Located in the Virunga Mountains, is a magnificent chain of dormant volcanoes in the North of the country, the park forms part of the extension of the Congo-Nile divide, separating two of Africa´s most important watersheds. They´re also home to the world´s last surviving mountain gorilla populations, currently a mere 1000 individuals.
Every time that passes by, mountain gorilla gets more endangered. There is a lot of global warming and increase in population where with time people will greatly encroach on the habitats for these wild animals leaving them with little space to stay. Currently, the mountain gorillas live in the misty Virunga volcanoes and in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park with their population estimated to be at only 900 only.
The major predators of the mountain gorillas are humans who in the 1990’s greatly poached these animals thus resulting to a great decline in their population. The mountain gorilla population was even lower than 900 but it has just increased all thanks to the conservation efforts from the major governments and the wildlife organizations in the three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo).
The mountain gorillas are now prime tourist attractions in Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo and every year the number of tourists heading for gorilla trekking in the misty mountains of Bwindi impenetrable forest and the Virunga volcanoes increases. The tourists going for mountain gorilla trekking first gather at the different national park headquarters where they are briefed and told about the characters of the mountain gorillas. They are also told about the major characters of the mountain gorilla family they will be trekking. After the briefing, they directly head to the forested mountains as they hike looking for the gorillas.
Visiting one of the three countries to view mountain gorillas in the mist can never be a regrettable idea. Currently, there are 12 habituated gorilla families that can be visited by tourists.
The Gorilla Groups
10 individuals, 2 silverbacks
Amahoro A Group
15 individuals, 2 silverback
Amahoro B Group
7 individuals, 1 silverback
37 individuals, 4 silverbacks
10 individuals, 2 silverbacks
The Gorilla Trek
The hike varies and usually ranges between 1 to 8 hours however once you get to the mountain gorillas, you are given just an hour to spend with these magical animals. The hour may seem short especially to people who travel overseas to see the mountain gorillas in their natural environments but its very rewarding as you the mountain gorillas relax in their families most times even while not bothered about your presence.
When the hour elapses, you are informed by your guide who then directs you back to the national park headquarters for your certificates of participation and there after go for a community tour or to your lodge/hotel. It’s hard to explain with words how amazing and awesome viewing the mountain gorillas in the mist can be. It’s very unforgettable and in fact a wildlife safari activity that should be on the must do lists of the adventurous tourists.
All the three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and DRC) are now politically stable and therefore security must not be a hindrance to any one for to track mountain gorillas. For easy movements through the forests, it’s best to go for the safaris during the dry season when there are limited chances of rainfall. Trekking in the wet season in also very possible and in fact in Uganda the mountain gorilla permits are usually reduced from $600 to $350. Even though it rains, it doesnot stop people from going to the forests and be part of the incredible mountain gorilla experiences. Mountain gorilla permits are sold at $750 and $500 in Rwanda and DRC respectively while in Uganda they are sold at $600 during the peak season and $350 during the low tourists season.
Tourists who are interested in a double mountain gorilla trekking can easily do that by trekking in two countries (Uganda and Rwanda or DRC). All the three countries have habituated mountain gorillas. The ones in Uganda can be trekked in Bwindi impenetrable forest that has three sectors and half of the mountain gorilla population or in Mgahinga gorilla national park with one habituated mountain gorilla family. In DRC, trekking can be done in Virunga national park, which has 5 habituated mountain gorilla families while in Rwanda it can be carried out in volcanoes national park, which has 10 habituated gorilla families.
To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, please do not visit the gorillas. The Viewing time is limited to one hour, and only 8 visitors maximum are allowed per group.
Spitting in the park is strictly prohibited and should you need to cough, cover your mouth and turn away from the gorillas.
Keep your voice low, try not to make rapid movements, because that may frighten the gorillas. If a gorilla should charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.