Gorilla Trekking Etiquette

Mar 13 2024

Rules & Equipment

Read about rules and regulations to follow in order to enjoy a successful gorilla trek in Rwanda.

Find all the information about what equipment you need  and carry during a gorilla trekking expedition.

Gorilla trek briefing: All travelers are required to report for early briefing by RDB guides. Get brief vital  information about the life and health of the gorilla species, location and size of the park, weather predictions, potters and guards plus so much more.

Conservation/Eco Tourism

Ecotourism is nature-based tourism that meets conservation objectives and favours sustainable development. Your visit to the mountain gorillas helps contribute to their conservation and brings valuable resources to the people living around the national park. It is essential however, for certain regulations to be followed in order to ensure that the objectives of both conservation and sustainable development are met. Please read these regulations carefully and help contribute to the conservation of this valuable species and habitat.

Gorilla Trekking Equipment

  • Be ready for a wet and cold trek through the rainforest, therefore you will need a strong pair of hiking shoes, and warm water proof clothing.
  • Consider wearing pants and shirts that are bit long sleeved to avoid anything that can put a hamper your experience like stinging nettles.
  • Despite the cold temperature and altitudes, you need to be ready for strong sunshine at some point; therefore floppy hats and sunglasses can be of help, as are plenty of cold hydrating drinks. Sugary snacks are also good for a quick energy boost.
  • Make sure to carry water proof backpacks for your cameras because this is not the ideal time for a camera malfunction!! , binoculars are certainly not important to spot gorillas; you will need them in other sites while scoping for birds and distant animals.
  • While checking in at the park headquarters, you will be requested for identification by the park rangers and authority, therefore to avoid any hassles, carry your passport with you in addition to your tracking permit.
  • Do not worry about your backpack; porters are available for the trek although they are not always necessary. You are requested to pay a few dollars for their services. The drivers, guides and any porters will expect a tip and the amount is entirely up to you and also ultimately depending on the worth of service. However note in mind that the locals know that you are paying $750USD for an experience of gorilla viewing, so try not to be too stingy.

On the way to Gorillas

We are at the edge of the park. Before we enter the forest, it is important that you fully understand how to conduct yourselves in the forest and with the gorillas.

In order to minimise the behavioural disturbance to the gorillas, we have set limits on the numbers of visitors allowed. A maximum number of 8 people may visit the gorillas at a time,  These size limits serve to protect the gorillas from undue disturbance and the risk of exposure to human – borne diseases.
Once we enter the forest, we ask you to keep your voices low when speaking. This will help you observe other animals and birds in the forest. In addition to the mountain gorillas, other mammals you could observe include golden monkey, various species of antelope, bushbuck and buffalo.

From here we will walk to the area where the guides left the gorillas yesterday (ask the guides how long they estimate the walk will take). From there we will follow the gorillas’ trail to find them. If we pass the place where the group spent the night, you will be able to see their nests. Gorillas make a new nest each night.

There are stinging nettles and biting ants in the park. The guides will try to point them out, so that you can be careful not to get stung.

Please don’t leave any rubbish in the park. Take everything you brought into the forest back out with you. Put food, film boxes, handkerchiefs and rubbish back in your pockets or bags.

As we approach the gorillas, the guides will inform you to get your camera gear ready. The porters remain behind, so take everything you need in with you. Don’t leave any valuables with the porters.

When you are with the Gorillas!

All visitors should stay together in a tight group when near the gorillas. Please stay behind the guides at all times. The guides will keep you back at a  minimum of 7 meters from the gorillas. This is to protect them from the danger of catching human diseases and to minimise behavioural disturbance. Keep your voice down at all times. It is OK to ask questions.

* Please don’t point at the gorillas when walking, as they might think that you are throwing something at them. If nettles or ants sting you while you are with the gorillas, please try not to cry out   when taking photos, move slowly and carefully  Flash  Photography is not allowed . if some vegetation is in your way  Please don’t attempt to clear it by your self .ask one of your guides and  they will try to ensure you have a clear view if she/he feels  it will not disturb the gorillas . do not  try to touch gorillas . it is dangerous for them because of risk catching human deseases . It could also be dangerous for you. If one of the gorillas moves towards you, follow the example of the guides and move back slowly to a safe distance of 7 meters. Sometimes the animals charge, if a gorilla charges at you  please  follow  the guide’s example.

You should crouch down slowly, look down and wait for the animal to pass don’t’t attempt to take a photo at this time and do not run away as this could be very dangerous .

The maximum time that we will spend with the gorillas is one hour.

After your visit, please keep your voices down until you are 200 meters from the gorillas. If you want to stop for a picnic  or a rest, ask the guides to find a suitable place that is far enough from the gorillas.

Health Rules

Some of these rules are repeated above, to reinforce the point that the gorillas are extremely susceptible to human diseases and we need to minimise the risk that our visit potentially poses to them. Before we enter the park, it is important that we ask if anyone in the group of visitors is ill. If anyone of our visitors feels that he/she is ill or could be carrying a contagious disease, we ask that he/she volunteers to remain behind. You will be given a full reimbursement of the money that you paid to visit the gorillas. Once we enter the forest, if the guides find that you are ill, they have the right to refuse your visit to the gorillas and you will not be granted a reimbursement. This rule is necessary to protect the gorillas from the possibility of catching human diseases. Even the slightest common cold can be deadly to a gorilla.If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze while with the gorillas, please turn away from the animals and try to cover your nose and mouth to minimise the spread of bacteria or viruses that you might be carrying unknowingly.

Bring back….
DO NOT leave any rubbish in the park. Take care of your handkerchiefs, food wrappers, banana peels, etc. The objects might be of interest to the animals in the park and pose a disease threat. If you have to defacate while in the forest, please ask the guide to loan you his machete to dig a 30 cm  hole, and then fill it in when you are through. Faecal material can be higly infectious.
No smoking, drinking  or eating while with the gorillas.

Please respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. Keeping the numbers down and following the other health rules minimises the risk of disease transmission to this vulnerable population of mountain gorillas.

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