The mountain gorilla Populations can be found in Uganda—Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks, Rwanda-volcanoes national park, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Virunga national park. The number of mountain gorillas is estimated to be around 780 however, their exact number is not known because they inhabit some of the densest and remote rainforests in Africa. Significant populations still exist, including in isolated forests of Bwindi.
Mountain gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly larger size; their fur is thicker and longer. They also have more pronounced bony crests on the top and back of their skulls, giving their heads a more conical shape. Large numbers have not protected the mountain gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years. Even if all of the threats to mountain gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years recovering.
It is the mountain Gorilla that occurs in volcanoes national park and is found here at the highest densities so far recorded for the species. In the area of Karisimbi and Sabinyo Gorillas live in groups ranging in size from 10 to 25 individuals, usually with one silverback, maybe 5-7 adult females, and then a collection of sub-adults, babies, and sometimes subordinate males. Movements within the home range depending on the seasonal utilization of key food types. Staple foods for example include leaves, shoots, and plant material, but the seasonal availability of fruit is crucial in the diet and influences group foraging movements. Born at 2kg (4.5lbs), female mountain Gorillas will grow to around 220 lbs in weight, while the much larger males might reach 195 kg (430 lbs) and stand (6 ft) in height.
Gorilla tracking in Rwanda
Mountain Gorillas can be observed in volcanoes national park through tracking habituated groups using the impressive skills of our expert local trackers. As a result of the work done by gorilla researcher Diany Fossey, a number of habituated groups can be tracked and observed in the area around Volcanoes. There are 10 habituated groups including Sabyinyo Group, Agashya Group, Amahoro Group, Umubano Group, Susa Group, Karisimbi Group, Hirwa Group, Kwitonda Group, Bwenge Group and Ugende Group. 9 of these groups are usually accessed by our guests while the 10th is used primarily for research purposes. A wide variety of budget gorilla tours available starting from 1-day gorilla trek from Kigali to as many as you want to depend on your budget and time. Tracking expeditions start as early as 8 am through the thick undergrowth and including the time spent with a gorilla group, excursions can last between 2 to 5 hours.
Gorilla Tracking Rules
- The minimum age for gorilla viewing is 15 years – this is for reasons of safety but also for possible disease transmission, with children under this age more prone to infection.
- The maximum proximity to gorillas is 7 meters (22 feet). It is not permitted to approach more closely and we typically view the animals at 10-15m (32-50 feet).
- The maximum viewing duration of any group is 1 hour per day. Each group is only visited once per day, but if guests would like to spend more than an hour with gorillas on a particular day and time allows it is possible to track a different group following the first encounter.
- The maximum number of guests per gorilla tracking excursion is 6.
- Guests that display cold, flu, or other respiratory tract symptoms will not be allowed to track gorillas.
- No food is permitted on gorilla tracking excursions, nor is smoking allowed. Handwashing facilities are provided at the starting point prior to gorilla tracking.
- While gorilla sightings and encounters are very reliable, viewing is dependent on variables such as weather and track conditions.
Among the credible tour companies through which you can book a gorilla safari of your budget include Lets Go Tours Rwanda Ltd, Gorilla Trek Africa, Experience Uganda Safaris, Gorilla Expeditions Limited, Go Gorilla Trekking and Volcanoes Safaris among others.