Mountain Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations – The Gorilla Trekking Etiquette – Post Covid-19 Gorilla Trekking
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Mountain Gorilla trekking rules and Regulations or the Gorilla trekking etiquette are a set of guidelines established to ensure that the Gorillas stay healthy and wild. They point to the safety and sustainability of not only the Mountain Gorillas and their habitat but also the visitors/tourists. They are simply the do’s and don’ts before, during and after Gorilla trekking. Remember Mountain Gorillas are endangered animals and so there lies a very narrow gap between their survival and extinction. This gap can unfortunately become narrower in case of any laxity in the observance and execution of these regulations by both the tourists and the responsible bodies/institutions.
Mountain Gorillas are not known to survive outside their natural habitats which are the isolated montane forests found in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. By their incredible usefulness to the survival and lives of these endangered Mountain Gorillas, they (forests) were gazetted into national parks by the governments of the respective countries where they are located. This was the first major step towards their (Mountain Gorillas) conservation and protection as their land/habitat was legitimately secured so encroachment and intrusion by humans was since then ultimately prohibited. These national parks are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mount Mgahinga Gorillas Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
For the best Gorilla Trekking Safari experience, all visitors are highly encouraged to adhere to these mandatory guidelines/regulations (below), and which are quite uniform to all the 4 national parks that shelter the Mountain Gorillas:
- Eligibility for Gorilla trekking is reserved to only individuals of 15 years and above. Proof of one’s age is by the bio data in his/her valid passport but not the physique.
- ach Gorilla family has to be visited by a maximum of 8 people per day and the search has to start strictly in the morning with no other sessions in the day. This is to minimise invasion into their privacy and stressing them which can unfortunately result into behavioural change.
- When with the Gorillas, keep a distance of 10 metres from them to minimise chances of them contracting diseases including Covid-19 from humans while at the same time letting the animals feel relaxed. Before Covid-19, the mandatory distance between the visitors and the Gorillas was 7 metres, please note. In a situation where their babies or even the adults move closer, please do not make any movements neither should you be tempted to touch one.
- Carry a pair of face masks to keep the animals safe from the Corona Virus which could have been carried by any asymptomatic human in the group. Remember visitors are supposed to have checked or vaccinated against the Corona Virus 72 hours before their visit. Nevertheless, measures should be in place to leave no space for the Gorillas to contract this virus from the visitors.
- Postpone your trip incase you find yourself with flue or cough closer to your tracking date. Since Gorillas share over 98.4% DNA as humans, chances of them contracting diseases from humans are so high and should not be given any space where they can be avoided.
- Incase an urge to cough or sneeze comes when with the Gorillas, turn your face away.
- Kindly respect the one-hour rule by all means. After finding the Gorillas, you are allowed one hour to keep following or stay with them as you take photos or asking the guide questions to understand their behaviours further. Please comply and quietly leave the animals when an hour elapses.
- You are to be taken care of by the ranger/guide incase you feel like using the toilet while in the forest. There are no established toilet facilities in the forest due to conservation concerns/regulations. Inform him/her and he will be glad to dig you a hole in a befitting place. Remember to cover the hole after use.
- Do not litter the national park/forest. Keep the garbage in your rack suck/backpack and carry it out of the forest. Littering can lead to habitat degradation which is one of the major threats to the Gorillas’ lives.
- Eating or smoking while with the Gorillas is strictly prohibited. Incase you are to munch your eats or packed lunch, inform your guide who can advise accordingly.
- ry to keep together with the rest of the group when viewing the Gorillas.
- Voices should be kept at the minimum when with the Gorillas.
- Photographing the Gorillas is allowed but with no flash lights.
- Don’t look directly into their eyes because they might mistake your gaze for aggression.
- Incase a Mountain Gorilla charges, kindly follow the guide’s advice because there is no space for running away which in any case may be interpreted otherwise. Although they are somewhat used to human presence, please always bear in mind that they are wild animals and which are never predictable.
- Avoid bright coloured clothes on the Gorilla trekking day. Atleast wear colours that blend well with the forest to avoid Gorillas approaching you inquisitively. You can hardly read what lies behind this approach neither can you predict what may happen afterwards.
- Do not wear sun glasses while with the Gorillas, it may turn out a similar case as for the bright coloured clothes.
- During the search for the Gorillas, it is healthy to ask for reasonable pace to avoid a stressful trek incase you can’t keep up with the rest of the group. However, this rarely happens as the trek moves at the pace of the slowest person in the group.
While it is to a great extent true that Mountain Gorilla Conservation, protection and survival in the wilderness largely depend on tourism or proceeds from Gorilla Trekking Tours, it is nonetheless destructive when not regulated. The regulations above are in place to ensure that tourism activities do not cause much pressure on the Gorillas’ habitat, and that the Mountain Gorillas remain wild, free of avoidable diseases, increase in their population and remain less stressed by the visitors’ presence. Fortunately, these set rules are in anyway not an inconvenience to wildlife fanciers and conservationists who wishes to find these thrilling Mountain Gorillas as wild as they were many years back, if not, wilder many generations to come.