Gorilla Tracking Rules for the Virunga Massif
In all the countries within the Virunga Massif, tourists are advised not to track these critically endangered mountain gorillas when sick with contagious diseases like flue and cough, so as prevent the possibility of transmitting these diseases to these vulnerable animals because they share about 98% of their DNA with humans.
Also, avoid eating, drinking or smoking when with the mountain gorillas. You can eat after seeing/meeting them. Not only that, maintain the principle of “pack it in, pack it out” when dealing with rubbish during gorilla trekking.
In all the countries, only 8 people are allowed to track a habituated gorilla group per day and tourists are allowed to spend only one hour with these Giant Apes. This is done to avoid stressing or exhausting them and to prevent possibility of transmitting diseases.
Flash cameras are not allowed because these scare the mountain gorillas hence limit your perfect view and they may enter deep into the forest or become aggressive.
While with the mountain gorillas, maintain a distance of 7 meters away from them and avoid touching them because they will always remain wild animals regardless of how shy or gentle they are.
You are advised to first wash your hands before visiting the mountain gorillas, mainly to avoid spreading any possible germs and diseases.
Tourists are advised to keep their voices low when tracking gorillas or when with them and this applies to all the countries the Virunga Massif. Too much noise scares away the mountain gorillas hence they may enter deeper into the forest.
The only variation in tracking rules is the fact that tourists who track gorillas from Virunga National Park are provided with masks before venturing into the jungles which is not the case for Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes National Park.
In conclusion, the Virunga Massif is one of the top African safari destinations because it is a home to over 480 (more than half) of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas, and the Parks where you can track gorillas from include Mgahinga National Park of Uganda, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo.
All visitors are kindly follow rules and regulations as below for the success of your gorilla trekking tour to Uganda and Rwanda.
Before departing on your gorilla tracking:
- A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.
- Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
On the way to the gorillas:
- Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest.
- DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you.
- You will be taken to where the guides observed the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail to find them. Look out for the gorilla’s nesting sites along the way!
- When you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will inform you to get ready.
When you are with the gorillas:
- A 7 meter (21 feet) distance should tried to be observed at all times from the gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
- You must stay in tight group whey you are near the gorillas.
- Keep your voices down at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions.
- Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking inevitably will increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases.
- Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not attempt to run away because that will increase the risk.
- Flash photography is not permitted! When taking pictures move slowly and carefully.
- Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals.
- The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will finish the visit early.
- After the visit keep your voices down until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas.
General Health rules:
Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them:
- Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
- If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.
- If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
- Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
- Do not leave any rubbish (eg. food wrappers) in the park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
- If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep and fill it in when you are finished.