Whether you are tracking mountain or lowland gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or Republic of Congo here is what you can expect.
What Should I Wear on my Gorilla Trek?
Be prepared to walk. Bring your sturdiest walking shoes and clothes that you are happy to have get sweaty and muddy. Ideally, wear thick pants and a long-sleeved shirt as protection against stinging nettles. Bring layers as it is often cold when you set out at 6am but warms as the sun rises. When you are grabbing for holds in thorny vegetation, a pair of old gardening gloves might be helpful and if you feel safer with a walking-stick, pack a folding one. If you already own gaiters or walking sticks (or want a reason to buy them!) they are a great addition as well.
What should I take on my Gorilla Trek?
Carry as little as possible, ideally in a waterproof bag of some sort (note that plastic shopping bags are now illegal in Rwanda). During rainy seasons, a poncho or raincoat might be a worthy addition to your daypack. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a good idea at any time of year. Bring a snack or lunch (often provided by your lodge) and at least 1 liter of water. Make sure your camera gear is well protected in a waterproof day pack. Binoculars are not necessary to see the gorillas. You may need to show your passport or some other form of identification when you check-in.
Tipping Trackers and Rangers
Bring enough US dollars to tip everyone at the end of the trek (estimate $15-20 per tracker/ranger or $30 per hiker). You should tip the trackers at the end of your hour with the gorillas, since they may not all go back down the mountain with you.
Should I Hire a Porter for my Gorilla Trek?
There will often be porters who will offer to carry your bag for a fee. They are local people who work day-to-day and are not officially employed by the government or the park. Their rate is $10-$15 dollars (plus $5 tip if you want). Even if you don't think you need an extra hand carrying your day pack, or to help you navigate the ridiculously slippery terrain it's worth employing these guys anyway. It is a simple way of helping local villagers benefit from gorilla tourism and discourages them from turning to poaching or farming within the park boundaries. You also may find in the middle of your trek that you are glad they are there...
General Gorilla Trekking Rules and Guidelines:
-Trekkers must be at least 15 years of age
-Groups are limited to between 6-8 people in all countries
-Once gorillas are located, travelers are limited to one hour of observation and photography, and they must try to keep at least 23 feet from the animals (gorillas, of course, don’t know this rule!).
-Gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases so you should not go gorilla tracking if you have the flu or a cold and are asked to turn away from the gorillas if you need to sneeze.
-To the best of our knowledge, no tourist has ever been seriously hurt by a habituated gorilla, but there is always a first time, an adult gorilla is much stronger than a person, and will act in accordance with its own social codes. Therefore it is vial that you listen to your guide at all times regarding correct protocol in the presence of gorilla. They will give you an overview prior starting your trek.
Where to Stay
Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga)