Ecotourism is nature-based tourism that meets conservation objectives and favours sustainable development. Your visit to the mountain gorillas helps contribute to their conservation and brings valuable resources to the people living around the national park. It is essential however, for certain regulations to be followed in order to ensure that the objectives of both conservation and sustainable development are met. Please read these regulations carefully and help contribute to the conservation of this valuable species and habitat.
On The Way To The Gorillas
- We are at the edge of the park. Before we enter the forest, it is important that you fully understand how to conduct yourselves in the forest and with the gorillas.
- In order to minimise the behavioural disturbance to the gorillas, we have set limits on the numbers of visitors allowed. A maximum number of 8 people may visit the gorillas at a time. If however the gorilla group is small, the group of visitors must be reduced to 6. These size limits serve to protect the gorillas from undue disturbance and the risk of exposure to human – borne diseases.
- Once we enter the forest, we ask you to keep your voices low when speaking. This will help you observe other animals and birds in the forest. In addition to the mountain gorillas, other mammals you could observe include golden monkey, various species of antelope, bushbuck and buffalo.
- From here we will walk to the area where the guides left the gorillas yesterday (ask the guides how long they estimate the walk will take). From there we will follow the gorillas’ trail to find them. If we pass the place where the group spent the night, you will be able to see their nests. Gorillas make a new nest each night.
- There are stinging nettles and biting ants in the park. The guides will try to point them out, so that you can be careful not to get stung.
- Please don’t leave any rubbish in the park. Take everything you brought into the forest back out with you. Put food, film boxes, handkerchiefs and rubbish back in your pockets or bags.
- As we approach the gorillas, the guideswill inform you to get your camera gear ready. The porters remain behind, so take everything you need in with you. Don’t leave any valuables with the porters.
With The Gorillas
- All visitors should stay together in a tight group when near the gorillas. Please stay behind the guides at all times.
- The guides will keep you back at a minimum of 7 meters from the gorillas. This is to protect them from the danger of catching human diseases and to minimise behavioural disturbance.
- Keep your voice down at all times. It is OK to ask questions. Please don’t point at the gorillas when walking, as they might think that you are throwing something at them. If nettles or ants sting you while you are with the gorillas, please try not to cry out.
- When taking photos, move slowly and carefully. Flash photography is not allowed. If some vegetation is in your way, please don’t attempt to clear it yourself. Ask one of the guides and he will try to ensure you have a clear view if he feels it will not disturb the gorillas.
- Do not try to touch the gorillas. It is dangerous for them because of the risk of catching human diseases. It could also be dangerous for you. If one of the gorillas moves towards you, follow the example of the guides and move back slowly to a safe distance of 7 meters.
- Sometimes the animals charge. If a gorilla charges at you, please follow the guide’s example. You should crouch down slowly, look down and wait for the animalto pass. Don’t attempt to take a photo at this time and DO NOT run away as this could be very dangerous.
- The maximum time that we will spend with the gorillas is one hour. If for some reason the group becomes too nervous, we will have to leave before the hour is up, but the absolute maximum is one hour.
- After your visit, please keep your voices down until you are 200 meters from the gorillas. If you want to stop for a picnic or a rest, ask the guides to find a suitable place that is far enough from the gorillas.
Some of these rules are repeated above, to reinforce the point that the gorillas are extremely susceptible to human diseases and we need to minimise the risk that our visit potentially poses to them.
- Before we enter the park, it is important that we ask if anyone in the group of visitors is ill. If anyone of our visitors feels that he/she is ill or could be carrying a contagious disease, we ask that he/she volunteers to remain behind. You will be given a full reimbursement of the money that you paid to visit the gorillas. Once we enter the forest, if the guides find that you are ill, they have the right to refuse your visit to the gorillas and you will not be granted a reimbursement. This rule is necessary to protect the gorillas from the possibility of catching human diseases. Even the slightest common cold can be deadly to a gorilla.
- If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze while with the gorillas, please turn away from the animals and try to cover your nose and mouth to minimise the spread of bacteria or viruses that you might be carrying unknowingly.
- DO NOT leave any rubbish in the park. Take care of your handkerchiefs, food wrappers, banana peels, etc. The objects might be of interest to the animals in the park and pose a disease threat.
- If you have to defacate while in the forest, please ask the guide to loan you his machete to dig a 30 cm hole, and then fill it in when you are through. Faecal material can be higly infectious.
- No smoking, drinking or eating while with the gorillas.
- Stay back a minimum of 7 meters from the gorillas.
- Do not attempt to touch the gorillas.
- Please respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. Keeping the numbers down and following the other health rules minimises the risk of disease transmission to this vulnerable population of mountain gorillas.
- The minimum age for gorilla visits is 15 years. Any young person of questionable age may be asked to furnish proof of age.