How safe is gorilla trekking experience in Africa is one of the common asked questions by travellers planning to visit Africa. Gorilla trekking in Africa is a safe and secure tour activity, the reason why gorilla countries receive thousands of visitors who take part in it. Whereas there are occasional unrests in some parts of Africa, these don’t exist in the actual gorilla habitats where gorilla trekking is carried out. Bwindi Impenetrable forests in Uganda and Virunga Massif shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Dr Congo are safe for gorilla trekking. On rare occasions, the Congo side of Virunga volcanoes is raided by rebels but the volatile situation is often nullified quickly by the Congolese Authorities. No serious cases have been witnessed or recorded of tourists’ lives being threatened by any insecurity tendencies in the gorilla tracking destinations.
In addition to the safety of the gorilla habitats, the gorillas themselves are naturally peaceful, calm and friendly animals. The gorillas in the various national parks are habituated by experts so that they are familiar with human presence to avoid any hostile situation. Although gorillas are habituated, other safety measures are put in place during the gorilla trekking experience as we shall look at them later in this article.
Security and safety during gorilla trekking in Rwanda
Rwanda is regarded as one of the safest countries in Africa. Ever since the 1994 genocide, no tribulation has ever happened in the “land of a thousand hills”. The mountain gorillas are protected and conserved well in Volcanoes national park on Virunga Massif. Rwanda has gone the extra mile to create a formidable army that protects its borders from any insecurity threats. During the gorilla trekking experience in Rwanda, the visitors are escorted by security and park rangers to ensure their safety and security.
For travellers interested in Rwanda gorilla safaris, a gorilla permit costs 1500$. It can be booked directly from Rwanda Development Board or through a local tour company.
Is it safe to trek gorillas in Virunga National Park Congo?
Whereas, Congo has been known for its civil conflicts and rebel attacks, Virunga National park, where gorillas live is not so much affected. Virunga national park is situated is safe and tightly protected by Congolese Authorities and Virunga Foundation. There is also a UN Base in Goma a nearby town to the national park. Virunga Foundation, the management of the park deployed patrols to monitor and guard the park. The Visitors are given security personnel to guard them and ensure their safety during the gorilla trekking experience.
Virunga national park offers the best gorilla trekking atmosphere with magnificent sceneries of the five volcanoes on Virunga Massif and the active Volcanoes of Nyiragongo.
The Congo gorilla permit fees go for US Dollars 450$ and in the low season, the permits are discounted. Although Virunga Foundation are the managers of the gorilla tracking experience in Virunga national park, visitors are advised to book their Congo gorilla trekking safari through a local tour operator to have a convenient trip.
How safe is gorilla trekking in Uganda?
For the last 30 years, Uganda has been considered a safe and secure country to travel to. Uganda has two gorilla trekking destinations, namely Bwindi impenetrable national park at Kigezi highlands and Mgahinga national park at the Virunga Massif. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has armed park rangers that loiter around the premises of the parks and also the government of Uganda has a military base in the rainforests of Kigezi region to keep the areas safe and secure for tourism. Border patrols are intelligently carried out by the Uganda people’s Defence Force (UPDF) to ensure that the territories of Uganda are safe and free from rebels.
The gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs 700$ per person and Uganda Wildlife Authority is responsible for issuing the permits and conducting the trekking experience.
Safety tips for gorilla trekking
Follow the Gorilla Trekking Rules: The national parks have several safety guidelines set out for travellers to follow during the gorilla tracking experience. For example; the 10-metre social distance gap between the gorillas and the trackers, avoiding unnecessary movements and noise during the interaction with the gorillas, no flash camera during photograph capturing and avoiding direct eye contact with the gorillas. Though gorillas are habituated, they are still wild animals. You can never know their moods at the time you meet them. Such guidelines were set out to avoid conflict between the gorillas and the travellers.
Wear the proper jungle clothes: The gorilla habitats have a complicated terrain comprising forests, steep and sloppy trails and shrubs and thrones. A tourist must wear a long-sleeved shirt and trousers to protect the body from insects, throne and other sharp plants. Insect repellents must be carried to avoid insect bites. A cap and raincoat should come in hand since it can rain anytime while in the forests. Hiking boots and a walking stick are also a must to manoeuvre through uneven and slippery trails.
Travel with a reputable tour company: Ensure to book your gorilla safari with a well-established company that gives a guarantee of offering a safe and great trekking experience. You are advised to visit Trip Advisor which is recommended social travel platform where you can tell a genuine and reputable tour operator by looking at the reviews of past travellers. Africa Adventure Safaris is one of the reliable gorilla safari companies which offer tailored gorilla tours to Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Choose a great lodge: Around gorilla parks, there is a chain of accommodation facilities for travellers to stay during their gorilla trekking safari. Seek advice from your local operator about the best lodge to book with. You can also individually look at the services offered by the lodges, their location and rates. Compare and contrast, then choose the one you will be comfortable with during your trip.
Ask for an easy gorilla group to trek: The elder and those that doubt their physical fitness are advised to inform the tour operator to request the park management to get them a gorilla group to trek in the nearby areas of the forests. Normally on the gorilla trekking day, the park staff look at the age and level of fitness of the travellers to allocate the gorilla groups. Most of the gorilla groups are situated in the far areas of the forest which require long-distance trekking and this could be a problem for elders and people with body impairments.