Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Africa

The sheer size of mountain gorillas – especially the male silverback – is enough to engender awe, but the first thing you’ll probably notice when you come face to face with these astonishing primates is their intelligence and lack of fear. Unlike other wild animals, which are naturally cautious in the presence of humans, gorillas, along with chimpanzees, have no such fear.

An encounter with mountain gorillas is a humbling experience, one of the best you’ll ever have with mammals in the wild


Assuming you are being hosted by a local company whilst in Uganda or Rwanda, you will be transferred from your overnight accommodation to the park headquarters for 07h00 registration. Here you will be assigned your gorilla group (your guide can sometimes have a hand in this if you want to trek a particular group, but which gorilla group you trek to see can only ever be arranged on the morning of the trekking and not in advance) and will be given a briefing by the park guide. Usually no more than eight people will be assigned to any individual gorilla family. You will then drive (or in some cases walk) to the area where your assigned gorilla family live, and begin tracking. Porters can be hired to carry your day pack and walking sticks are usually available locally. Walking to locate the gorillas can take anything between 30 minutes and 7 hours – nothing is guaranteed!

Park rangers usually enter the forest at first light to find the previous nights sleeping place of the gorillas and track them from there, which they then communicate to your guide by radio. Once you catch up with the gorillas (never 100% guaranteed) you are allowed one hour with them. There are strict rules of behaviour, such as not using flash photography or approaching too close. However, the gorillas themselves do not understand the rules and sometimes wander right next to you – seeing a powerful silverback close up is an exhilarating experience!

When your hour is up you retreat out of the forest and return to your hotel, usually arriving back in time for a late lunch. The average amount of time trekking is probably 4-5 hours, but it can be much longer.


  • Consider spending at least two separate days visiting the gorillas. You only get one hour with them on any given day (which equates to one permit) so giving yourself two opportunities will not only double your chances of having an incredible encounter, but will also give you the chance to witness a wider variety of gorilla individuals and behaviour. The weather in the area is inclement so having an extra opportunity also helps if your first trek is wet.
  • Take a pair of gardening gloves to wear when trekking through thick vegetation – it enables you to grab hold of vegetation as required without worry of insects, nettles or thorns.
  • You are not allowed to track gorillas if you have an ailment such as a cold, cough, fever, flu etc.
  • Flash photography is forbidden.
  • A limited number of gorilla permits are available each day, for high season it is necessary to book well in advance.
  • You must be 15 years or older to undertake gorilla tracking in either Uganda or Rwanda.
Gorilla tracking is available all year round, though conditions are arguably a little dryer and more pleasant from January to March and then from June to September.