6. Try and shoot video
You’ll be desperate to get great pics of the gorillas to show friends back home how close you came to these amazing animals. But think about shooting video too. It’s fairly easy video to shoot – you’re close to the gorillas and they don’t move as fast as say, lions. You’ll be glad that you shot a video of this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
7. Practice gorilla etiquette
Don’t forget that you’re encountering mountain gorillas in their habitat – this is not a zoo experience. Respect them, their environment and their behavior and know that you’re a guest in their world. Having said that, don’t worry about being attacked! Gorillas are not as aggressive as popular culture has made them out to be. While they’re huge (silverbacks can be over 200 kgs) and powerful, gorillas on the whole are gentle and shy creatures. There has never been an incident of a habituated gorilla attacking a tourist. These habituated groups see tourists every single day, so they’re pretty used to us.
Your tracking guide will tell you more about how to behave when you’re in the presence of gorillas but here are some things to keep in mind:
When you approach gorillas, and while you’re around them, make a grunting sound (your guide will show you how) to reassure them that you are a friend. They may even communicate with you!
Don’t stare straight into gorillas’ eyes – this can be seen to be aggressive.
Don’t ever run from a gorilla – if one approaches you just act submissive and crouch down.
Don’t go gorilla tracking if you’re sick – gorillas are susceptible to human illnesses, and if one gorilla in the group catches flu from you, then the entire group could die.
If you sneeze or cough, turn your head away from the gorillas so as not to spread your germs.
Don’t eat or drink in front of gorillas.
You get very close to the gorillas – within a few metres. Don’t push this though – don’t try and get too close.
Coming face-to-face with a silverback mountain gorilla in Rwanda
8. Go gorilla tracking in dry season
While you can go gorilla tracking in Rwanda year-round, the best time to go is in the dry season, which is from June to September. During the dry season, the ground is drier and dirt roads more accessible. I went in August, and while it didn’t rain hard, it did rain every day and the hiking paths were muddy and slippery. I can imagine that during rainy season it’s much more challenging to hike in the Volcanoes National Park.
9. Make the most of your one hour
You are only allowed one hour with gorillas. This is so that gorilla groups don’t get stressed by too much contact with tourists (to be honest, more than an hour with a bunch of ogling camera-toting tourists would be enough for me, too). Make the most of the hour! It goes by so fast – it really was the shortest hour of my life. While you’ll want to take a thousand photos and shoot video, you also need to take time to just appreciate being in the presence of these animals, without viewing them through your camera.
Apparently, somehow gorillas know when their hour with you is up and they can start changing their behavior. We were very close to a silverback as our hour had almost ended, and I definitely got a feeling from him that he knew it was up – he plunked himself down on a thicket of nettles, crossed his arms, and looked at us slightly grumpily as if to say ‘Ok, you’ve had your hour of taking photos, now it’s time for you to leave so I can nap in peace.’
10. Read/watch Gorillas in the Mist before you go
The week before I left for Rwanda I rented Gorillas in the Mist, about Dian Fossey’s experience of living with and studying mountain gorillas in the DRC and Rwanda. The film was shot in Rwanda, so you can excited for the beautiful landscapes before you arrive in the country, and get extremely excited about being able to see mountain gorillas (although don’t expect them to hold your hand like they do in the movie with Dian). I wish I had also read Gorillas in the Mist before I’d gone on my gorilla tracking trip – I only read it after my return – it’s a fascinating account of mountain gorillas, with so much more interesting information about Dian Fossey’s studies than the movie.
From the above discussion, you are now ready to successfully take a gorilla tour, you can organize a budget gorilla safari in Uganda or Rwanda online, very many tour packages available online, you can choose a suitable one depending on your interests, time and budget. Wish you the best!