23 May Walking With Gorillas-Tracking the gentle giants of East Africa
There’s something undoubtedly fascinating about our giant cousins, the magnificent gorillas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Of course it’s partially down to their sheer size — you can’t fail to be impressed by a creature that colossal. But there’s something deeper, more endearing. The combination of awesome strength with profound gentleness; the depth of their social bonds; their harmony with their environment; their vulnerability. Perhaps our fascination comes from us seeing in them what we wish we saw in ourselves?
We share up to 99% of our genetic material with gorillas but for years most encounters were, sadly, from behind the inches-thick perspex of a zoo enclosure, or as a slapstick caricature in a cheap horror movie. But now people are travelling in ever greater numbers to the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and (to a much lesser degree) the Democratic Republic of Congo to see the mountain gorilla, Gorilla beringei beringei, in its natural environment.
This has been made possible thanks to rapid progress made by the Rwandan and Ugandan authorities, who have recognised the importance of gorilla conservation and the role that well-regulated tourism can play in protecting the species, and as a vital source of revenue. The industry is far from perfect, and conservation has come at a cost for the Batwa, the forest’s human inhabitants. But, thanks in part to the gorilla tourism industry, the collapse of the mountain gorilla population has, for now, been halted. But seeing mountain gorillas in the wild isn’t easy. It’s a demanding, physical experience; it’s highly regulated, with permits and tightly-enforced rules and regulations; and it can be expensive! This guide offers an introduction to tracking the mountain gorilla: the rich backstory of the species’ conservation, the logistics of how a trip works, and essential information to start planning your own journey.