The activity is the famous and the most rewarding activity which is carried out at the volcanoes national park.
Volcanoes national park has an estimated total of 440 mountain Gorillas and among these, 10 gorilla families have been habituated for tourism and research purposes. Hence 10 groups of 8 people each are the ones allowed to trek on a particular day. Gorilla Trekking activity through the forest starts with a quick briefing on safety measures and what to expect during the day, visitors will be grouped in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek. Assigning of the groups highly depends on the fitness and age of the guests. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads. However, even those with special interests about specific groups may inform their guides to help them negotiate with rangers before assigning the groups such that they may be assigned those specific groups too.
Being wild animals in their natural habitat, what may be regarded as easy to find may not necessarily be, as the animals may wander far as they search for food and therefore, it is not a guarantee that they must be near or easy to find. Even those which are allocated to the physically fit and energetic tourists, that are always regarded as strenuous to trek, may be easily tracked on a particular day which makes the total experience interesting and unpredictable.
Each gorilla tracking group consists of a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group. The reason for armed scouts is for protection and safety of the tourists in the forest against wild elephants or angry, wild gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done. mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park has never heard of any case where such animals attacked the tourists and the scouts had to fire bullets though on many occasions, they advise to hide or remain still until the animals go away. However the policy of the National Park is to be safe rather than sorry.
Tourist group will also have a pair of trackers who will have been sent out in the early morning (prior to visitor’s arrival in the park) to find the location of your specific gorilla family and to assess where they may be headed. Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family.
If you do not trust your fitness, please endeavor to let your guide know such that he may help you to hire a porter at the park gate. A porter is hired between $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.