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Where to see gorillas

Gorillas, which share 97% of our DNA, are made up of several sub-species which can be broadly divided into mountain and lowland. Most safari-goers who want to go gorilla trekking will see mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda. For the adventurous it is also possible to see mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Parc de Volcans in Rwanda, followed by Virunga in DRC, are the easiest to combine with safari in another destination such as Kenya or Tanzania. For Uganda we typically recommend it as a stand-alone destination were you spend 7-14 days where you do both your safari and gorilla trekking. If you have already been mountain gorilla trekking or are looking for a unique and seriously off-the-beaten path experience, then tracking western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo might be the perfect adventure. To see lowland gorillas in Republic of Congo we recommend Nouabale-Ndoki National Park.

Did you know?

  • There are four (possibly five) sub-species of gorilla: the eastern lowland (Grauer’s) gorilla, the western lowland gorilla, the mountain gorilla and the Cross River gorilla.
  • There is debate about whether or not the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and those of the Virunga Massif in Rwanda and DRC are separate sub-species.
  • As their name implies, mountain gorillas live in forests at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet.
  • The western lowland gorilla is most numerous with a population of over 100,000. The most endangered sub-species is the Cross River Gorilla with only 200-300 living in a 3000 square mile area between Nigeria and Cameroon (read more from WWF).

Conservation

In 1989 there were only 620 mountain gorillas left in the wild, all living in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of 2012 the population has rebounded to 880 animals and tourists and tourism revenue are a significant reason for that success. In addition to supporting the important anti-poaching, veterinary and surveillance activities, visitor revenue is reinvested into community projects. While mountain gorillas face continued threats including deforestation and human encroachment the growth in their numbers is welcome news and a testament to the power of tourism! Organizations doing innovative work with gorillas, both mountain and lowland, include the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga, Conservation through Public Health which works in Bwindi in Uganda, Gorilla Doctors and the GRACE Center for Grauer's gorillas.

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Kim Green