Even though the mountain gorillas remaining on earth are estimated at about 1000, mountain gorilla tracking safaris are currently the most exclusive and best adventurous experiences that can ever happen in the life of any tourist. Mountain gorillas are primates in the family of apes that live in the forested mountains in east and central Africa. They are covered with black fur, live in groups and about 98% of their DNA is similar to humans.
In the early 1990’s and 1980’s these incredible creature’s lives were highly threatened by insecurity, poaching and diseases, which are the major reasons for the drastic decline of the mountain gorilla population. The mountain gorilla national park had become fighting grounds for soldiers and therefore encroached on the habitats of the gorillas forcing many of them to flee.
After a series of conservation projects by the governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mountain gorillas were given the right protection they need and human encroachment was also limited a the forest dwellers (Batwa pygmies) were resettled out of the forests and a tourist carrying capacity was reinstated strictly allowing only 8 tourists to track one family of mountain gorillas in a day and only spending with it strictly one hour.
Over the years, mountain gorilla tourism has gained a lot of momentum as the number of tourists interested in viewing these rare apes in their natural habitants just keeps on increasing.
In order to improve the tourist experience while on a mountain gorilla safari, a number of mountain gorillas groups were habituated and made used to human beings presence. With this, today tourists can be in presence of mountain gorillas, observe them as they take photographs when the gorillas are just continuing with their routine maybe crouching edible plant leaves in the reach of their arms or some times just relaxing as they look back to the tourists.
Mountain gorillas can be viewed in their natural ecosystems in only three countries on earth, which include Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Mountain gorillas in Uganda live in the forested hilly areas of Bwindi Forest National Park in the southwestern Uganda and in Mgahinga gorilla national park also located in southwestern Uganda. Bwindi impenetrable forest has a total of 11 habituated mountain gorilla families in the three major sectors that the national park has (Buhoma, Ruhija and the southern sector-Rushaga and Nkuringo). Bwindi has over 450 mountain gorillas which is half of the remaining mountain gorilla population and any tourist visiting the park is guaranteed of at least seeing a mountain gorilla. Mgahinga gorilla national park only has one habituated mountain gorilla family comprising of 10 mountain gorillas.
In Rwanda, mountain gorillas live in volcanoes national park situated in the northwestern part of the country. This national park has a total of 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups that are open to tourist visitation. In DR Congo, the gorillas can be viewed in Virunga national park located in the eastern part of the country. The park has 6 habituated mountain gorilla groups.
Journeys through the forested mountains to view the mountain gorillas’ start very early in the morning after tourists have been briefed divided into groups of 8 and allocated to a mountain gorilla group they will be tracking. The hike then starts taking about 1to 8 hours in the real Africa jungle. The hike some times take up to 8 hours because mountain gorillas are mobile animals and therefore sometimes on the move.
Tourist interested in best mountain gorilla experiences can visit any of the mountain gorilla countries in the dry season (December to February and June to August) because its when its easy to move through the forest without any disturbances from rainfall.