The Mountain Gorilla is an endangered species with an estimated number in 2010 of 790. Thanks to the work of zoologist Dian Fossey and the success of the movie “Gorillas in the Mist”, their plight has caught the imagination of the world. On a gorilla trekking safari, it is possible to enter their habitat with a skilled gorilla guide and spend a short time in the company of a gorilla family. Sitting within a small family group of some of the closest relatives to humans is one of the world's greatest wildlife experiences and a gorilla safari is a 'must' for serious wildlife enthusiasts. An hour spent with a Mountain Gorilla family is a very tranquil, relaxing and therapeutic experience, allowing us to realise how simple life really can be, and just how complicated we humans have made our own lives. Contrary to the "King Kong" myth of an aggressive, savage beast, gorillas are social animals that are rather shy, peaceful vegetarians with a strong family structure.
Gorilla Trekking is possible in 3 countries: Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. In Uganda they are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. In Rwanda they are found in the Volcanoes National Park, on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. Both these destinations are accessible to tourists. Rwanda now has seven habituated gorilla groups, the largest number of in Africa, making it the prime gorilla trekking destination.
Gorilla Trekking is carefully monitored and only a certain number of permits are issued every day, which means advance booking is necessary. One permit gets you one hour with the Gorillas. Your gorilla guide will give you a briefing before the trekking commences. Walking conditions can be tough, with thick rainforest, valleys and steep hills, often in very wet conditions. It is sometimes necessary to walk for 5-7 hours before you find a Gorilla group. However, the experience is so rewarding that most travellers book a second trekking trip the following day! As David Attenborough once said, “There is more meaning in exchanging glances with a gorilla than with any other animal I know.”