Mountain gorillas are highly threatened by poaching, habitat loss and human infectious diseases. To ensure their conservation and protection, a set of 8 gorilla trekking rules and regulations were developed and established for tourists to respect and follow while on a gorilla trekking safari.
Tourists must work closely with gorilla trekking guides, trackers and rangers who have experience and know the gorilla behavior. Every day before a gorilla trek begins; guides conduct a 30 minute briefing taking tourists through dos and don’ts of watching gorillas as a way of teaching visitors to behave in a manner that’s acceptable to the gorilla guidelines.
How to behave on the way to see the Gorillas
You must not visit the gorillas when you are sick from diarrhea, fever, influenza or colds and other diseases which are transmittable to gorillas. Visitors when with gorillas and fee like sneezing; should cover their mouth, turn back the head and sneeze. This reduces the risk of transmitting diseases to gorillas, especially respiratory illness.
Tourists who want ease themselves in the forest should ask their guides. All human waste must be buried 30 centimeters underground. Your guide will dig a hole but it’s a responsibility of the tourists to cover or burry their waste.
Only 8 tourists led by rangers and guides are allowed to see gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. Keep your voices very low or just whisper if you want to talk to someone in the group within a distance of 200 meters before approaching or after you have left the gorillas. Additionally, lowering your voices will increase your chances of spotting other wildlife in the forest.
How to behave when you are with the gorillas
Tourists strictly spend one hour with gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorillas live in their natural life and need less human disturbance for them to remain with their natural behavior.
You must maintain a distance of 7 meters (21feet) when watching or photographing gorillas. Often at times gorillas come closer, in such a situation stay in a tight group together with guides and rangers. Stand still in one position, do not run away or attempt to touch gorillas, try to make a slow step backward and don’t look directly into the eyes of the gorillas.
Doing so will reduce the risk of any misbehavior from gorillas such as charging, making scary noise especially the silverback beats its chest or chase its family away from the tourists, there by altering the experience. Note, however, gorillas are peaceful animals that never kill for food, they are vegetarians.
Eating, drinking or smoking when with the gorillas is prohibited. When gorillas see you eating it changes their natural behavior and will always go into neighboring communities to look for food leading to human-gorilla conflicts.
Food droplets might also be eaten by gorillas which can transmit diseases or virus to gorillas. Eating is always done at designated places in the forest and all the waste must be kept until and disposed off at the gorilla centers.
Switch off the flash light from your camera before you start to photograph gorillas because flash light disrupts the eye and vision of gorillas. When taking photography move slow and take at a relaxed pace.