The Ins and Outs of Gorilla Trekking

by Sandy Salle on July 18, 2017

Whether you’re gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda with Hills of Africa, the same preparations, rules and common sense apply.

First and foremost, you have to be in pretty good physical shape. Not Olympic standard, mind you. But fit enough to hike up to eight hours per day, at fairly high altitude, up and down often-muddy mountain slopes, in tropical humidity (although not necessarily hot because of the altitude).  Your hike could be 3 hours, it could be 8 hours, before you get to see the gorillas.

If you can meet that minimum standard, the rewards are amazing — incredibly close encounters of the gorilla kind. Gentle giants that are literally close enough to reach out and touch.

Which brings us to the most important rule of gorilla trekking: don’t touch! Nobody is going to stop a 400-pound primate from strolling right through the middle of your trekking group and perhaps brushing against several lucky trekkers. But humans are strictly forbidden from initiating contact.

You should also dress the part. While bright primary colors are not banned, colors like green, khaki and brown help you blend into the scenery and put the animals more at ease.

Long-sleeved shirts and full pants are recommended because of mud along the trails and the fact that you are often going off-trail — tramping through thick bush as you move along with the gorilla family. A poncho or rainproof windbreaker could come in handy, especially if rain is forecast. You might also consider moisture-wicking clothing.

A pair of gardening gloves will protect your hands against nettles, thorns, etc. And don’t forget a hat; it may not be very sunny in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda) or Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), but it can get wet via rainfall or simply drips from the lush vegetation.

That combination of humidity and precipitation means you should also bring waterproof daypack for storing your camera when not taking photos.  We also recommend taking some gallon ziploc bags for your camera in case of rain.

Camera flash is also forbidden — you don’t want to spook a 400-pound animal poised just feet away from you. If the natural daylight is really low, try switching your camera to sports mode to sharper images.

Be sure to stay well hydrated during your trek. Despite the coolish temperatures, the high humidity and physical exertion means you’ll be sweating a lot. Good hydration helps you hike longer and makes you feel better while doing it.

Even if you don’t have difficulty undertaking hikes back home, seriously consider a walking stick for gorilla treks because of the slippery conditions and steep terrain. Most of the lodges/trekking outfitters at Bwindi and Volcanoes offer these at no extra charge.

Last but not least, ask your guides before roaming off into the bush for a bathroom break. You never know what you might tread upon (snakes!) or if a gorilla might be taking his or her bathroom break behind that same tree.

Is gorilla trekking on your bucket list or dream list?  Let us help you plan your trip to Uganda or Rwanda to see the amazing mountain gorillas.  I promise you it will change your life, it did mine.  Call us on 1-800-940-9344 or email sandy@hillsofafrica.com.

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