Frontiers of Travel Articles
Tracking to see a group of mountain gorillas in the wild mountains of central Africa is arguably the most exhilarating and unique wildlife experience on earth. These fascinating and intelligent primates are highly endangered with their populations restricted to two small areas – Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Uganda and the rainforests of the Virunga Mountains on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. The gorillas live in highly social family groups, led by a dominant silverback male. Some of these groups have been habituated to human contact, allowing tourists to visit and observe them in their natural habitat.
The gorilla tracking program is an excellent and successful example of ecotourism benefitting conservation. It’s been estimated that each habituated family group will earn over $40m over the course of its lifetime, money which is used to protect its habitat and guard against poachers. A recent census has found that gorillas numbers have increased significantly in the last 30 years – 480 now live in the Virungas in 36 groups (almost double that of 1980) along with 300 in Bwindi.
Permits to track the mountain gorillas are strictly limited to 8 per day per habituated group. They cost approximately $500 and must be obtained in advance. Sightings can never be 100% guaranteed but in reality there is an excellent chance of finding the groups as their locations are constantly tracked. Reaching the gorillas requires a trek of between one and five hours through thick undergrowth, which can be tricky in wet conditions. The reward is most definitely worth it however as you get to spend one hour observing these fascinating and gentle creatures up close, a truly unforgettable experience.
|Volcanoes National Park|
The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda's premier tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas being one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas (the other is Bwindi National Park in Uganda). It was here that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film 'Gorillas in the Mist'. The opportunity to trek to a gorilla family and spend an hour in close proximity observing these remarkable creatures is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences on Earth. Currently seven of the park's gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day. The park is also home to 75 other mammal species including elephant, buffalo and the endangered endemic Golden Monkey, a troop of which has also been habituated and can be tracked in the bamboo forests on the lower volcano slopes.
Travel to Mountain Gorillas
Extraordinary BBC documentary documenting the struggle for survival of mountain gorilla groups the mountains of Uganda and Rwanda.
|Gorillas in the Mist
Biopic about the famous primatologist Dian Fossey who studied the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and fought to protect them from poachers.
|Information and archive footage of the mountain gorilla||Learn about and support conservation efforts to protect the mountain gorilla|