Gorilla tracking is one of the most exclusive wildlife experiences in the world. The activity involves hiking through thick natural forests and steep mountain slopes in search of endangered mountain gorillas.
The experience of tracking gorillas is exclusive because it happens in a few places and only a limited number of guests are allowed to visit the gorillas. Due to their endangered status, getting to see gorillas comes with a few rules and regulations.
In this article, we'll look at the various rules that must be adhered to when you go to track mountain gorillas in their rainforest habitat.
Rules For Gorilla Tracking
1. Keep A Distance Of 5 To 7 Meters From The Gorillas.
Since gorillas can easily catch human diseases, keeping a safe distance prevents the spread of such diseases from humans to gorillas - and vice versa. At this distance, you will be able to have a close interaction with the gorillas without the risk of spreading diseases between humans and mountain gorillas.
2. Don't Wander From The Group.
After finding the gorillas, you are supposed to stay with the group and move around as little as possible. While moving to a different viewpoint might be tempting, maybe even better for your pictures, you shouldn't surround the gorillas. Surrounding the gorillas will make them uneasy and probably suspicious which is not good.
3. Keep Your Voice Down.
In your interactions, keep your voice down. This is respectful to the gorillas' serene home and the other people you tracked with. Additionally, all wild animals react to high volume with fear and gorillas are no different.
4. Don't Smoke With The Gorillas.
While you are with the gorillas, you are not allowed to smoke. Gorillas and humans both have a risk of getting lung cancer and other illnesses from secondary smoking. Furthermore, discarded cigarette ends can easily lead to forest fires.
5. Don't Stare Too Long Into The Gorilla's Eyes.
A long and intense stare might be interpreted as a sign of aggression by the gorillas. Besides the fact that gorillas are very peaceful and calming animals, they are still wild animals and you don't want to make them feel the need to be aggressive.
Just be mindful of the intense stare. Otherwise, you will be able to look into their red and kind eyes - and hopefully, register a connection like no other.
6. Turn Around To Sneeze Or Cough.
If you have any transmittable diseases, you are not allowed to go for gorilla tracking. It is understandable that you might need to sneeze or cough. In this event, you are advised to turn away from the gorillas and sneeze or cough into your handkerchief.
In the event that you need to ease yourself (pee or poo) talk to the ranger and they will guide you on what to do such that you can 'go to the bathroom' in the forest - safely.
7. No Flash Photography.
When you are with gorillas, your camera's flash should be disabled. Whether it is your phone or you carried a dedicated camera, the flash should be turned off in advance. As with most animals that live in the wild, flash photography is likely to scare the gorillas into a state of fight or flight.
8. Don't Try To Touch The Gorillas.
For the same reason that a safe distance is to be maintained from the gorillas, you shouldn't try to touch the gorillas. Aside from the spread of diseases, gorillas are still wild animals and not pets.
Touching wild animals might happen in captive environments like zoos but not in wild habitats.
9. Don't Run From The Gorillas If They Approach.
In the rare event that gorillas come to you, stay calm and follow the guidelines of your ranger. Stay calm, act submissive and crouch down. Don't try to run or fight a gorilla, it is a wild animal that is stronger than you.
Being touched by gorillas happens rarely and you therefore shouldn't be expecting such an unlikely chance.
10. Don't Offer Any Food To The Gorillas
While gorillas are omnivores and can eat human food, you are not allowed to feed them. The diet of a gorilla comprises many plants that are freely available to the gorillas in the forest.
The only reason why mountain gorillas aren't found in zoos is that all previous attempts have failed. Giving gorillas human food/drinks could have a whole list of risks to the gorillas - all very bad.
The rules for gorilla tracking a quite simple to understand and follow. Before any group can start their hike into the thick rainforest, there is always a briefing about these rules and more. This briefing is done by park officials.
The basis for these rules is protecting the gorillas and the environment they live in. Since every group of visitors is always led by an experienced ranger, you should freely talk to the ranger should you need any guidance. It is better to get clarification.