This is among the most desired adventurous journeys desired a number of ecotourists today. Meeting the mountain gorillas in the misty forested mountains is a very rewarding wildlife encounter that brings tourists close to some of the closest wild relatives. Mountain gorillas are very rare primate species that today only inhabit the forested jungles of southwestern Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park) and in the Virunga massif that stretches covers the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and Virunga National Park in eastern Rwanda. These primates adapted to living in the higher slopes of the forested mountains and are covered with thick black fur that helps them withstand the cold environment.
Since they live in the forested mountains, mountain gorillas entirely feed on plant leaves are most times are found seated as they grab all the leaves that are in the reach of their hands. By the end of the day, the gorillas eat several kilograms and a fully-grown silverback (male mountain gorilla) can weigh about 200 kilograms. Male mountain gorillas are usually in charge of a mountain gorilla group that usually comprises of the female, juveniles and young mountain gorillas. These groups usually range from 10 and more and the dominant silverback usually determines their activities of the day.
There are habituated mountain gorilla groups that are open to tourist’s visitation. Each of these gorilla groups is open to only 8 tourists a day who only spend an hour with them. This is a conservation measure that was put in place to ensure the sustainability of mountain gorilla conservation because mountain gorillas are very endangered primate species that were on the verge of extinction but were restored after a series of conservation efforts. Tracking the forested mountains to meet any of the mountain gorilla groups gives tourists a chance to explore the major wildlife species in the forest including a number of birds, vegetation species as well insects most of sighted while on the expedition to get to the mountain gorillas.
Only persons above the age of 15 are allowed to take gorilla safaris and this rule must be adhered to. Tourists who are sick are also not allowed to go tracking as they could easily pass on the diseases to the gorillas. On the morning of this great expedition tourists are first briefed about the major regulations that include always following the guide’s instruction especially while in the forest, not littering in the forest, not imitating the mountain gorilla character/behavior, not getting close or attempting to touch a mountain gorilla, keeping a reasonable distance away from the gorillas and always keeping in the tracking groups to avoid getting lost in the middle of the jungle.
The hike starts very in the morning and takes about 1 to 8 hours to get to the mountain gorillas depending on their movement and the tourists luck. This is so because mountain gorillas are very mobile animals that move from one place to another searching for food and new resting areas and therefore sometimes they are also on the move.
Once you draw close to these apes, the anxiety and curiosity increases and however much you try to, nothing prepares you for the encounter as its very touching, intense but very exciting as one looks in to the dark eyes of the mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are peaceful animals if not provoked and they therefore sit back and continue with their daily routine as tourists look on while taking photographs. After the hour with the gorillas, tourists are led back to the national park headquarters where they are given certificates of participation. Spending time with the mountain gorillas in the jungle is very rewarding and its activity worth anyone’s time.