The plight of mountain gorillas was highlighted internationally by the release of the film Gorillas in the mist based on the story of gorilla researcher and conservationist Diane Fossey who did most of her work in Rwanda leading up to her brutal and unsolved murder in Rwanda’s parc des volcans in December 1985. Since this film went circuit, mountain gorilla tracking has attracted numerous travelers into the three countries that harbor these primates. And this went ahead to portray the three East African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo as the sole homes to these primates in the whole continent.However,there are other African countries where these primates can as well be found and trekked and these include;
Cross River gorillas are found only in Cross River State, where the government has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure. However, the chances of seeing gorillas here are still slim. Their total population now consists of less than 200 individuals, spread across an area of 12,000 km² which includes Afi Mountain, Mbe Mountain, and the Okwango Division of the Cross River National Park.
But visiting the habitat does help to conserve it, and two outstanding primate sanctuaries and reintroduction projects for drill monkeys and chimpanzees.
Cross River gorillas live in the English-speaking part of Cameroon bordering Nigeria, in small pockets of forest that are the focus of a conservation project but with no tourism component yet. The only captive cross river gorillas can be seen at the Limbe Wildlife Centre, which also cares for about 15 western lowland gorilla orphans with a long-term goal of funding permitting of rehabilitation back into the wild.
The Monte Allen National Park is a spectacular forested park and its rugged terrain served to protect it from commercial logging. As yet, there are no habituated western lowland gorillas. The tourism infrastructure is in very early stages of development and trained locals have started to conduct guided day treks.
Gabon made a bold bid to diversify its economy by creating 13 national parks in 2002, most of them containing gorilla habitat. The western lowland gorillas’ habituation programme at the Mikongo Conservation Centre in Lopé National Park was terminated in 2010. But although visitors are no longer taken on specific gorilla-spotting treks, visitors can still see them while looking for other wildlife.
Loango National Park offers the rare combination of rainforest and Atlantic beach, where hippos have been seen surfing, whales and dolphins surface offshore and the forests are home to gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants.
Western low land gorillas are found only in the Cabinda enclave, the part of Angola north of the mouth of the River Congo. There is little in the way of tourism infrastructure, but if it is adventure you want then this is a total stop centre.
Since the loss of the habituated Lossi gorillas to Ebola in 2002, the nearby Odzala National Park now presents one of the best options for seeing western lowland gorillas. It is currently home to two habituated family groups that can be seen by visitors. They can also be seen from hides as they visit open clearings in the forest.
Just like Rwanda, parc des Virungas is the only home of mountain gorillas in Congo. They are also viewed after getting a gorilla permit from either Congo’s embassy in Kampala Uganda or Nairobi Kenya at $ 465USD.There is also chimpanzee trekking at Tonga at only 116 USD.
Central African Republic
One of the best places to track western lowland gorillas is Bai-Hokou in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. This project has succeeded in habituating a group, and a calm contact is likely, though the dense forest and low light beneath the canopy make photography challenging.
Pac des volcans is the only place in Rwanda where mountain gorillas are viewed and this is where Diane Fossey’s gorilla studies took place. One can as well enjoy hiking to the top of Nyiragongo at 232 USD and visiting Diane Fossey’s foundation in the area.
Gorillas are tracked in this park also after attaining a gorilla permit from RDB in Rwanda whose prices are also subject to change and currently they go for $ 750 USD.Rwanda is about the size of Wales, with good main roads and a relatively well-developed infrastructure. But it is the work of Dian Fossey, as dramatized in the film Gorillas in the Mist, that really makes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park many people’s first choice for a mountain gorilla safari.
The professionalism and kindness of the guides many of whom have spent decades helping visitors cope with steep slopes, stinging nettles and nerves – makes every muddy, gasping step that bit easier. But when it’s sunny, and the gorillas are only a short stroll from the park boundary, people tend to wonder what all the fuss is about! Rwanda has short Gorilla Safaris like 1 Day Rwanda Gorilla Trek, 2 Days Rwanda Gorilla Safari and Upto 9 Days Mega Rwanda Safari.
Gorillas are classified into two types namely the mountain gorillas Gorilla gorilla Beringei which is highly endangered and the low land gorillas which are very social to any human being. Mountain gorillas have a primarily vegetarian diet especially in the Virungas and volcans where they don’t possess a wide choice of species to feed on.However, Gorillas in the Ugandan reserves have a wide variety of species to feed on due to the presence of a high diversity both flora and fauna in these reserves as well as various kinds of insects which they also feast on.
Bwindi impenetrable forest is highly regarded as the richest bio diversity in East Africa due to its antiquity. This area receives abundant rain fall throughout the year thus making it a major catchment area and is also the source of five major rivers which flow into Lake Albert. Tourism to Bwindi majorly focuses on gorilla tracking though the forest boasts of a wide range of faunal diversity. Such tree species include; eucalyptus, wabugia eugandesis, mvule,mahogany etc.The forest is also home to very many interesting and colorful birds which include; harrier hawk, olive pigeon,hornbill,shoebill,blue&black billed turacos,etc.Bwindi is also home to over 300 types of butterflies that can be viewed by the visitor. There are various nature walks conducted around the local areas surrounding the forest like Buhoma and Ruhija.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is arguably Uganda’s smallest national park with an area of 33km which harbor part of gorillas that migrate from parc des volcans of Rwanda. It is home to three active volcanic mountains and three extinct peaks. This park protects over 76 species of mammals which include; golden monkeys, black &white colobus,elephants,bushpigs,mountain gorillas, buffaloes etc and several kinds of rodents, bats and small predators. The park also is home to over 87 species of birds which are both resident and migrant. Tourists flock Mgahinga national park primarily for gorilla tracking though there is no native gorillas in this park and most of them just traverse into this park from the neighboring parc des volcans in Rwanda.Mgahinga also has other activities to offer to the visitors apart from gorilla tracking which include; bird watching, forest walks, caving and day hikes to the three volcanic peaks.
However, gorillas in Uganda are tracked after attaining gorilla permits from UWA offices in Kampala whose prices are determined according to various factors but currently they go for 600 USD
Three of the four sub-species are found in DRC. Gorilla tourism with habituated groups began here in the mid-1970s, in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a stronghold of eastern lowland gorillas, and this park still offers one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences. Bukavu is the nearest town with some beautiful lakeside hotels, but check the security situation if entering DRC from Rwanda.
Mountain gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park is also excellent, if security allows. Things have improved since the early 2009 arrest of rebel leader Nkunda, but the area is still unsettled. However, even during the troubles many people visited the gorillas at Djomba on day trips from Kisoro, Uganda, because permits were available in the DRC and sold out in Uganda. Take advice on the spot since things are prone to change from one week to the next.
This Article is written by Habyarimana Edward During his research to explore africa and understand the difference between Mountain Gorillas in Africa and Low Land Gorilla .