If your bucket list for 2019 includes seeing the mountain gorillas, here’s a few quick pointers to help your planning:
Choose your destination.
Mountain gorilla-trekking locations are Uganda’s Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks, Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans and, for the more adventurous, the Parc National des Virungas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (check latest information at time of booking to see if it is open when you are travelling).
To protect the animals, trekking opportunities are limited. In Uganda, for example, there are seventeen habituated groups and each may be visited by just one party of eight trekkers each day. One additional family has been set aside for the Gorilla Habituation Programme, which hosts a maximum of four trekkers. Anyone wishing to join a trek must obtain a permit from the relevant wildlife authority (either in person or through a tour operator). Permits allow access on specific dates and are usually booked up many months in advance.
Get your permit first.
Some people book their accommodation first, then their gorilla permit, only to find the two might be far apart. Once you have your permit, it is easier to find a lodge closer to your trail.
Get in shape.
A typical gorilla trek lasts at least four hours and takes you through steep and humid forested terrain choked with dense vegetation.
Enjoy the journey.
Your ‘audience’ will last no more than an hour. But remember that gorilla sightings are never guaranteed, so make sure you appreciate the trek for its own sake.