Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations in Rwanda

The Gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Rwanda. Everything you must know while trekking gorillas in Rwanda. Rwanda, the land of a thousand Hills is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultures, and diverse wildlife, numerous outdoor adventures, but one experience stands out among the rest- Gorilla Trekking. The up-close encounter with Giant Apes as they go about their daily routines offers the opportunity to learn more about their human-like behavior.

Over 1063 mountain gorillas (according to the last Gorilla Census of 2018) are left in the whole World, and over 35% of them can be found in Rwanda. Thanks to the 12 habituated Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park, Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is generally rewarding and provides the opportunity to watch Giant Apes in their natural habitat. It is undeniable that viewing the Giant Apes in their natural habitats can be an exciting and rewarding experience- watching young gorillas jumping on tree branches, seeing female gorillas nursing their babies, or encountering a dominant silverback protecting his family members within their territory.

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations in Rwanda

While it can be tempting to try to get closer or touch the mountain gorilla, it is always best to watch them from a safe and respectful distance for your safety and that of the Giant Apes. Learning how to watch and interact with the endangered mountain gorillas will help you make the best decisions when they charge or if something else goes wrong as you are watching them.

Therefore, our articles bring you a set of gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Rwanda. Some of these rules and regulations have to be followed before departing for the gorilla trekking adventure while others apply while you are on the way to the Giant Apes, or when viewing them. Read on!

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations Before Departing for the Adventure

Be of age

The minimum age for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is 15 years and there is no maximum age as there have been cases of 80-year-old visitors trekking gorillas. Do you know why there is an age limit for gorilla tours? Well, young children aren’t able to handle the physical demands of gorilla trekking. Also, youngsters have a higher risk of catching and spreading communicable diseases such as flu and cough hence risking the lives of the mountain gorillas. Another reason why the minimum age limit is 15 years is because young children are quite unpredictable and it might be hard to know how they will respond in case mountain gorillas charge.

Make sure you are free from communicable diseases

The number one rule for gorilla trekking in Rwanda is ensuring you are healthy (especially free from communicable diseases- flu, cough, measles, Tuberculosis, or COVID) before entering the natural habitat of the mountain gorillas to search for them. It is worth noting that these Giant Apes share at least 98.2% of their DNA with humans and, hence are susceptible to these diseases, which can cause advice effects on their lives. Therefore, one way of protecting them is by ensuring that you aren’t suffering from any of the mentioned diseases before visiting them.

Ensure that your group is not more than 8 visitors

Each habituated gorilla family in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (or any other Protected Area where they are found) is visited by a maximum of 8 visitors per day. This rule was set to minimize any behavioral disturbances to the Giant Apes as well as the exposure to human-borne diseases.

Hands should be properly washed with soap and water

Another Gorilla Trekking rule and regulation in Rwanda is washing hands before venturing into the jungles to search for the Giant Apes. This also minimizes the risk of exposure to diseases.

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations on the Way to the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

Voices should be kept low during gorilla trekking

Visitors on gorilla treks are advised to always keep their voices low. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is not just a stronghold of the mountain gorillas but also a home to several bird species, and other mammals (that include primates) hence noise will scare them away. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask the guide relevant questions.

Do not throw rubbish in the mountain gorilla’s natural environment

Mountain gorillas live in a fragile natural environment and any kind of rubbish (leftover food, juice cans, and others) are likely to become breeding places for germs. For this reason, whatever you carry with you to the Forest should be taken back with you.

Keep within your group

There are instances when you will be allocated to different habituated gorilla families from your friends/or family, but you should never attempt to join another group from the one you have been allocated to. Stay in your group and avoid joining another, because even if you desire to do so, remember that only 8 visitors can trek a habituated gorilla family each day.

Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations When in The Presence of the Great Apes in Rwanda

Maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters (21 feet) away from the mountain gorillas

Gorilla viewing (which involves photography and watching/learning about their behavior) should be done at a reasonable distance (7 meters). This is done to minimize the risk of spreading diseases and minimize behavioral changes. Much as the mountain gorillas that are trekked are already fully habituated, they remain wild animals that are likely to get aggressive when in distress.

Similarly, avoid touching the mountain gorillas. Remember that they are still wild animals even when they have been habituated. In so doing, they can still charge and become aggressive when provoked. Also, touching them increases the spread of diseases from humans to the Giant Apes or vice versa.

Remain in your group

Visitors should always remain in their groups when close to the mountain gorillas. When mountain gorillas are approached, Park guide/s will inform you to get ready. In so doing, get your camera equipment ready to start taking photos and avoid unnecessary movement as it is likely to scare away the mountain gorillas into hiding.

Avoid using flash cameras during photography

Flash cameras aren’t allowed while taking photos of the Giant Apes, as they can get startled. This is likely to bring about aggressiveness or even scare them into hiding thus ruining your gorilla trekking experience. Therefore, no gorilla tour is complete without taking tons of photos but it should be done safely (with non-flash cameras).

No smoking, drinking, or eating while in the Presence of the Mountain Gorillas

Smoking, eating, and drinking when in the presence of the endangered mountain gorillas can increase the risk of food/drink particles falling hence increasing the spread of diseases to the Giant Apes. Usually, visitors are given time to have their packed lunch or snacks while on gorilla treks, and this isn’t done while in the presence of these endangered primates.

Viewing time is limited to one hour

One hour is the maximum time you can spend with the mountain gorillas (taking photos and watching them go about their daily routines). However, this time can be cut short when they become nervous or agitated.

Don’t look directly into the eyes of the mountain Gorillas

Another important gorilla trekking rule and regulation in Rwanda is avoiding direct eye contact with the Giant Apes while viewing them. These Giant Apes interpret direct eye contact as a “call for confrontation” and hence can charge and when it happens, your guide will advise you to crouch down slowly instead of running away.

Do not cough or sneeze when in the presence of the mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas are closely related to humans, which means what affects us can affect them even more. Coughing and sneezing while in their presence will spread diseases. However, sneezing is sometimes an involuntary action, and therefore if you get the urge to do so, then do it safely- by covering your mouth with a handkerchief and turning away from the mountain gorillas.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but the activity has to be done safely to protect the Giant Apes and visitors. In so doing, do not visit the mountain gorillas when sick, maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters when viewing them, maintain the allotted one hour to watch and take photos of them, and also avoid eating, drinking, and smoking while with the Great Apes.

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