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.
Rules for a Gorilla Visit
Gorillas are highly sensitive to human diseases . This is why strict measures need to be taken to minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases to these impressive but fragile creatures.
The Gorilla trekking rules must be observed at all times while on your adventure to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda or Congo. Mountain gorillas are endangered species living only in 3 countries: Uganda, Congo & Rwanda with less than 1063 individuals left on earth today.
- Children under the age of 15 years are not allowed
- Visitors coughing or suffering from any kind of potentially infectious disease will not be allowed.
- In case you feel need for a “ bush toilet” in the forest, please inform your guide.
- Do not sneeze in the vicinity of gorillas
- Do not leave any litter in the forest
- Trackers and porters will stay with your belongings some distance away from the gorillas.
- Do not eat or drink in the vicinity of gorillas
- Smoking is forbidden at all times in the national park
Gorilla Trekking Rules to Follow
On the IUCN list, mountain gorillas are endangered and they need to be protected at all times. This is why gorilla trekking rules play a significant part in all gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.
- The acceptable age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and above – anyone within this age brackets can go track mountain gorillas in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Below 15 years, you are considered a child and children have too much fear and in case gorillas charge or come close them, they can even scream -generally they can get frightened quickly unlike adults.
- A distance of 8-10m must be observed from gorillas whether in Rwanda or Uganda to avoid spread of infectious diseases.
- Before visiting gorillas, visitors are put in groups of 8 people who will be allowed or assigned to a single gorilla group to track.
- Flashlight cameras for photography isn’t allowed or better you can turn the lights off before you begin taking pictures of these apes.
- Low voice should be kept while in the wild tracking gorillas.
- When a gorilla charges, don’t run from gorillas – in case they approach you stand still, show that you are submissive by lowering your head/face down.
- When gorillas approach or rub themselves on you, don’t try touching them – this gorilla rule is vital because it limits any likelihood of infectious diseases spreading.
- When you have come across mountain gorilla group in Volcanoes NP, you will enjoy a complete one with them, face to face, take pictures and observe all how they behave.
- Keep around the group you left briefing area with to avoid getting lost in the jungles and you encounter dangerous animals.
- No littering the habitat, have all your used containers or items carried back to visitor center or lodge and dump in the designated dustbins.
- Eating, smoking or drinking is not acceptable while you are in the jungles to visit gorillas.
- Gorilla trekking in Rwanda like it is in Uganda or Congo is only conducted by tourists not ill or sick. Mountain gorillas are endangered and susceptible to human infectious diseases the fact that they have 98% DNA similar to that of humans.
- Before you begin your trek to see gorillas, make sure that you have washed the hands.