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Gorilla Trekking Rules Uganda, Rwanda, Congo

While planning your gorilla trekking adventure safari to Uganda, Rwanda or Congo, here are some of the guidelines, rules and regulations you need to know. The Regulations are the same for all the three destinations as set by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board.
Gorilla trekking is typically a day activity which lasts between 1-8 hours depending on the movement of the gorillas in the forest, how far their last known location is from trekking start point, the energy speed  and skill of the trekkers. You are allowed a maximum of 1 hour with the gorillas  once you meet them, below are some of the Rules you need to know before your gorilla trek.

Before departing on your gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking tour

As gorillas are wild animals, Gorillas have to be habituated before humans can come to contact with them. Each country has its own number of habituated gorilla families for tourist to visit i.e Uganda has 12 habituated Gorilla families, while Rwanda has 7 habituated Gorilla families.  In order to minimize behavioral disturbance and risk of exposure to human-borne diseases, a maximum of 8 visitors is allowed to visit a gorilla group per day. The Gorilla families are allocated at random during the briefing before the start of the trek. However special treatment may be given to the sick and elderly such that they track the nearest gorilla families.
Make sure you wash your hand before going into the forest to track the mountain Gorillas.

During the Gorilla trek in the national park

Endeavor to keep your voices as low as possible. This will enable you observe the birds, butterflies and  other wildlife living in the tropical rainforests.
DO NOT litter the national park with rubbish. Ensure that whatever you carry into the forest, you leave with it.
The gorilla trek starts from where the Gorillas spent the previous night. Ensure that you learn about the gorilla’s nesting behaviors.
You will be alerted by the ranger guide as you close in on the mountain Gorillas.

When you are with the gorillas

You should always maintain a 7 meter (21 feet) distance between you and the Gorillas. Coming too close to the Gorillas will startle them.
You should stay so close to the members of your trekking party when near the mountain Gorillas.
Make sure you keep your voices as low as possible, but endeavor to ask the ranger guide any questions you may have.
Do not Drink, eat or even smoke while in close proximity with the gorillas. This is enforced to ensure that not only do you avoid leaving droplets of food or drinks which may lead to transmission of human-borne diseases, but also not attract the attention of the Gorillas..
Move slowly and carefully, it is not advisable to point or wave your arms.
Never attempt to touch the gorillas as they are wild animals.
Sometimes the gorillas charge. Don’t panic, just follow your ranger guide’s example: crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes; wait for the animals to pass. Never attempt to run away.
The Gorillas are black animals in dim light so use the right camera settings. Flash photography is not allowed under any circumstances.
The maximum time you can spend with the mountain Gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may decide to finish the visit early. This is for your safety and for the safety of the gorillas.
After the trek, you may become excited! but please keep your voices down until you are atleast 200 meters away from the gorillas.

Gorilla trekking safaris and General Health Precautions

Gorillas share over 90% of their DNA with humans, this makes them very vulnerable and susceptible to human diseases. Below are some of the rules you should follow to minimize the health risks you might expose the gorillas.
Respect the limits imposed on the daily number of tourists allowed with the mountain gorillas. These limits limit the risk of disease spread and stress to the group.
If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. Another gorilla trekking opportunity will be organized for you, or you will be refunded the cost of your gorilla trekking permit.
In case you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are next to the mountain gorillas, please turn your head away and cover up your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
You should always maintain a 7 meter (21 feet) distance between you and the Gorillas. Coming too close to the Gorillas will startle them.
Do not leave any rubbish (such as food wrappers or drink bottles) in the forest; foreign items can harbor diseases.
If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the ranger guide to dig you a hole. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep. Please ensure the hole is filled after you are finished.

What to bring on your gorilla trekking safari

Wear comfortable hiking shoes with good grip, suitable for climbing steep mud-covered slopes.
Carry a packed lunch and ample drinking water.
The weather conditions can be unpredictable so carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion and a hat.
Wear or pack insect repellent
Bring binoculars – or hire a pair from the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park.
Bring spare batteries and an extra memory card for your digital camera. Using your camera flashlight is not permitted. If you are photographing using film, we recommend using 400-800 ASA film.

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