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In this guide, we’ll provide you with detailed instructions for gorilla visits, covering everything from booking permits to respecting the environment and ensuring a memorable yet responsible experience. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a first-time visitor, these instructions will help you make the most of your gorilla trek while contributing to the conservation efforts of these critically endangered animals.

Join us as we embark on a journey into the realm of the mountain gorillas, where every encounter is a testament to the delicate balance between humanity and nature. Let’s step lightly, tread carefully, and cherish the wonders of the Parc National des Volcans.

Before Gorilla Trekking

Before embarking on your gorilla trekking adventure in Parc National des Volcans, there are several important steps to take to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Booking Permits: Gorilla trekking permits are in high demand and limited in number to minimize the impact on the gorillas and their habitat. It’s essential to book your permits well in advance, preferably several months ahead of your planned visit. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) manages permit allocations, and permits can be obtained directly through their website or through authorized tour operators. Permits typically have a specific date and gorilla group assigned to them, so it’s essential to plan your visit accordingly.

Health Check: Before embarking on your gorilla trek, you’ll undergo a health check to ensure you’re not carrying any contagious diseases that could be transmitted to the gorillas. This health screening is crucial for the protection of the gorillas, as they share genetic similarities with humans and can be susceptible to human illnesses. The health check usually includes a temperature check and a brief medical questionnaire to assess your overall health status.

Fitness Assessment: Gorilla trekking involves hiking through rugged terrain, including dense forests and steep slopes. Assess your fitness level honestly and communicate any physical limitations or preferences to the park authorities or your tour operator. Based on your fitness level and preferences, you’ll be assigned to a specific gorilla group with varying degrees of difficulty to reach. Some groups may require longer hikes and more challenging terrain, so it’s essential to choose a group that aligns with your capabilities.

Packing Essentials: Proper packing is essential for a successful gorilla trekking experience. Pack appropriate clothing and gear for the trek, including:

  • Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support to navigate uneven terrain.
  • Long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect against scratches from vegetation and insect bites.
  • Rain gear and a lightweight, waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect against sun exposure.
  • Insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes and other biting insects.
  • Plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized during the trek.
  • A small backpack to carry your essentials, including a camera, binoculars, and any medications you may need.

By packing the right gear and clothing, you’ll be prepared for the varying weather conditions and terrain encountered during the gorilla trek.

During the Gorilla Trekking Process

As you embark on your gorilla trekking adventure in Parc National des Volcans, it’s essential to follow guidelines and instructions to ensure the safety of both visitors and the gorillas themselves.

Guided Trekking: Gorilla trekking is a guided activity led by experienced guides and trackers who are familiar with the gorilla groups and their habitats. These guides play a crucial role in locating the gorillas, ensuring your safety during the trek, and providing valuable insights into gorilla behaviour and conservation efforts. Follow their lead as they navigate the forest, interpret gorilla behaviour, and ensure a safe and respectful encounter with the gorillas.

Respectful Behaviour: Once you locate the gorilla group, maintain a respectful distance of at least 7 meters (about 21 feet) to minimize disturbance and reduce the risk of disease transmission. Follow the guide’s instructions at all times and avoid behaviours that could startle or agitate the gorillas. This includes avoiding direct eye contact, speaking softly, and refraining from making sudden movements. By respecting the gorillas’ space and behaviour, you’ll minimize stress on the animals and enhance the quality of your encounter.

Limited Interaction: Gorilla trekking permits allow for a maximum of one hour with the gorillas once they are located. This time limit helps minimize stress on the gorillas and ensures that they can go about their daily activities without undue disruption. During your one-hour visit, take time to observe the gorillas in their natural habitat, learn about their behavior from your guide, and capture photos and videos responsibly. After the one-hour limit expires, it’s time to bid farewell to the gorillas and begin your trek back to the starting point.

Photography Guidelines: Photography is permitted during gorilla visits, but it’s essential to do so responsibly. Avoid using flash photography, as it can startle the gorillas and disturb their natural behaviour. Instead, use natural light or a low-flash setting if necessary. Be mindful of your camera’s shutter sound and try to minimize noise to avoid disturbing the gorillas. When taking photos, maintain a respectful distance from the gorillas and avoid crowding or obstructing their movement for the sake of a photograph. Remember that the goal is to observe and appreciate the gorillas in their natural habitat without causing them undue stress or disturbance. 

After the Gorilla Trek

After completing your gorilla trekking experience in Parc National des Volcans (PNV), there are several important steps to take to ensure a responsible conclusion to your visit.

Reflection and Appreciation: Take time to reflect on the incredible experience of encountering mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with these magnificent creatures and witness their behavior up close. Consider keeping a journal or diary to record your thoughts and impressions of the experience, including any memorable encounters or observations.

Environmental Responsibility: Before leaving the park, ensure that you leave no trace of your visit behind. Collect all trash and waste, including food wrappers, water bottles, and tissues, and dispose of them properly in designated bins or carry them out of the park with you. Respect the environment and wildlife by staying on designated trails and avoiding disturbance to plants and animals. By practicing Leave No Trace principles, you’ll help preserve the natural beauty of Parc National des Volcans for future generations to enjoy.

Feedback and Contribution: Provide feedback to park authorities or tour operators about your gorilla trekking experience. Share any positive aspects of your visit, as well as any areas for improvement or suggestions for future visitors. Consider contributing to conservation efforts aimed at protecting mountain gorillas and their habitat. This could include making a donation to a reputable conservation organization or volunteering your time and skills to support gorilla conservation projects. By actively engaging in conservation efforts, you can make a meaningful difference in the ongoing protection of these endangered animals. 

In conclusion, gorilla trekking in Parc National des Volcans offers a rare opportunity to connect with nature and witness the beauty of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. By following guidelines and instructions before, during, and after gorilla trekking, you can ensure a safe, respectful, and memorable experience while contributing to the conservation of these remarkable animals and their habitat.