Some might understandably have qualms about the mountain gorillas themselves. A silverback can weigh around 150 kg, after all! But mountain gorillas are, in fact, gentle giants. Some might even be surprised to learn that they’re vegetarian. They have no interest in messing with humans.
Further, the gorilla troops that visitors trek to see are habituated gorillas, which means they’re gorillas who’ve become accustomed to the presence of humans. 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.
A silverback gorilla
It is important to always listen to your ranger and stay with the group while trekking. Be calm and do not raise your voice. If a gorilla comes close, remain submissive and do not look them in the eye as this is a challenge. 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.
The forest trek is safe
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 short hike. Hikes range from about half an hour to three or four hours. There are no overnight hikes.
Trekking to see the mountain gorillas
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.
Aside from the usual dangers accompanying any hike in nature, the trek is safe. (Read our Ultimate guide on what to pack for gorilla trekking to know what clothing to bring for the trek.) The parks are well patrolled, and every trek group is led by an experienced trek guide, who has your safety as a top priority. Also, there are no large predatory animals in the parks.
Happy guides and travellers on a gorilla trek in Uganda.
You are certainly NOT safe from getting very muddy on a gorilla trek, as these Follow Alice trekkers quickly learned!
Uganda and Rwanda are pretty 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 be able to say that Rwanda and Uganda are relatively stable countries with thriving tourism industries. You can also see mountain gorillas in the DRC, but we don't recommend that as a destination right now.
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.
Both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda are well-run parks. Visitor safety is a top priority at both parks, and experienced trek guides always accompany every gorilla trekking party.
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.