Posts Tagged ‘mountain gorillas’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 5!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

5. Trek to see wild mountain gorillas

Nowhere on Earth is the natural world more gloriously showcased than in Africa. But of all African wildlife encounters, coming face to face with endangered wild mountain gorillas is perhaps the most unforgettable.

Like gazing through a window to our distant past, observing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is a humbling and resonant experience. Up close the complex family structures are revealed; powerful silver-backed males command authority, mothers tenderly care for their young and adolescents explore inquisitively.

It’s impossible not to feel a sense of privilege watching two gorillas grooming one another, or impossibly cute youngsters playing with carefree abandon.

For an audience with these gentle giants you must first purchase a permit, then trek with guides through jungle in the gorillas’ lowland mountain habitats in Uganda, Rwanda or DR Congo. It’s often a demanding trek, but with so few gorillas left, it is a necessity.

Sadly the mountain gorilla symbolises the dangerous impact humans can have on wildlife. Over the last century they have been driven to the brink of extinction due to poaching, loss of habitat, war and human diseases.

It is estimated that as few as 880 mountain gorillas remain in the wild and they are among the most critically endangered species on Earth.

However hope endures for our simian cousins (we share around 99% of DNA), as admirable conservation efforts are being made to ensure their survival. The permit system has actually contributed to growth in gorilla numbers in recent years.

The cost of each gorilla permit helps protect habitats, educate guides and train rangers. Visitor numbers and times are carefully regulated so as not to disturb the gorillas, making it a fine example of responsible ecotourism. For those who take the trek, amazing memories are complemented by the sense of contributing to a worthy cause.

A gorilla trek can be a life-changing experience, one that hopefully will be available to travellers long in to the future. It can affect you profoundly and generates feelings which are difficult to adequately put in to words.

When you see for yourself, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

Topdeck Top Tip: To spot the alpha male of the troop, look out for the distinctive white hair on their back, known as the ‘silverback’. Male gorillas develop this around age 13, when they reach adulthood. Troops can sometimes have more than one silverback – although there’s only ever one alpha male!

Tell us about your experience with these magnificent animals.

Sir David Attenborough explains how gorilla populations were brought back from the brink:

Photos of mountain gorillas in Rwanda:,29307,2096456,00.html