Gorilla Trekking Q&A

Gorilla trekking is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world. Sitting meters away from silverbacks and their family is incredible – this article has everything you need to know if you are thinking about experiencing it for yourself

Gorilla in Uganda and Rwanda living in the mountains

Where can I see mountain gorillas in Africa? 

Gorillas live in equatorial Africa. They can be seen in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mountain gorillas, a subspecies of gorilla, live in the eastern part of central Africa in two groups – one in the Virunga Volcanoes across Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, and one in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, which connects to Sarambwe Nature Reserve, DRC. 

What kind of gorillas are there?

There are two species of gorilla, both live in equatorial Africa, but are separated by about 560 miles of Congo Basin forest. They are split into the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla. Each of the two species of Gorilla has two subspecies, one which lives in the lowlands and one which lives in the highlands.

The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) live in the west of the region, whereas the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) and the Eastern Lowland Gorilla or Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) live in the east.

How many mountain gorillas are left in the wild?

There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild according to the latest census. The exact populations of the different species of gorilla are hard to know because they inhabit some of the most dense and remote rainforests in Africa. All species of Gorilla are endangered or critically endangered.

Is it safe to see gorillas?

Gorilla trekking is safe for both humans and gorillas, as long as safety precautions and visitation rules are followed.

The gorilla troops that are visited on a trek are habituated. This means they’ve passed through a long process of slowly becoming accustomed to the presence of humans. This makes them less likely to become alarmed and agitated by our presence.

A limited number of permits to visit gorillas are issued per day, to avoid causing too much disruption to the animals. It is a legal requirement to have an expert guide with you to visit gorillas. The guide ensures that visitors and gorillas remain safe during an encounter.


How dangerous are gorillas to humans?

It’s valid to feel vulnerable when seeing large and powerful gorillas in the wild, but gorillas are not interested in hurting humans. Gorillas will defend themselves if attacked or threatened, but they’re not naturally aggressive creatures. They are gentle giants (and vegetarian), but it’s still important to remember that they are wild animals and must be respected.


Why are gorillas endangered?

The commercial trade in bushmeat throughout west and central Africa is the biggest threat to gorillas today. They also suffer from habitat loss due to deforestation. This contributes to their struggle with the bushmeat trade because logging routes create paths for hunters to be able to access previously inaccessible areas of the forest. The Ebola virus, which is deadly to both gorillas and humans, is also having an effect. Efforts to protect gorillas are often hampered by weak law enforcement, and civil unrest in many places where gorillas live.

Gorillas reproduce slowly, giving birth to only one baby at a time and then raising their infant for several years before giving birth again. This slow reproduction rate makes gorillas vulnerable to population declines because it takes many generations for numbers to recover.

Why are gorillas poached?

Gorillas are poached for their meat. The demand for ape meat is due to the attitude that it is a delicacy among the wealthy elite. Gorilla’s size makes them easy targets for hunters and in some areas gorillas are favored by hunters because of the weight of meat they can sell.

How much does it cost to go gorilla trekking?

In order to go gorilla trekking, you must obtain a gorilla permit. A gorilla permit includes interacting with the gorillas, park entrance fees and ranger fees. The cost of a gorilla permit varies depending on which country you are in, ranging from $700 USD per person per day in Uganda, to $1,500 per person per day in Rwanda.

Is gorilla trekking worth the money?

Gorilla trekking is one of the most thrilling wildlife activities in Africa and indeed the world. Once you sit a few meters from a four-hundred-pound silverback and his family, you gain a unique new perspective on the natural world.

Why are gorilla trekking permits so expensive in Rwanda and Uganda?

Gorilla trekking permits are expensive because a large proportion of the costs go directly into gorilla conservation and protection. Gorilla conservation involves significant investments into scientific research and employing rangers and scientists to carry out the work. Approximately 75% of gorilla permit fees go into conservation initiatives to protect endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. Roughly 15% of the money collected from gorilla permits goes to the government and the remaining 10% goes to the local communities. The permit fees cover the cost of running the treks at a high standard of safety for both humans and gorillas, so as to not affect the well-being of the gorilla troops. Rather than increase the number of people who visit the gorillas each day, conservationists have raised the price per permit, helping to mitigate any negative impacts of ecotourism.

How much is a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda?

A gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda costs $1,500 USD per person per day.

How much is a gorillas trekking permit in Uganda?

A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs $700 USD per person per day.

Is it better to see gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, or Congo?

The three countries where gorillas live and can be visited are Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. 

Gorilla trekking in Uganda has a higher fitness requirement. The roads and hiking are more strenuous and the slopes are steep. Uganda’s national parks are a very safe place to visit gorillas. The cost of a gorilla viewing permit in Uganda is less than Rwanda.

In Rwanda, visiting the gorillas is still challenging, but the hiking is less strenuous and the roads are slightly less demanding than in Uganda. Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa to visit. The cost of a gorilla viewing permit is higher in Rwanda than in Uganda.

The Congo is currently a less safe place to visit gorillas, and this is part of the reason Gondwana Ecotours does not visit there. 

What is a silverback gorilla? 

The term “Silverback” refers to adult male Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), who develop a silver-gray patch on hair on their back as they mature. 

What is the difference between a silverback and a gorilla?

Only male gorillas become silverbacks, females do not develop the gray patch of fur on that part of their bodies.

Do all male gorillas become silverback gorillas?

​​All male gorillas become silverbacks as they age, but not all become dominant. 

Gorillas are classed as infants until they reach three years old and become adults from 8 years old. Males that are aged between 8-12 years old are referred to as ‘blackbacks’. From around 12 years old, males begin to develop a silver section of hair on their back, these males are referred to as ‘silverback’.  

How are gorillas related to humans?

We share 98.3% of our DNA with gorillas, making them our closest relatives after chimpanzees and bonobos.

This can mean that human illnesses, even a common cold, can have detrimental impacts on gorillas.

How strong are gorillas?

A gorilla’s strength is estimated to be about 10 times their body weight. Fully grown silverbacks are approximately as strong as 20 adult humans combined. 

How old do gorillas get?

The average lifespan of a gorilla in the wild is 35 years, but some live to much older, even sometimes reaching 50 years old.

What do gorillas eat?

Gorillas are mainly vegetarian and spend almost half of their day feeding on shoots, stems, and a variety of fruits. They supplement this with tree bark, insects, snails, roots, and rotting wood, which is a good source of sodium.

Gorillas play an important role in maintaining forest biodiversity by spreading the seeds of trees and by opening up gaps in vegetation as they move through the forest. This lets in light and allows a diverse set of plants to grow. 

How much does a gorilla eat per day?

An adult male gorilla can eat up to 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of food each day, mainly in the form of vegetation. 

How do gorillas communicate?

Gorillas communicate through sounds and movement. They have been known to make at least 22 distinct sounds to communicate different feelings, such as chuckling when they feel playful and screaming when they feel scared. They also communicate through facial expressions, postures and gestures.  

How do gorillas play?

The main way that gorillas play with each other is through wrestling. They hug, bite, throw, hit, and hold on to each other. Young gorillas play more frequently than adults, but adults sometimes join in. Playing is very important for young gorillas, it helps them to get familiar with other members of the group and find their pace in the family. They practice communication and learn patterns of behavior through the act of play.

How do you safely talk to or interact with a gorilla?

Your expert guide will always be on hand to offer guidance when you are visiting gorillas, but there are a few key points that are good to remember. 

When you come across a gorilla troop, it’s important to keep quiet and move slowly, always following your guide’s instructions so as not to startle the gorillas. For the same reason, never use flash photography with the gorillas. Don’t wear bright colored clothing or strong-smelling body sprays.

Try not to make eye contact with the gorillas, but if you do, immediately look down to show them you are not a threat. Don’t make sudden movements or loud noises as this could alarm the gorillas.

Maintain a safe distance from the gorillas, according to your trek guide’s instructions. This is for your own safety as well as that of the gorillas, as the distance helps to prevent the spread of human diseases to the gorillas. 

If a gorilla moves closer to you, stay still, and let them pass by. If the gorilla approaches you and sits down, slowly move away to resume a safe distance. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure about what to do, your expert guides will be watching closely and are there to instruct you as to the best way to move.

Silverback male gorilla seen on gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda







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