Gorilla trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking in Africa

September 3, 2018
Safari Tips

Mountain gorilla trekking is a memorable experience, providing a close encounter with these giants of the forests. Gorilla Tracking can take place either in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or Republic of Congo. Permits are heavily restricted, so booking early is vital.

You need not feel that you are exploiting these animals by paying to see them in their natural habitat. In fact, tourism is an important factor in their survival. The income from permits is used to help set up and finance patrols that are instrumental in protecting the gorillas from poachers.

 How close to the gorillas do you get?

Officially,  seven  meters. It is very important that you adhere to the guidelines laid down by your guide during the pre-trek briefing. The rules are designed for the benefit of both humans and gorillas, particularly to reduce the spread of infection. Whilst it can be difficult to keep to this distance (the gorillas have never been told of this particular rule), please be aware of your guide’s comments and follow these to the letter.

The gorillas are usually spread out in the forest, sometimes out in the open, other times hiding in the shadows, so you may only catch glimpses of them. You may be very lucky and see them all out in the open. Generally, you will have a full hour with the group, although a few extended permits are now available – ask our experts to explain how this works.

Gorillas are the largest of the primates, with two species, the western gorilla and eastern gorilla. These are then divided into four sub-species; western lowland gorilla, eastern lowland gorilla (also known as Grauer’s gorilla), mountain gorilla and Cross River gorilla.

Eastern lowland gorilla (Grauer’s gorilla):

  • Population: 2,000-5,000 v
  • Features: largest and stockiest of all gorillas. Longer faces and broader chests with darker hair
  • Description: Males weigh on average 163kg (359lbs) and have a standing height of 1.69m (5ft 7ins) whilst females are slightly shorter at 1.58m (5ft 3ins) and are half the weight of the males
  • Found: Forests of DRC to the west of Mitumbar Mountains and Lake Tanganyika
  • Threats: poaching, bush meat and logging

Mountain Gorilla 

  • Population: less than 900
  • Features: longest and thickest hair for warmth in colder, higher altitudes, generally very shy creatures
  • Description: Males can weigh up to 195kg (430lbs) and can stand at 1.5m (4ft 11ins) whilst females are about half that weight and stand at 1.3m (4ft 3ins)
  • Found: Mountains of Virunga straddling Rwanda and DRC and southern Uganda (Bwindi)
  • Threats: mountain gorillas are currently on the Critically Endangered IUCN Red List.

Western Gorilla 

  • Population: uncertain – less than 95,000
  • Features: smallest of all the gorillas, with bigger skulls and pronounced brow bridges. They have the shortest hair and longest arms
  • Description: Adult males have brown-grey/auburn hair on their foreheads and weigh around 157kg (345lbs) and can stand at 1.55m (5ft 2ins) whilst females are around 1.35m (4ft 6ins) and again around half the weight of a male.
  • Found: forests of northern Republic of Congo, CAR, DRC, Gabon and southern Cameroon

Cross River Gorilla 

  • Population: 200-300
  • Features: similar to western lowland gorillas in body size. Smaller cranium vault and shorter skulls
  • Description: Average adult male height: 1.7m. (5ft 7ins) weighing in at 140-200kg (310-440lbs). Females are about 0.3m (1ft) shorter and half the weight
  • Found: a small area between the southern border of Cameroon and Nigeria at the headwaters of the Cross River from where they take their name


With broad chests and shoulders, large, human-like hands and small eyes set into hairless faces, gorillas display many human-like behaviours and emotions, such as laughter and sadness and even make their own tools to help them survive in the forest. In fact, gorillas share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos.

Why Mountain Gorilla tracking in Uganda and not any other Place?

A mountain gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $700 compared to $1500 in Rwanda,  that makes it cheaper to track in Uganda than in Rwanda. It is a bit cheaper in DRC but the stability of DRC is never predictable so that leaves Uganda as the best place to track the endangered Gorillas.

Uganda has four Mountain gorilla trekking points for the Gorillas spread out in Bwindi national park while Rwanda has one national park with Gorillas and that makes the place a bit competitive for the trackers.

You have high changes of viewing other game while tracking gorillas in Uganda like forest bird, goldens monkeys in Mgahinga, Forest Elephants etc.

Therefore if you are thinking Mountain gorilla tracking? Think Uganda and have an experience of a life time.




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