GORILLA TRACKING EQUIPMENT LIST – Gorilla equipment and gear to use while tracking gorillas, rules to follow and how to behave while with gorillas, our gorilla permits policy, suggested foods

Gorilla tracking is an all-year activity. It is done on a daily basis by tourists wishing to visit gorillas. There are similar gorilla rules for each of the gorilla parks in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo with slight variations. To track gorillas each person must have the day’s gorilla permit which needs to be arranged and paid for in advance. Each gorilla park (Bwindi, Nkuringo, Nshongi and Mgahinga in Uganda, Parc National des Volcans [PNV] in Rwanda and Virungas Gorilla Park Congo) has different numbers of permits and different gorilla groups and families habituated for visitors, and there are strict limits on visitor numbers – the average is a maximum of 8 visitors allowed per gorilla family per day (in Congo the maximum is 6 visitors allowed per gorilla family per day). You are allowed a maximum of 1 hour with the gorillas.


  • A small, lightweight, frameless, waterproof back/day pack
  • Light, waterproof hiking or walking boots or shoes with treaded soles.
  • Thick socks.
  • High speed film 400 ASA minimum, 800 ASA recommended (no flash photography allowed on the track), fast film, binoculars,
  • Long pants (jeans/khakis) and a long sleeved shirt
  • Leather or heavy canvas (gardening-style) gloves to grip vegetation (gardening gloves may be advised).
  • Waterproof rain pants, a rain suit or poncho with hood.
  • moisture wicking undergarments, lightweight wool socks, long-sleeved shirt,
  • sturdy trousers, sunglasses,
  • sun screen, a sun hat, a breathable lightweight rain poncho or parka with a rain hat,
  • Thick sweaters not necessary on the track, as it gets very hot during tracking. Best to have layers of clothing as temperatures tend to change.
  • Light raincoat
  • A waterproof, squash-able hat.
  • Drinking water. You may ask for a walking stick if needed.

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Gorilla tracking and permits rules
No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days in one park. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. To protect gorillas from disease and to avoid problems of arduous conditions in the forests young trackers below the age of 15 and those with illnesses are not allowed to track. Flash photography is not allowed and visitors are advised to use still cameras, at a distance of at least 5 metres away from the animals. Professional filming requires extra fees to be paid. Tracking through the thick jungle, traversing canopies of thick undergrowth can be tough, arduous and wet – the tracking can last from as little as 45 minutes to as much as 9 hours. Trackers therefore need to be well equipped with food and water, strong water-proof clothing and must be fit and healthy. Strong, light clothes could be carried, as well as rain jackets, a torch, sunglasses, a sun hat, gloves to grip vegetation, socks. Use jungle boots, long-sleeved shirt. A walking stick may be needed. Porters can be hired to carry equipment for all trackers (fees range between $5-10 per porter per day). Part of the fees paid to the park authorities goes directly to help local communities around the Protected Area(s).

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Other Gorilla Viewing Rules:

  • Do NOT remove anything from the park e.g., flowers, fruit, porcupine quills, etc.
  • Keep your voices down at all times.
  • Do NOT eat or drink when close to the gorillas – this is a disease risk.
  • Do NOT touch the Gorillas – they are wild animals.
  • The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is ONE hour, however if the gorillas become agitated or nervous the guide will finish the visit early.
  • If you are feeling ill, or are carrying a contagious disease, please volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your viewing permit money.
  • Do NOT spit in the park and go to the bathroom only as instructed by your guide.
  • Do not leave anything in the park, if you pack it in, pack it out!
  • Obey the local guide instructions at all times, for the safety of the Gorillas and visitors.To TopOur gorilla permits policy

    1. Gorilla permits are booked with payment on the basis of first come first served. It would therefore be very helpful if all travellers could confirm their safari with us as soon as possible, to avoid disappointment. Availability of gorilla permits for a required date is not guaranteed. Permits can be difficult to obtain, because of the high competition for them; and can be sold out at short notice. If your safari with us includes going gorilla tracking, we would like to stress that confirmation needs to be received from you as soon as possible and payment instructions for gorilla permits should be confirmed at the time of confirmation. Any delay in confirmation and/or payment may mean that we are unable to obtain them and in these circumstances Merit Vacations Limited would not have any liability.

    2. Once you book and send your money for permits, the date may not change (changing a tracking date may mean a cancellation fee is charged, in some cases we can use our influence to waive this, but this too, has limits – changing a tracking date at short notice to ask for a refund, will not be allowed). For your information Rwanda charges $200 for each permit date changed. Uganda on the other hand does not allow changing/rescheduling the tracking date and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) will only refund 70% of tracking fee if the tracker falls sick prior to tracking. Any other change in tracking dates the following terms are applied by UWA. We strongly emphasise that cancellation of permit bookings is not always allowed. As said, except for medical reasons, there is no refund whatsoever for any person who tracks gorillas and fails to see them (although tracking gorillas and failing to see them is very rare).

    UWA will retain the following percentages upon cancellation/changing the tracking date;

    0-8 days to tracking date – no refund
    9-45 days to tracking date – 75% (25% refund to client)
    90 days to tracking date – 50%
    91 days and above to tracking date – 25% (75% refund to client)

    The above percentages are calculated on the full value of the permit.

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    3. It is essential that you inform us of your proposed dates of travel so that we check gorilla permits availability. Once we know that permits for the date we want (having finalised the exact type/duration of tour) are available, then we advise our clients of the availability. In lieu of points 2 & 3 above, it is up to the clients to decide which dates they are planning to come, and then confirm their tour as soon as possible so that permits can then be purchased. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda requires that travelers firm up their dates latest 4-6 months in advance. This is, as already said, because permits needed at short notice are really difficult to obtain because of the high competition for them.

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    ChimpanzeeBefore any tracking can be done, gorillas have to undergo a long process called habituation. It is when the researchers (normally well trained guides and environmental researchers) well versed in gorilla behaviour identify a viable family for habituation, a family must have at least 5 individuals. Habituation involves making the family get used to human presence. Once the family members are used to humans, there is minimal chance of animals charging at you or threatening to charge at you, which can happen when one encounters un-habituated gorilla families in the wild and doesn’t know how to behave around gorillas. However habituation does not prevent the silverbacks – the gorilla family heads – from exercising mock charges, but this is rare and when it happens, most visitors will have been briefed in advance of what to do: be peaceful, dive to the ground, and generally show the animal that you are submissive. That way, gorilla tracking has remained a very peaceful activity for all years of our operation.

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