Gazing into the soulful eyes of a silverback must surely top the bill on a trip to Africa. Your heart-pounding adventure awaits you in only three places on the planet: Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, with fewer than 1,000 mountain gorillas scattered across these regions.
The excitation and anticipation of a gorilla safari may also be accompanied by a level of trepidation, but here are some gorilla safari guidelines, to ensure that your encounter with these gentle guys goes smoothly …
• Do not forget to don your hiking boots, as the terrain can be tough
• No flash photography allowed, so make sure your camera is on high speed
• Rainforests mean a raincoat is essential …
• It's important to physically fit, as you are likely to find yourself climbing up steep slopes, scrambling through, over, and under stress undergrowth with nettles, barbed vines, and bamboo thickets and crossing slippery and muddy ground
Gorilla safari tracker guides are highly experienced. Not only have they been involved in the specific process of habituation which has accredited the gorillas to the presence of humans, but they are also rather adept of course in finding clues to the gorillas' location – for example, identifying footprints, dung, chewed bamboo and celery stalks, as well as abandoned nests.
You will probably smell the gorillas before you actually see them! When you reach them, the tracker will move forward, making soft smacking and groaning sounds with his mouth to secure the group that friends are approaching; despite gorillas make very few vocalizations, this sound of reassurance is one that family members often use with each other.
• Never look directly into the eyes of a mountain gorilla – a fixed stare is as aggressive to them as it is to most humans
• If a gorilla charges, beating its chest, teasing up vegetation and hurling its tremendously frame directly towards you (!) It's vitally important to stand your ground, maintain a subordinate, crouching position, and do your best not to flinch
• Always follow your guide's instructions – he understands the gorillas well and has daily contact with them
• Smoking, eating, and / or drinking are not allowed within 200 meters of a gorilla family
& Finally … Did You Know?
• Gorillas generally have longer hair than other subspecies
• Every gorilla has its own distinct set of fingerprints
• When standing, an adult male mountain gorilla is approximately 5.5 feet tall and weighs between 300-400 pounds