Where to see gorillas in Africa? Gorilla trekking are probably the most exciting primates on earth. They are large and more muscular yet very gentle creatures. What makes these gorillas very special is that they behave like humans and they have 98% human DNA. Chimpanzees are more clever and intelligent with 98.6% but they are aggressive and much disorganized compared to gorillas. Gorillas can be described as wiser, intelligent, charismatic and benevolent. Gorillas can only be found in Africa and they are 2 species namely the western gorillas and the eastern gorillas. The western gorillas are further divided into cross river gorillas and western lowland gorillas while the eastern gorillas are divided into mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. The western lowland gorillas are very common with a population of over 250,000.
Scientists still believe that the western gorillas split with eastern gorillas during the ages of ice. The cold conditions and ice forced the rain forests shrink into smaller forests separated by savannah. When the ice age was done, rain forest spread again around the tropics. By the time all this ended the western gorillas and eastern gorillas had separated too long and had started using different routes physically and genetically. The have a few differences but they share one thing in common and that is broad shoulder and larger forearms or hands. Their eyes are very small and close to each other’s, they have small ears, large nostrils, strong teeth and have hairless face. Eastern gorillas are bigger than western gorillas with darker and longer fur. A western gorilla can weigh up to 160 kg while eastern gorillas can weigh up to 200kg.
Gorillas are mostly vegetarian and they feed on bamboo shoots, tree stems, fruits, insects, termites and small primates. Gorillas live in groups containing between 10-50 members and each group is headed by a dominant silver back. The silverback keeps a closer look on all group members and protects the group from other silverbacks and other wild animals or humans. The dominant silver back rules for a long time and when he dies he is replaced by another strong female within or outside the group. The males become sexually active at the age of 15 with the dominant silverback having all the mating rights in the gorilla family. The female gorillas are free to live the groups’ once they become mature and they feel like they can join a male or other groups. Although the females are sexually active at the age of 8, the start bleeding later on. There are a few cases of females reproducing in their won groups but this is only common in cross river gorillas. A female gorilla gives back to 4 babies’ maximum in her whole life. Gorillas have a life span of 35-40 years and can live up to 50 in captivity.
Western lowland gorillas are the most widespread and numerous with over 100,000 gorillas left in the world. These western lowland gorillas also face the greatest persecution. After them the eastern lowland gorillas follow with a total of 7,000 remaining in the world. The mountain gorillas have shown the greatest increase in number but their total population in the world is 1,000. There are also cross river gorillas at the bottom of the caves and their total population is 250 and they are only found in Nigeria and Cameroon.
The overall population of these gorillas is slowly reducing in the past decades. Most of the species i.e. mountain gorillas are now listen among the endangered due to increased poaching, diseases, political instability, animal trafficking as well as habitat loss due to human encroachment . In order to protest these great apes from becoming totally extinct, the government is working with wildlife conservation agencies to educate people about the benefits of these apes. The gorillas can be protected by stopping poaching, human encroachment, deforestation and illegal trade of baby gorillas. Both international and local communities must be involved in the conservation in order to generate funds and to create a shared responsibility.
Gorillas live in the dense forests of east and central Africa, Cameroon, Angola, Congo, Central Africa Republic, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Gabon, Rwanda and Uganda. Most tourists come to Uganda and Rwanda to see these apes but West Africa also has amazing adventures for primate lovers.
Rwanda is among the best places to find mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is a home to about 35% of the remaining population of endangered mountain gorillas. The mountain gorillas in Rwanda are only found in volcanoes national park. It’s in volcanoes national park that Dian Fossey an American primatologist established a base in 1960’s to study the behavior of these endangered gorilla species. Gorilla trekking has made volcanoes national park famous and it has attracted a large number of visitors to the country each year. There are 10 habituated mountain gorillas in volcanoes national park in Rwanda at the moment. Rwanda is the best place to see mountain gorillas in the whole world because its small and the parks are located near the city. Rwanda has the most expensive gorilla permits going for $1500 per person per day.
Uganda is among the best place to trek mountain gorillas. Half of the total population of mountain gorillas is found in Uganda and in 2 national park is that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga national park all located in south western Uganda. Mgahinga Gorilla Park has only 1 habituated gorilla family as per now while Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has 19 habituated gorilla groups. The mountainj19 habituated gorilla groups. The mountain gorillas in Mgahinga national park live at a high altitude while those of Bwindi impenetrable national park live at a low land. Uganda is also the only country in Africa where you can engage in gorilla habituation experience. Gorilla habituation is a unique experience allowing you up to a maximum of 4 hours with these chimpanzees while feeding them, learning their behaviors, watch them play, breast feed and go hunt. Uganda is also blessed with other tourism activities which one can go for after seeing mountain gorillas. The chances of seeing mountain gorillas are very high especially in Bwindi impenetrable national park. Gorilla permits in Uganda cost USD 600 but they are planning to increase them to USD 700 in June 2020.
Civil wars and political instabilities have denied DR Congo have denied many travelers to access the country with great biodiversity. DR Congo is the only country in Africa where you can find three species of gorillas. The mountain gorillas can be found in Virunga national park, eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega national park and western lowland gorillas long Madiakoko Mountains in the west. Because of wars and rebels in DR Congo gorillas can only be seen in Virunga national park and Kahuzi Beiga national park. the chances of seeing these gorillas in these national parks is very high and the chances of seeing western lowland gorillas is low as these apes move back to Angola some times. Gorilla permits in DR Congo go for $400 and $250 in low seasons.
Cameroon is located in western Africa and its one of the countries where you can find mountain gorillas. This country is a habitat to both eastern and western lowland gorillas. There are also cross river gorillas living at the border between Cameroon and Nigeria. Cross river gorillas are the most critically endangered of all gorilla sub species. In fact at one time they thought they had gotten extinct until they found them of recent. Travelers are not yet allowed to visit cross river gorillas in Cameroon. The only habituated mountain gorilla is found at live wildlife center where you can also find orphanage mountain gorillas. Western lowland gorillas in Cameroon can be found in campo-ma’ an national park. Tourists visiting the national park have 70% chances of seeing these gorillas but the best way of seeing them is by visiting Mefou national park where you find the rescued gorillas.
Although Nigeria is investing much in her tourism, the chances of spotting cross river gorillas are very low because they are not yet habituated. Cross river gorillas are aggressive to humans and only researchers and scientists are allowed to visit these primates in the wild the fact that there are only300 individuals remaining in the wild. If tourists were allowed to see them they would never find them because they are scattered in cross river national park, Mbe Mountain and Afri Mountain.
Central Africa republic is one of the places you can trek western lowland gorillas. The wild wildlife fund has set up a gorilla research program that has succeeded in habituating one group you can find at Dzanga-Ndoki national park. There are high chances of spotting western lowland gorillas in Central African Republic although taking photos is a challenge because of the dense forests with very little light reaching the ground.
This country is among the best places to see western lowland gorillas. There are 2 habituated gorilla groups in Odzala national park that are open up for tourism. The best way to see these gorillas is by hiding and waiting for them to get out in open clearings known as Mbeli Bai in the part of the forest. Mbeli Bali is a famous open clearing where more than 100 individuals have been spotted and studied by researchers and conservationists for over seven years now. Gorillas in the republic of Congo can also be seen foraging in marshes and swamps for water and pasture in the company of other animals such as buffaloes, antelopes and elephants. Lefini reserve is also another place to see western lowland gorillas in Congo Brazzaville. Lefini is found on an island so travelers who want to see these gorillas use a boat. Gorilla permits in Odzala national park go for USD355
The country alone has over 12 national parks to its name making it a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Bad news is that gorilla trekking is not yet well developed in this country even though most of the national parks are habitats of gorillas. Moukalaba-Doubou has the highest population of gorillas in the whole world with an ecotourism project started with an intention of allowing tourists to see these primates. Tourists can always go and track these primates deep into the forests on foot. You can also see gorillas in Lope national park while on a safari seeing other wildlife. Lastly there is Loango national park where you can see these western lowland gorillas. The park is very unique with great biodiversity spreading all the way to Atlantic Ocean. The park giving tourists opportunities of having forest walks where you can see chimpanzees, forest elephants as well as gorillas and enjoying the marine life allowing tourists to see whales, dolphins, hippos along the ocean shores.
Equatorial Guinea is one the countries you can find western lowland gorilla in Africa. These gorilla are found in Monte Alen national park but unfortunately gorilla tourism is not yet developed in the country and there are no habituated gorillas. Good news coming in is that there are a few well trained local guides that have started conducting daily treks with the tourists in the dense forests.
Western gorillas can also be spotted in Angola. They are found in the northern part of the country and in one location that is the Cabinda enclave just near the river Congo. You should know that tourism is not well organized in this country and the chances of seeing these apes are very low. If you are planning to come see gorillas in African its better you book your trekking permits in advance to avoid inconveniences and you might you any trusted tour operator to organize the safari for you.
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