Mountain Gorillas is one of the most endangered species of Apes found in the misty jungles of Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo and Mgahinga National Park / Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. A wide variety of gorilla tours organized by many tour operators to those destinations for those who want to see this endangered species in their natural setting. The fact that the gorillas are found in the misty forested mountains, the trek is quite strenuous and can take 2-7 hours depending on how the gorillas move to look for food. However, the thrill of encountering these GENTLE GIANTS in their natural habitat is worth the effort.
According to Mr. Paul Basudde, a Tour Consultant in East Africa, it is hard to predict the length or the degree of difficulty of the actual hike from the road to the Gorillas because the Gorillas move freely in their natural habitat. One must possess a gorilla permit to be allowed on the trek, this costs US$750 in Rwanda and US$600 in Uganda and must be reserved in advance because their demand is high throughout the year. Some people think the fee for the Gorilla Permit is high but the money goes to preserving the habitat as well as the Gorillas themselves. Part of the money goes to local communities to give the locals a sense of the ongoing economic value of the Gorillas. There are trackers who regularly report the location of each mountain Gorilla family group as well as twenty-four-hour armed guards for each Gorilla group.
During gorilla trekking, each gorilla group is visited by a maximum of eight tourists per day, and a maximum of One hour (60 Minutes) is allowed with gorillas to enjoy the playing and feeding. The group we visited had been lounging and observing the people who were observing them until the guide announced that the one hour visit was over. Upon this announcement the Gorillas all got up and departed.
There are also stories, probably true, of Gorillas deactivating snares set by hunters and poachers. One story was of a Gorilla intervening to keep a human from stepping into a snare.
Overall it was an incredible experience and money well spent to make the trip and support the preservation of the Gorillas as well as contribute to the economy of this beautiful but crowded country.
One additional memorable observation was that Rwanda is the cleanest place I have ever seen, setting the bar very high for the rest of the world. Plastic bags are not allowed in the country and one day of each month is designated for community service which includes picking up litter (if any can be found.)
We were on a 4 day Rwanda gorilla trekking adventure and told our driver we were interested in a medium effort hike and he arranged for us to be placed in the Agasha group 13. The hike was about 45 min through farm fields and 45 min in the bush, relatively easy with only a slight grade to find the group. We lucked out with sunny dry skies. We hired a porter for $10 US to carry our day pack, porters can also help you along if needed, but more importantly, this gives jobs to local men. Although the porters don’t go to see the gorillas, they stay with the backpacks just before see you the gorilla group.
For sure, we liked the long hike to the Amahoro Group so much though it did not change my plan to see a different group the next day and followed the Susa Group. This was partly because there are so many gorillas in that group, partly because the types of people who head for the Susa Group are so cool, and partly because I discovered that the long hike up Mt Karisimbi is an especially beautiful and varied one!
We went through 5-6 different kinds of terrain before we got to the Susa Group. As well, the group was in a noticeably different location and behaved quite differently the second day (probably, in part, because it was especially sunny that day).