Gorilla tracking in Africa

Gorilla trekking is a memorable experience, providing a close encounter with these giants of the forests, in their natural habitat.

Gorilla tracking in Africa

Gorilla tracking in Africa is a memorable experience, providing a close encounter with these giants of the forests, in their natural habitat. Trekking can take place either in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or Republic of Congo. Permits are heavily restricted, so booking early is vital.

You need not feel that you are exploiting these animals by paying to see them in their natural habitat. In fact, tourism is an important factor in their survival. The income from permits is used to help set up and finance patrols that are instrumental in protecting the gorillas from poachers.

How close to the gorillas do you get?

Officially, seven meters. It is very important that you adhere to the guidelines laid down by your guide during the pre-trek briefing. The rules are designed for the benefit of both humans and gorillas, particularly to reduce the spread of infection. Whilst it can be difficult to keep to this distance (the gorillas have never been told of this particular rule), please be aware of your guide’s comments and follow these to the letter.

The gorillas are usually spread out in the forest, sometimes out in the open, other times hiding in the shadows, so you may only catch glimpses of them. You may be very lucky and see them all out in the open. Generally, you will have a full hour with the group, although a few extended permits are now available – ask our experts to explain how this works.

Gorillas are the largest of the primates, with two species, the western gorilla and eastern gorilla. These are then divided into four sub-species; western lowland gorilla, eastern lowland gorilla (also known as Grauer’s gorilla), mountain gorilla and Cross River gorilla.

Eastern lowland gorilla (Grauer’s gorilla):

Population: 2,000-5,000 v

Features: largest and stockiest of all gorillas. Longer faces and broader chests with darker hair

Description: Males weigh on average 163kg (359lbs) and have a standing height of 1.69m (5ft 7ins) whilst females are slightly shorter at 1.58m (5ft 3ins) and are half the weight of the males

Found: Forests of DRC to the west of Mitumbar Mountains and Lake Tanganyika

Threats: poaching, bush meat and logging

Mountain Gorilla

Population: less than 900

Features: longest and thickest hair for warmth in colder, higher altitudes, generally very shy creatures

Description: Males can weigh up to 195kg (430lbs) and can stand at 1.5m (4ft 11ins) whilst females are about half that weight and stand at 1.3m (4ft 3ins)

Found: Mountains of Virunga straddling Rwanda and DRC and southern Uganda (Bwindi)

Threats: mountain gorillas are currently on the Critically Endangered IUCN Red List.

Western Gorilla – Gorilla Gorilla

Population: uncertain – less than 95,000

Features: smallest of all the gorillas, with bigger skulls and pronounced brow bridges. They have the shortest hair and longest arms

Description: Adult males have brown-grey/auburn hair on their foreheads and weigh around 157kg (345lbs) and can stand at 1.55m (5ft 2ins) whilst females are around 1.35m (4ft 6ins) and again around half the weight of a male.

Found: forests of northern Republic of Congo, CAR, DRC, Gabon and southern Cameroon

Cross River Gorilla – gorilla diehli

Population: 200-300

Features: similar to western lowland gorillas in body size. Smaller cranium vault and shorter skulls

Description: Average adult male height: 1.7m. (5ft 7ins) weighing in at 140-200kg (310-440lbs). Females are about 0.3m (1ft) shorter and half the weight

Found: a small area between the southern border of Cameroon and Nigeria at the headwaters of the Cross River from where they take their name


With broad chests and shoulders, large, human-like hands and small eyes set into hairless faces, gorillas display many human-like behaviours and emotions, such as laughter and sadness and even make their own tools to help them survive in the forest. In fact, gorillas share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos.

Why Track Gorillas in Uganda and not any other Place?

A gorilla tracking permit in Uganda costs $700 compared to $1500 in Rwanda,  that makes it cheaper to track in Uganda than in Rwanda. It is a bit cheaper in DRC but the stability of DRC is never predictable so that leaves Uganda as the best place to track the endangered Gorillas.

Uganda has four tracking points for the Gorillas spread out in Bwindi national park while Rwanda has one national park with Gorillas and that makes the place a bit competitive for the trackers.

You have high chances of viewing other game while tracking gorillas in Uganda like forest bird, golden monkeys in Mgahinga, Forest Elephants etc.

Therefore if you are thinking Mountain gorilla tracking? Think Uganda and have an experience of a lifetime.

Types Of Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas were discovered by Capt. Robert Von a German explorer in the year 1902 and was located in the Virunga Mountains. The locals were indeed seeing the gorillas around but Robert Von was the first to pick interest in the gorillas.

The scientific study on these gorillas was first conducted in 1959 by the American Museum of National History. Dian Fossey later carried out a comprehensive study on the mountain gorillas to discover the real story hidden behind these species.

For a while, most people believed that there was one type of gorillas that has various species such as Eastern lowland gorillas, western gorillas and mountain gorillas.

According to the current research, it shows that 2 species of gorillas have 2 subspecies in every group.

DNA that was conducted recently shows that there is a difference between Virunga and Bwindi gorillas.  This difference was caused by various breeding conditions for a long time.

In such circumstance, we can conclude that there are Bwindi gorillas which are endemic to Uganda and also the unique Virunga gorillas which are found in the Virunga Mountains.

Mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas can be differentiated by various factors from altitude differences to fur color and many more.

The gorillas are the biggest apes with an adult male weighing twice the female because you find a male weighing 22okg whereas a female weighing like 90kg.

These apes are huge with a broad chest, short thick trunk, dwarfed shoulders, ears and eyes and a large and hairless head.

Males usually develop the crowns of muscle and hair which makes them have longer heads.

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