Rwanda is one of three locations in the world where you can find the wild mountain gorilla. The animals, which survive in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, were on the brink of extinction a mere ten years ago.
Tourists from the US, Canada and Europe have been visiting Rwanda in the tens of thousands, to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime gorilla trekking experience.
Gorilla populations have been at the mercy of civil wars, poaching and increasing human encroachment, and were affected for instance, by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
An estimated 900 mountain gorillas are divided among the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. More than half, live in the Virunga Mountains, which stretch across the borders of all three African countries while the rest live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.
Gorilla Tracking and Safaris :
In Rwanda, gorilla tracking is part of a robust tourism strategy, diversified to include bird watching, conference spaces and leisure hotel facilities for an international business community. According to digital magazine Business Destinations, in Rwanda 10 out of 19 gorilla families are “habituated” allowing tourists to get up close and personal. These groups are domiciled in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
Companies like http://www.steppestravel.co.uk/uganda argue that one of the biggest reasons to travel to Uganda is the gorilla trek to the 25,000-year old Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Ugandan gorilla tours often include the opportunity to see at least 10 other primates including chimpanzees and red-tailed monkeys.
Gorilla Conservation :
Tours are restricted to ensure the gorillas’ continued welfare. Gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases and precautions include a daily permit limit for the Volcanoes National Park, which allows only 80 visitors, in groups of eight, to visit the gorillas.
Visitors are instructed not to go on the trek if they feel unwell and to refrain from coughing and sneezing in the direction of the animals. For their own safety, tourists should stay at least seven metres away and crouch down and avoid eye contact if approached by a gorilla.
Permits cost US$750 and need to be arranged in advance. It is sometimes possible to get discounted permits in Uganda during the low season. Although tours are available all year long, the peak times when the weather is drier is from June to September and December to February.