Volcanoes national park located in northwestern Rwanda is a unique wildlife safari destination with over 300 mountain gorillas and the best place where tourists can mountain in their forested habitats. They are covered with black fur and are the biggest apes species with a fully-grown silverback (male mountain gorilla) weighing over 200 pounds.
Mountain gorillas are vegetarians that predominantly feed on plant leaves, shoots, and wild fruits. They have over 98% DNA similar to humans and therefore they have human-like behavior especially the way the female mountain gorillas look after their young ones. Much as the mountain gorillas have a DNA similar to humans, they are very sensitive animals and can be aggressive if provoked. When angry, they usually standstill as they beat their chest while groaning. This clearly shows the danger and it’s always wise to move a reasonable distance away from them.
Mountain gorillas are endangered primates that were in the 1990s on the verge of extinction but were saved after several conservation programs like securing their natural habitants from human encroachment where the Batwa who were initially forest dwellers were resettled from the forest, by introducing carrying capacity where only 8 tourists are allowed to track one mountain gorilla family which they only spend with an hour, by introducing the Kwita Iziina baby mountain gorilla naming ceremony as a way of closely monitoring the newly born mountain gorillas and by massively sensitizing the local people on the importance of the mountain gorillas and encouraging them to abandon anti-conservation habits like poaching.
Because of all the above and other conservation efforts, mountain gorilla tourism has greatly grown over the years in Rwanda and has also proved to be another way of protecting these endangered species in the following ways;
The revenue generated from gorilla tours in Rwanda is used to fund conservation programs against poaching wildlife. The locals have also changed their attitudes towards protecting wildlife and this has greatly led to the increase in the mountain gorilla population.
The money collected from mountain gorilla safaris is used to pay the guides and rangers some of whom were poachers who just abandoned that anti-conservation act to start a new life as conservation agents. These rangers and guides having a secured source of money discourage them from again going back to poaching which is riskier.
Part of the money collected from the mountain gorilla permits is used for local community development. Mountain gorilla safaris are very good for both the mountain gorillas and the people and therefore tourists who go to Rwanda to encounter mountain gorillas in their natural habitants get rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime encounters, contribute to mountain gorilla conservation and also contribute to local community development.
Treks to the forested mountains to Track Mountain gorillas start very early in the morning after the tourists have been briefed and allocated to the gorilla families they will be tracking. The takes about 2 to 8 hours depending on the tourists’ luck and the movement of the mountain gorillas since they are mobile animals that usually move from one place to another looking for fresh leaves to feed on. After encountering the mountain gorillas, a time duration of one hour is allocated to the tourists taking photographs and learning more about the mountain gorillas.
Tourists interested in being part of mountain gorilla safaris should ensure to acquire their mountain gorilla tracking permits early enough. Each gorilla permit is sold at $750 and can be directly purchased from the Rwanda development board or acquired through a trusted tour operator. Mountain gorilla safari experiences are best enjoyed during the dry season though tracking is done throughout the year even during the wet season.