it is important not to leave any rubbish in the park, since foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants. If a visitor needs to use the bathroom, the guide will dig a hole that will be filled afterwards.
The maximum time allowed with the gorillas is 1 hour. Nevertheless, it is possible that the gorillas become agitated or nervous, in which case the guide will stop the visit a bit early.
The weather is unpredictable in the volcanoes so that it is advisable to wear different layers of clothes that can be removed during the hike. Rain jackets and comfortable hiking boots are recommended. You are sdvised to wear trousers,long sleeves shirts, jackets, proper hiking shoes, stick or jeer.