Gorillas seen while gorilla trekking in Uganda

Is gorilla trekking safe?

Aug 10, 2021

Gorilla trekking is a safe enterprise, so long as you follow a few basic rules and listen to your trek guide. We introduce you to the safety guidelines for gorilla trekking to give you peace of mind about this extraordinary adventure.

Gorilla trekking is a phenomenal experience that we cannot recommend enough! Especially since it's actually really safe. Mountain gorillas – though extremely large and powerful – are actually gentle giants. They're not interested in hurting humans. Moreover, the troops that folks visit on gorilla treks are habituated, which means they're used to being around humans.

There are of course some fairly commonsensical rules that you should obey on a gorilla trek to ensure your safety as well as the well-being of the gorillas. And your gorilla trek guide is the person to look to if you're ever uncertain about what to do (or not do). He or she is there to protect you and knows the visited troop well.

But first, we think you'll enjoy our video showcasing the mountain gorillas and their beautiful forest habitat ...

 

Mountain gorillas are gentle giants

Some might understandably have qualms about the mountain gorillas themselves. A silverback can weigh around 150 to 180 kg, after all! But while mountain gorillas are extremely powerful (especially the fully grown males), they're quite gentle by nature. They're even vegetarians (predominantly, at least). So while gorillas will defend themselves if attacked, they're not aggressive creatures. And they have no interest in messing with humans.  

Gorilla trekking in Uganda Mgahinga National Park

A silverback gorillas are males

You visit habituated gorillas

Further enhancing everyone's safety is the fact that the gorilla troops you visit on a trek are habituated. This means they've undergone a long process of slowly becoming accustomed to the presence of humans. They're therefore less likely to become alarmed and agitated by your presence.

Man taking a photo of a seated mountain gorilla

The gorillas you visit are used to being around humans

You trek with a trained guide

Moreover, when you go on a gorilla trek you go in the company of a trained guide. Such men and women know the gorilla troops being visited, and know what can and cannot be done.

It is important to always listen to your ranger and stay with the group while trekking. Listen to what you're told to do and not do. Poking a silverback’s stomach, for instance, is not allowed. 😉 But if you follow the rules of your trek guide and act with common sense, you’re perfectly safe visiting the gorillas. 

gorilla trek in Uganda

You certainly are NOT safe from getting very muddy on a gorilla trek, as these Follow Alice trekkers quickly learned!

Gorilla trekking safety guidelines

Obviously there are rules to follow when observing the gorillas that are geared towards not angering, frightening or in any other way upsetting the gorillas. Here are some simple guidelines to follow when in the presence of mountain gorillas to further ensure everything goes smoothly:

  • Don't use flash photography, as this could startle them.
  • Only stand as close to the primates as the trek guide says you can (which is usually no closer than three metres).
  • Don't make sudden movements or loud noises as these could alarm the gorillas.
  • Don't wear bright or neon colours, and don't wear strong cologne or perfume.
  • If a gorilla comes close, remain submissive and do not look them in the eye, as this is interpreted as a challenge.
Gorilla troop

It's a real treat to watch the gorillas interact with one another

The forest trek is safe, but tough

Mountain gorillas live in montane forest, which means you have to walk along forest trails to find them. A gorilla trek is all about seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat, after all. 

Every forest trek varies in length and difficulty depending on a few factors, like which park you visit, the weather, and the particular gorilla troop you’ve been assigned (troops’ locations are monitored by park rangers and each trek group is assigned a specific troop to visit). Generally speaking, visitors can ask to be assigned a troop near or far from the starting point. The less fit, for example, may wish to have shorter hike. Hikes range from about half an hour to three or four hours. There are no overnight hikes.  

gorilla trek through jungle

You trek through dense jungle to reach the gorilla troop

At Follow Alice we usually opt for the longer trek, as the trek itself is part of the fun. This is because you’re walking through beautiful, remote and well-preserved indigenous forest. We love the towering trees, ancient ferns, overgrown bush, energetic streams, butterflies, bird calls … all of it! It’s a hike that’s special and rewarding even if there were no mountain gorillas in the mix.

You need to be prepared

Probably the biggest 'danger' on a gorilla trek is to do with navigating the mountainous and forested terrain. You often walk along narrow or even non-existent trails. As we discuss in our Ultimate guide of what to pack for a gorilla trek, you should cover up your arms and legs to avoid being scratched (or bitten by insects). You should also wear thick gloves as you'll likely want to hold onto some vegetation for leverage, but there can be thorns.

Gorilla trekkers in Uganda

A gorilla trek group getting ready to start the adventure!

Further, note that the route you walk is likely to be steep in places, as well as muddy and slippery. So you want hiking boots with good grip. And you might also consider bringing along trekking poles or a walking stick, as many others do.

Finally, it can be really cold in the early morning, as well as hot at midday when the there's no cloud cover. And it often rains, as you're in rainforest after all! So you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather, having warm layers, a waterproof shell, and sunscreen and a sunhat.

Gorilla trekkers by a muddy stream in the forest

Trekking to see the mountain gorillas

Uganda and Rwanda are stable countries

We regularly travel in both Rwanda and Uganda, the two main countries where visitors head to go gorilla trekking. And we're pleased to say that Rwanda and Uganda are relatively stable countries with thriving tourism industries. They're among the safest African nations to visit.

The locals in both countries are warm and welcoming towards visitors.

Well-run national parks

Moreover, the parks where the mountain gorillas live – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – are particularly well maintained and patrolled. Visitor safety is a top priority at both parks, and experienced trek guides always accompany every gorilla trekking party. So you're in one of the safest spots of each country when you go gorilla trekking.

You can also see mountain gorillas in the DRC, but we don't recommend that as a destination right now.

We also recommend travelling with a local tour guide to further ensure your safety. No matter where you go in the world, having a local look after you is always a great idea, as they know the culture, environment, people and wildlife of the place.

Dan and happy group in Kampala, Uganda

Dan is our Uganda local leader and he and his team ensure you're safe and looked after at all times

Uganda had some election violence in early 2021 that had us all taking notice, but it was very localised to certain urban areas and didn't affect the majority of the country. Things seem to have quietened down again since then. Our man on the ground, Dan, always keeps us informed of all developments, and he and his fellow Uganda guides are happy and confident with the current situation to take visitors all around Uganda.

A safe, but exciting, adventure!

So yes, gorilla trekking is a safe adventure holiday and we recommend you gather together some friends or loved ones and come on over for an experience you'll never forget!

And as always, please feel free to chat through any questions or concerns with us. we're more than happy to email, WhatsApp, set up a Skype date ... you name it.

 

Contact

+44 20 3289 2088

+1 (785) 859-4930

travel@followalice.com

Chat to us

 

Follow Alice Ltd

207 Regent Street

London, W1B 3HH

United Kingdom

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

PO Box 1923, Moshi

Tanzania

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD is registered in Tanzania and holds all the necessary licences to run Kilimanjaro climbs and safaris.

 

Our Credentials

Follow Alice is rated 5/5 stars across all major platforms

We are an approved partner company with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project

 

 

International Mountain Explorers Connection – IMEC – Partner for Responsible Travel Program.

 

Copyright Follow Alice LTD. 2021, registration number 10374382 (England & Wales)