Mountain gorillas are the leading tourist attractions to Rwanda and have played a major role in contributing to the country’s foreign exchange, increasing the incomes of the local people directly involved in the activity for example guides, porters and trackers and most importantly ensuring tourists experiences and realization of their money value especially after the mountain gorilla encounters in the jungles.
The mountain gorillas are endangered species with only about 900 mountain gorillas remaining on the planet in the Bwindi impenetrable forest in Uganda and the Virunga mountain area in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The mountain gorilla population in the Virunga volcanoes in the late early 1980’s was estimated to be around 254 but today it is estimated to be at 600 mountain gorillas and volcanoes national park blessed to have half of them. Such an increase shows that over the years, there have been several increases all thanks to the work of great zoologists like Dian Fossey who played major roles in mountain gorilla conservation as well as the Rwandan government for conservation efforts through fighting bad acts like poaching and coming up with methods like Kwita Iziina – gorilla naming ceremony that has contributed to an increase in the mountain gorilla populations.
The mountain gorilla permit is today sold at $750 for foreigners however from that money, the tourists enjoy a lot especially when they encounter the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats, 5% is taken back to the community for various social developments like constructions of schools and hospitals. Some locals like guides are also paid and the government remains with he other percentage, which is used in other developments. This shows that however much the charge maybe, every one at least benefits.
Volcanoes national park has 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups that are open for tourist visitation however only 8 tourists are allowed to track a mountain gorilla family and they are supposed to spend just an hour with them. This limitation is intended to minimize disease spreading from humans since mountain gorillas have about 95%DNA similar to humans and therefore is very vulnerable to human diseases.
The Mountain Gorilla Trekking Process
Its important to know what is entailed on the actual day of a gorilla safari in Rwanda, so that it doesnt get you by surprise. The mountain gorilla trekking process starts very early in the morning and tourists are therefore expected to be at the park headquarters early enough where they are served locally grown and made tea or coffee as they are entertained by the local dancers and then divided into groups of 8. Each group is then allocated to one gorilla family and the guide who will be leading the tourists through the jungles in the search for the unique apes. Each gorilla family always comprises of male mountain gorillas called silverbacks leading the family with females and young mountain gorillas.
The hike through the forest follows through the gently sloping thick forested and sometimes muddy trails giving tourists a real experience of an African jungle with great views of other wildlife species in the forest especially birds, butterflies, chameleons, primates and many others.
The hike before getting to the mountain gorillas varies and can range from 25 minutes to about 5 or 6 hours. After finding the trackers who always go ahead of the tourists following the trails of the mountain gorillas, tourists are instructed to put down their bags, walking sticks and remain with the cameras because here the mountain gorillas can be just within few meters or even clearly being seen by the tourists. This is the most anticipated time and many tourists do not believe they eyes as they come face to face with one of their close relatives.
Covered in dark cover with clear dark brown eyes, mountain gorillas relax in the forest as they also look back at the tourists taking their photographs. Most times the young ones keep playing around while others can be eating the leaves around them.
This is the most exciting moment and most times looking at the mountain gorilla family makes you reflect back home. Its very sensitive and unforgettable but just after an hour you are instructed to head back to the headquarters.
Tourists are however advised to keep a reasonable distance away from the gorillas to avoid being attacked. Flash photography, noise making and imitating mountain gorilla behaviors like beating the chest are strictly not allowed.
For great mountain gorilla trekking safari, tourists are advised to visit the park during the dry seasons of December to February and June to September. Tourists are however advised to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts, carry a waterproof jacket and trouser; wear gardening gloves, strong shoes or boots and a walking stick.
The waterproof jackets are emphasized because volcanoes national park is covered with dense forests and having various hills makes rainfall possibilities at any time of the year.
One can get proper and convenient accommodation at volcanoes Virunga lodge, Sabyinyo silverback lodge, Virunga lode and many others.