Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations are not so many in number and they were put in place to protect both the gorillas and the tourists who undertake gorilla trekking in any of the gorilla destinations. All over the world, mountain gorilla trekking can only be done in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas are giant apes that roam in the jungles of Virunga National Park, Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla trekking is a tourist activity that involves travellers trekking or hiking deep into the lush forests in search of the gorillas.
Mountain gorillas up until 2018 were listed as critically endangered. Mountain gorillas share a 98% DNA with humans, thus making them susceptible to all human infections.
With about 1063 gorilla individuals in the whole world, these endangered gentle though giant primate species need to be protected and conserved for future generations. For this reason, gorilla rules and regulations were put in place to protect not only the gorillas but also the travellers. Travellers planning to have a gorilla trekking safari will have the following gorilla trekking rules and regulations to follow;
Before departing on a gorilla trek, the following rules and regulations apply;
- Persons above the age of 15 only are allowed to do gorilla trekking. This is so because children below 15 years are unpredictable, they could get over-excited or alarmed when the encounter the gorillas making them scream, which startles gorillas and can make them charge. Also, children below 15 have diseases like mumps, which can easily spread to mountain gorillas. Children below 15 years are also incapable of trekking gorillas to finish given the terrain.
- A maximum of 8 persons per group can visit a habituated gorilla family per day. This is so to minimise behavioural disturbances to the gorillas and also risk exposing the gorillas to human infections like a cough.
- Travellers who find themselves sick of infections like cough and flu before the start of the gorilla trek should volunteer to not trek. In such instances, gorilla permits can be rescheduled, or given a refund. This is to protect the gorillas from catching the illnesses since they are susceptible to human diseases.
- Always wash your hands before you head out for gorilla trekking
While on the way/ during gorilla trekking;
- Voices should be low at all times. This way, you will be able to observe more of the park, and definitely spot a number of wildlife and birds which could otherwise have led if you were shouting.
- Do not leave rubbish in the park, carry back whatever you brought with you to the park headquarters or start of the trek. This includes food wraps, wipes or even peelings of a fruit. Foreign items can harbor diseases, thus endangering the gorillas
When with the gorillas, the following gorilla trekking rules and regulations should be followed to the dot;
- Observe a 7-meter distance away from the gorillas at all times. Gorillas are more relaxed when distanced from humans. This is to protect the gorillas from catching human illnesses as well as having them comfortable.
- Always stay within your group, and do not surround the gorillas either. Surrounding the gorillas seems like a threat to them and can cause them to charge.
- Do not make any body signs like raising arms or pointing at the gorillas.
- Do not speak loudly or even make uneven sounds, the gorillas could interpret them wrongly.
- Flash photography should not be used at all. This stresses the gorillas and they get uncomfortable. When taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke when near the gorillas. This should be done at least 200m away from the gorillas
- When charged at by the gorillas, follow the ranger’s instructions to the dot. Stay calm and do not scream or run away.
- Do not look straight in the eyes of the gorillas.
- Do not at any time touch gorillas, even the juveniles who might come and inspect you playfully. Though habituated to accommodate human presence, remember that they are still wild animals.
- Travellers are allowed only one hour with the gorillas. Make use of every minute. If, however, the gorillas become agitated, the visit could be finished prematurely.
- Turn your head away from the gorillas should you feel the urge to cough or sneeze, and make sure to cover your nose and mouth so as to minimise the spread of bacteria and viruses.
- When in need of a toilet while still in the forest, ask a guide to dig for you a hole. The hole should be 30cm deep, and make sure to properly cover it after use.
Travellers are advised to adhere to the above-listed gorilla trekking rules and regulations. These gorilla trekking rules and regulations are for the best interests of travellers, and the conservation of the gorillas that are already endangered.