7 Tips for making your Gorilla Trekking even greater!
Gorillas are like a royal family. The largest and most powerful of the great apes. If you are lucky enough to visit them, you are only granted with a short audience. The meeting is on the gorillas premises, and the crew is watching you carefully. If you are one of the chosen, you will never forget the meeting.
When you sit face to face with a gorilla, you can easily see that this is our relatives. The deeply emotional face and the curious eyes. At start you might want to take as many photos as possible, but once you put your camera down, and sense the moment, a real magic experience will appear.
Unless you are a gorilla guide, or scientist, this might be your only chance to see these amazing animals.
We have with help from our local experts collected 7 tips to make your trip great.
1 Dress properly.
In the mountains it is always wet and muddy, and the weather can change in minutes. The gorillas don´t stay in one place, and the tracking might take a while. We don´t say you have to dress up in clothes for an expedition, but put some effort in it, and you´ll have a better trip.
Be sure you have decent hiking boots. On guided trips around the world people tend to show up in flat sneakers or even high heeled shoes. I suppose I don´t have to explain why this is a bad idea, but be aware your experience will improve if your shoes are good.
About the clothing, layers is gold. On the top use a waterproof rain layer outside, jacket or even a poncho could work. A warming layer like fleece in the middle, and a quick drying synthetic t-shirt inside. On the bottom part of the body wear long pants. You will have to walk in the jungle, and might be scratched wearing shorts. Also the pants will keep you warm.
2 Bring a daypack with food and water.
Once you enter the national parks you will not be able to buy additional food or drinking water. You should have enough for one day, as the trips might last until late evening. For water I would say at least one liter, and bring lunch and bars or nuts, snack for supplying throughout the day. The daypack is also great when you need to dress off a bit, and to keep your camera and personal stuff.
3 Be honest about you fitness level to the guides.
Remember that you most likely will be part of a group. A groups level is equal to the level of the weakest link. The group will adjust to you. If the guides know this in advance, this is no problem, because they will consider this in the plan. But if you join a fit group and have been dishonest, making the group always wait for you. The other participants experience wont be as good. The gorilla groups are different, and tours are often set up with fit people aiming the more moveable gorilla groups that travel longer, while tours with limited physical fitness will search for the gorillas that tend to stay in their area. As long as you are open about your level, everybody is likely to have a great experience.
4 Listen carefully to the pretour briefing.
Before joining a gorilla tracking there is always a briefing at the starting point ahead of the tour. This is usually very early in the morning. You will be warned about the precautions you have to take. If you miss something, it is smart to ask. This briefings is for making your trip better.
5 Remember to get your permits in good time before the tour.
Gorilla tracking is by far one of the most popular tourist activities in Uganda and Rwanda. Don´t expect to get permits by showing up in advance of the trip. It might not be free space for you. The competition of getting permits is high and and it will be hard to get permits. It is still possible in the low season, but we recommend to book the tour and get the permit in advance. It is specially important in the peak seasons: june - september and december-january.
6 Your camera should be ready for entering the forest.
Remember that you are not allowed to use flash when photographing gorillas. Your camera should have a function to manually turn off the flash. In the forest pictures tend to be dark when flash is turned off, so you should put the ISO to 1250 or so. Newer cameras tend to have this features, also in automatic. Also make sure the camera is not getting wet.
7 To greet the gorillas, hit your chest with one hand.
You should try to interact with the gorillas on the tour. By hitting your chest with one hand you show your greeting and it is a sign of a warm welcome. In most cases the gorillas will do the same to you. Avoid getting to close.