When considering visiting gorillas in Rwanda and Congo in Africa, a question of safety inevitably comes in your mind. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Congo is considered to be the leading tourist activity in Africa safe and with security of those intending to trek gorillas. In Africa, there are two populations of mountain gorillas. One is found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, within three National Parks, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the south-western Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in north-west Rwanda and Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The other is found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Democratic Republic of Congo is home to mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. The country has both lowland and mountain gorillas and this makes Congo one of the popular gorilla trekking destinations in Africa. Because it is now safe to trek mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, this year the park attracted a good number of tourists who go for Congo gorilla trekking with and Mount Nyiragongo Hiking tours. The gorilla permit costs US$400 which is cheaper than in the other two countries and Nyiragongo permit cost US$300.
As of September 2016, the estimated number of gorillas remaining is fewer than 880. To a mountain gorilla, there are no political boundaries, the concentration of their species lies in a section of rain forest the encompasses Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. So gorilla trekking is generally safe but, how safe is it go to the countries where gorilla trekking takes place.
Both Rwanda and Congo, gorilla trekkers are escorted by armed guides and tourism police to ensure safety and security of tourists and also to make sure that wild animals trying to be hostile are scared away although such cases are rare. Instances where tourists require waking up early driving to the starting point of gorillas; they are escorted to ensure that nothing happens to them
Mountain gorilla trekking is a safe activity in both countries, only habituated gorilla families are the ones that are safe to be visited by tourists. Habituation takes 2-3 years followed by a mock exercise before it is opened to tourists. That is why you are given a maximum of one hour to watch and observe these gentle apes. And if tourists follow instructions from their guides or rangers, then there should not be any problem.
The Park manages the gorilla tracking in a very professional, ethical, and educational manner. From the moment you arrive at the Park Headquarters everything unfolds smoothly as visitors with permits are put into hiking groups of no more than eight and assigned to guides. The gorilla families on the mountain are classified into tourist families, research families, and wild families so only a very few habituated families are visited by tourists. After a short drive to the trail head, and a hike up the steep slopes of the park which can be for a few or many hours, the assigned family is reached.
The families have been located each morning by park ranger who then communicates with the guides so that one is nearly always guaranteed a sighting. Once located one magical hour is spend observing the family under the close supervision of the guides. It is absolutely one of the most amazing wildlife encounters one could have.
The trek up the Virunga Mountain is a wonderful and unique experience. The trek takes 2 to 8 hours depending on where the family has been located. The anticipation of seeing the silver back makes the trek very easy. It’s recommended to wear hiking boots, full sleeved T-shirt & a good pair of leather gloves to protect you from a possible brush with stinging nettles along the way. A rain coat will be useful to carry. An hour in the midst of the gorilla family is an absolutely brilliant & a bucket list experience.
The trek back will take about the same time. People with health problems should trust that the beauty of the mountain the purity of the nature and the hospitality of the gorillas will miraculously cure you of any ache of pain. Rwanda is a beautiful country also called a Land of a thousand mountains.
To some it all, gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park is safe and can be enjoyed by any traveler intending to visit mountain gorillas at any time of the year. The opportunity to trek mountain gorillas within rain forest is a once in a lifetime adventure and is one of the wildlife experiences in Africa.