Am I Fit Enough For A Gorilla Trek?
This is certainly one of the questions we are often asked about gorilla treks in Uganda and Rwanda. It’s closely followed by “How long are the gorilla treks?” While we cannot give a definitive answer, we’ve set out our expert opinion below to give you a good idea as to whether a gorilla trek is for you and if you will be able to complete it.
Gorilla tracking takes place in groups of no more than eight and the hike usually lasts between one and five hours, with up to an hour’s face to face contact allowed. As with all wildlife there’s no guarantee and it’s difficult to predict how long the gorilla trek will be – sometimes you’ll get to the gorillas within 30 minutes whereas a trek to the furthest group can take around seven hours.
How fit do you need to be to trek to see the gorillas? The walks will be taken at a reasonably slow pace and no-one gets left behind, but you need enough stamina to keep going until you find the gorillas and then to trek back. Porters are available to help you, lending a hand up steep sections and where the terrain is particularly challenging.
So, while you don’t need to be super fit for a gorilla trek, it is a good idea to have done some preparation before you set off on a gorilla tracking safari. That said, if you are keen to visit the mountain gorillas but know you won’t be able to do the walking, it is possible to hire a sedan chair and be carried up the trail (just make sure you let us know well in advance if you think you will need this).
Although it’s not possible to request a specific group to track, park rangers will try to take into consideration the likely length and degree of difficulty of the hike when allocating trackers to the various family groups. Believe it or not, some fitter walkers request the furthest most tricky hikes!
Gorilla tracking times are generally shorter in Rwanda as most of the habituated groups are within 30 minutes to two hours of the trail head. It is also considered slightly easier to track here since the terrain is not quite as steep as in Uganda, and the bamboo vegetation tends to be thinner and less arduous to walk through than the dense rainforests of Bwindi.
Whether you choose Rwanda or Uganda, you should be prepared for some tough walking, on steep paths that can be slippery when wet. We recommend sturdy boots or walking shoes and to wear gardening gloves so that you can hold onto branches without worrying about what you are grabbing. It’s best to wear trousers rather than shorts so your skin is protected from the vegetation and any insects.
On the tracking day you should make sure you have snacks and water in a day pack and to collect a hiking stick at the park headquarters. Once you find the gorillas it’s a calm and gentle experience. You stop in your tracks and don’t invade their space – they definitely don’t live by the same rules though and will come fairly close to you. Meeting them face to face is one of (if not the) best things I have ever done in my life.
Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean and can offer advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you are keen to include gorilla tracking in a safari itinerary do get in touch – chatting to people in person, by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.