Spending time with gorillas in the wild is the greatest wildlife encounter on Earth according to David Attenbrough. Who are we to argue with the great maestro himself?
Mountain gorillas are found in the forest-cloaked Virunga Mountains, which straddle the border between Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. With a number of Mountain gorilla families habituated in this national park, and dedicated trackers keeping a close eye on their every movement, once you have your permit you are guaranteed to spend an hour with these precious primates.
The price of thes gorilla tracking permits may seem high, but the revenue they generate is used for the conservation of the forests these gentle giants inhabit, as well as for the protection of the gorillas themselves. Anyone visiting these parks is, by definition, ensuring the survival of these magnificent creatures.
Code of Conduct for visiting Mountain Gorillas
1. Minimum distance you should keep from any gorilla group is 7 metres. This is to prevent the transmission of airborne diseases that can travel considerable distances.
2. No visit will be longer than one hour from first sighting of the animals. The longer the viewing time the greater the exposure to human diseases.
3. No food can be taken with you when visiting gorillas. If food is taken then it should be eaten a minimum of 5 minutes walk from the gorilla group and all remains must be removed from the park. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, to prevent the attraction to, and conditioning by human food, secondly disease from humans can live on these food remains.
4. Make sure you go to the toilet before starting your gorilla trek. If you need the toilet whilst in the forest, you must dig a hole of at least 0.5m (2ft) deep and treat the faeces with antiseptic solution before filling the hole. This is to avoid the contamination of human germs. Gorillas are known to eat faeces and soil, so the precautions are strictly enforced.
5. Don't leave any litter. Absolutely nothing must be left including biodegradable litter. This is to preserve the ecology of the park and to avoid the spread of diseases.
6. If you are sick you cannot visit the gorillas. This is to prevent exposing the gorillas to human diseases that they may not have any resistance to.