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Who is eligible to trek mountain gorillas, Trekking mountain gorillas is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity and majority of tourists to Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo visit for the same reason. However much you wish to trek these beautiful giant apes, there are some strict measures that are put in place to ensure the conservation of these endangered primates that share 98% of their DNA with humans and therefore you must be eligible to trek them.

When it comes to eligibility for mountain gorilla trekking, it goes beyond your criminal record, legality checks of entry visas and even financial status. Many intending gorilla trekkers have been turned away (disappointment) from participating in their dream adventures because they are not eligible. Therefore this article brings you information on who is eligible to trek Mountain gorillas and these include:

Travellers of right age (15 years and above)

For tourists to be allowed to trek the endangered Mountain gorillas, they must be of right age-15 years and above. This restriction is usually implemented to book and you must present your identity Card or Passport details indicating your date of birth before booking a gorilla permit.

Why should there be a minimum age for trekking mountain gorillas? There are a number of reasons for this restriction, one being the fact that the activity is challenging (physically demanding) because participants have to go through thick forests with muddy floors that become difficult for young children.

Also, children below the age of 15 years can sometimes be unpredictable when it comes to dealing with the Mountain gorillas. Chances for a 6-year old screaming when a silverback charges and starts chest beating is high. A young child may also not follow the strict gorilla trekking guidelines like keeping a distance of 7 meters away from the mountain gorillas, not making noise and not touching the great apes. However, children with few days to their 15th birthday can be allowed to trek the Mountain gorillas as long as it is done in the presence of a guardian.

Parents that travel with children should not cancel forthcoming gorilla safari because of these restrictions because there are many tourist activities for youngsters such as game drives, simple nature walks, boat cruises and cultural tours among others.

Persons with gorilla permits

Persons with gorilla permits are also eligible to trek the Mountain gorillas in Rwanda, DRC and Rwanda. A gorilla permit is a document issued by Rwanda Development Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature permitting persons to trek the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC respectively.

Gorilla permits can be booked in two ways-directly from the mentioned Authorities (RDB, UWA and ICCN) or indirectly through tour operators and have to be presented on the actual day of trekking before being allowed to even enter the jungles to trek the great apes. Permits to track gorillas from Rwanda cost $1500, $700 for the activity in Uganda and only $450 for the same adventure in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Given the high demand for gorilla trekking, intending trekkers are advised to book at least 4 months in advance to avoid disappointment.

Travellers that are physically fit

Mountain gorilla trekking is not an ordinary walk in the leisure park but rather a difficult, adventurous and physically demanding activity through the thick jungles of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Uganda’s Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks and DRC’s Virunga National Park characterized by high altitudes, steep slopes and thorny vegetation. These conditions are not pleasant for physically unfit persons and there you must be physically eligible to trek the Mountain gorillas.

However, you don’t need to be a kick boxer, mountain climber/hiker or extremely active person to trek these great apes but rather undertake simple exercises such as jogging/running, hiking simple hills and extensively walking to keep muscles active and used to being busy. Surprisingly, even if you are not physically fit but willing to dig deep into your pocket, you can actually trek mountain gorillas while being lifted by four porters on stretcher/sedan chair. This usually costs between $300 and $400 and there has been history of 100-year olds trekking mountain gorillas. The most recent case is Kenya’s former Attorney General who in January 2020 trekked mountain gorillas from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (while being lifted) as one of the activities to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Persons of good health

You have to be of perfect health before trekking Mountain gorillas from any of the countries where the activity is conducted. Being diabetic, asthmatic or hypertensive doesn’t deter you from spending quality time with mankind’s close relatives and staring in their gentle eyes. Mountain gorillas are endangered and susceptible to communicable disease such as measles, cough, flue, influenza and other respiratory diseases hence you have to be free from them before deciding to go for the activity because you might be disappointed. However, if you start feeling sick on the eve or actual day of trekking, your trek can be postponed to another convenient day after being ascertained by the Park warden. Also, travellers are advised to present yellow fever inoculation certificate upon arrival in Uganda, Rwanda or DRC.

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