The anticipation and excitement you feel as you ascend the forested mountains is unimaginable. It grows with every step. Suddenly there is a commotion and excitement turns to apprehension as a huge silverback attempts to defend its family. Your skilled guide calms the situation by making a cough-like sound to tell the gorilla all is well. The family resume their daily routine whilst you watch transfixed for the next hour or more. Interacting with a family of gorillas is like nothing else you will ever experience.
Mountain gorillas trekking is an experience on most people’s bucket list, whether they are experienced wildlife travellers or seeking a thrilling memory they will cherish forever. Whether it is the exclusiveness of the experience, the privilege of interacting with the world’s largest and most powerful primate, or the realisation you are looking into the eyes of an animal that was almost lost to the world, you will undoubtedly understand you have embarked upon something special.
Gorillas are endemic to Africa meaning they can be found on no other continent in the world. The mountain gorilla is one of 4 sub-species which also includes the cross river gorilla, eastern lowland gorilla and western lowland gorilla. They are extremely sociable animals living in stable and cohesive family groups. The group is held together by long-term bonds between adult males and females. The family is led by a dominant male known as a silverback. It is tough at the top as a silverback is only likely to hold this position for an average of 4-5 years. Group sizes range from as few as 2 individuals up to a maximum of 30 members. However, a family usually averages 10 gorillas. Gorillas are herbivores and you will see them foraging in the thick vegetation by day. They can eat up to 34 kg of thick vegetation. They migrate to a new area each day and will build a new nest to spend the night.
Their distribution is extremely narrow, occurring in small pockets of dense mountainous forests straddling the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. The Virunga Massif is continuous across all 3 countries and is divided into separately managed protected reserves, the Virunga National Park of the DRC, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the smaller Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to a large percentage of the mountain gorilla population and is exclusive to Uganda. At the time of writing 69% of the Virunga Massif population are habituated as are 42% of the Bwindi population. All reserves are open to gorilla trekking experiences although we lean heavily to Uganda due to Rwanda’s huge increase in permit fees and the instability in the DRC causing security concerns. Please see our itineraries below for inspiration or visit our dedicated mountain gorilla trekking page to learn more of what the experience entails.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have recently upgraded the mountain gorilla’s conservation status to endangered following years of being recognised as critically endangered. This is in no small part due to intense conservation efforts having resulted in an astonishing increase in their populations. Over a 7 year period their populations have increased by 26% in the Virunga Massif and 6% in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Although this recent recovery is comforting their numbers are still significantly lower than a century ago. Mountain gorillas face several threats to their still fragile population. Habitat loss and human encroachment are deemed the biggest risks to their survival. The forests they inhabit are surrounded by rural landscapes of high human densities. This inevitably brings gorillas into conflict with humans. Their survival in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains precarious due to continued civil unrest and the presence of armed militia in the forests. Human to gorilla disease transmission remains a serious threat also.
By electing to visit these gentle giants with Ultimate Wildlife Adventures you are contributing to their protection and chances of future survival, as well as signing up for an experience of a lifetime.
Contact us to discuss how we can include mountain gorilla trekking in your ultimate wildlife adventure.