Gorilla trekking rules explained

The gorilla trekking rules are meant to regulate how visitors interact with gorillas in the wild. They are the guidelines laid out to guide visitors on how they should conduct themselves while in the presence of gorillas. The rules are aimed at ensuring that the wellbeing of gorillas in their natural habitat is prioritised and not interfered with by the human presence.

Until recently, mountain gorillas were listed as critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is what prompted authorities and conservationists to come up with these regulations to ensure their survival and continuity in their natural habitat. The guidelines have been a success and together with other conservation efforts undertaken, the status of mountain gorillas has been updated from “critically endangered” to “endangered.” This has been as a result of the increase in their population in the previous few decades. The safety and wellbeing of visitors were also taken into consideration while designing these regulations. 

The following are the comprehensive gorilla trekking rules which are applicable all mountain gorilla trekking destinations including Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo;

  • A person must be 15 years old to undertake gorilla trekking
  • The maximum number of people per gorilla group is 8 during gorilla trekking and 4 for gorilla habituation experience.
  • Sick visitors are not allowed to visit gorillas especially those with symptoms of cold, fever, and diarrhea. According to Gorilla Doctors, gorillas share 98.5% of their DNA with humans, which make them susceptible to infectious human respiratory diseases including tuberculosis, pneumonia, common cold, and the corona virus that causes covid-19. Intestinal parasites also affect gorillas.  
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) including frequent hand- sanitizing and wearing of face masks are still emphasized at the gorilla parks.
  • Keep voices low when hiking in the forest in order not to scare away other wild animals. This will boost your chances of seeing birds, reptiles, primate species, bush duikers, and squirrels. 
  • Don’t leave any trash in the park including lunch boxes.
  • Human waste must be buried 30 centimeters under the ground.
  • Those who want to urinate or defecate in the forest should ask the rangers for help.
  • With the exception of camera or photography accessories, all gear including backpacks, must be left behind after the gorillas have been found.
  • Switch off your camera or smart flashlight before you start photographing the gorillas.
  • The maximum time to spend with the gorillas is 1 hour during gorilla trekking and 4 hours during the gorilla habituation experience.
  • A distance of 7 meters (22 feet) away from the gorillas must be maintained throughout.
  • Keep in a tight group with fellow visitors and don’t isolate yourself when viewing the gorillas.
  • Follow instructions of the rangers and trackers at all times.
  • In case the gorillas approach, don’t run or make sudden movements.
  • Take a few steps back and give way.
  • Avoid touching the gorillas no matter how close they may get.
  • Don’t look directly into the eyes of the gorilla.
  • Don’t consume food, smoke, or drink while watching the gorillas.
  • When you must sneeze or cough, turn your head away and cover your nose.
  • Gorilla trekking rules have been effective in protecting the gorillas from human disturbance.