Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations

The Wildlife Authorities and Conservation bodies in the Virungas and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, with the mandate to protect and conserve wildlife sustainably, clearly state the gorilla trekking rules and regulations. The procedures have enabled mountain gorillas to flourish and allowed tourists to visit them in their natural habitat.

Without gorilla tourism, the mountain gorillas would be on the extinction bus and into Darwin’s evolution history. Instead, thanks to these rules, regulations, and the money collected from tourists, mountain gorillas are now at just about 1070 individuals left in the wild.

If you’re planning a gorilla trekking safari, knowing the gorilla trekking rules and regulations will help you stay within the conservation laws yet fully experiencing the gorilla adventure.

Before departing on your gorilla tracking:

UWA allows a maximum number of 8 visitors to trek a single group of habituated mountain gorillas in a day. Thus, it minimises behavioural disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.

You will not be allowed to trek gorillas if you show symptoms of a cold or other infectious illness.

Anybody can trek gorillas as long as they possess a gorilla trekking permit issued by the Wildlife Authority and they’re above 15 years of age.

Before engaging in the gorilla trekking activity, the lead guide at the trailhead shall brief tourists regarding gorilla trekking and the rules and regulations. COVID-19 prevention measures shall be an integral part of briefing messages and having Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials displayed.

Tourists must sanitise hands, wear a facemask and observe social distancing before, during, and after the briefing at the trailhead.

The tourists shall carry light equipment to minimise the need for porters while they undertake the tracking.

On the way to the gorillas

Please always keep your voices low and listen to the guide’s instructions and information as you trek through the jungle. You will also observe great birdlife, various plant species and other wildlife in the forest.

Due to the reported side effects of wearing masks for long periods and in high altitudes, visitors shall take frequent breaks during the tracking to give themselves time to breathe fresh air. During these breaks, social distancing shall be strictly observed.

DO NOT leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you.

Since mountain gorillas build nests at sunset and stay there for the night, rangers head out before the gorilla trekkers hoping to find them where they left them the previous evening and stay with them all day. These rangers will direct your group to find them, and they do, you’ll be informed in time to get ready for the encounter.

When you find the gorilla family, your guide will ask you to leave your backpack and gadgets about 50 meters from the gorillas and will allow you to approach with only your camera or phone calmly.

When you are with the gorillas

The tourists must keep a distance of not less than 10 metres (32 feet) away from the gorillas. Although the gorillas may not observe this rule, the tourist should at least try to avoid contact. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.

You will be ordered to wear your facemask before approaching the gorillas and keeping it on during your stay. Make sure you carry two facemasks because you’ll be required to wear a fresh one at this point.

Keep your voices down at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide questions and follow their instructions during your stay with the gorillas.

Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking inevitably will increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases.

Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes when they’re agitated and wait for the animals to pass). Do not attempt to run away because that will increase the risk of the gorilla tackling you down.

Flash photography is not permitted! When taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.

Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals and do not understand your modern gadgets, tools and expressions. So, avoid contact at all times.

The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may end the visit early.

After the visit, keep your voices down until you are 300 meters away from the gorillas.

General health rules

Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them.

At the briefing points, visitors and staff shall wash hands or sanitise and have their body temperature taken. All the visitors, staff and trackers must wear masks. Before the mountain gorilla viewing commences, all people in the group shall sanitise their hands again.

Due to the reported side effects of wearing masks for long periods and in high altitudes, visitors shall take frequent breaks during the tracking to give themselves time to breathe fresh air. During these breaks, social distancing shall be strictly observed.

Briefing and debriefing shall be done in small groups of eight (08) tourists after being assigned gorilla families for tracking.

Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group. The assigned UWA guides shall ensure the social distancing of 2 meters among the tourists while tracking, where practical.

If you are feeling ill or carrying a contagious disease, please stay at your boarding facility. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or ask your safari manager to process a refund. Tourists, staff, and porters who, during the briefing, are observed to be sick shall not be allowed to track. These include anyone with signs of flu and those who report having diarrhoea, stomach upsets and malaria, among others.

If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth to minimise the spread of bacteria or viruses.

Always stay 10 meters (32 feet) away from the gorillas. It’s to protect them from catching human diseases.

Do not leave any rubbish (e.g. food wrappers) in the park; foreign items can harbour diseases or other contaminants.

If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep, and fill it in when you are finished.

In case a tourist or accompanying members of the team experience a health-related problem, UWA staff shall apply the established evacuation and first aid guidelines to move the affected individual from the field.

What to bring on your Gorilla Safari

  • Bring 2 facemasks; preferably disposable surgical masks. You will need one when tracking and a fresh one when with gorillas.
  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes.
  • Put on earplugs for those who feel uncomfortable with the jungle sounds.
  • Carry packed lunch, some energy snacks and enough drinking water.
  • Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellent.
  • A walking stick/staff is essential for trekking the rainforest’s uneven terrain and will keep you upright. You can get a free locally made stick at the trailhead or carry your own.
  • Read more about the gorilla trekking packing list.


booking your gorilla trekking safari in uganda and Rwanda

Booking your gorilla safari

Encounter Africa has local guides and experts to give the best gorilla trekking safari experience in Rwanda and Uganda. If you need more information on tracking rules and regulations, send us an email (info@gorilla-tracking-uganda.com), or call us at the numbers in the footer to get expert local help.

Our consultants are eager to help you plan your gorilla safari. We can customise your trip to match your budget and type of experience without stressing you about planning your whole trip. We deal with the gorilla permit (arguably the most strenuous process), booking your accommodation, transfers and anything in between. You don’t have to go through the whole process of planning a safari in a foreign country; you have us.

Contact us right away!