Etiquette…for gorillas

Though they may, technically, be animals, it turns out that gorillas have every bit as complicated social rules as we do. Obviously, no-one wants to visit somewhere new and not fit in with the locals, so we’ve put together our very own gorilla trekking etiquette guide to help you get the most out of your adventure.

Gorilla from Buhoma Lodge

  • When you first meet the gorillas your guide will normally advise you to crouch down behind him, in such a position that the alpha male can see you clearly. This is a submissive and unthreatening position and shows you aren’t trying to challenge his authority. The silverback is the big boss, and we’ll all do well to remember it!
  • Try to keep your distance. Young gorillas are irredeemably curious and may try to come close, or even touch you. However, please try to move away slowly and keep space between you and them as you really don’t want the dominant male to see you as a threat to his family- a gorilla charge is nothing short of terrifying. Getting too close is also a major health risk for the gorillas- they share 98% of our DNA so can easily pick up the smallest human bug. Ideally the distance between you and the gorillas should be 7 metres, though with sudden gorilla movements and dense forest this isn’t always possible.

    Gorillas from Virunga Lodge

  • Also to protect the gorillas, you should steer clear of eating or drinking within 200 metres of the gorillas. If gorillas learn to be interested in the contents of your day bag there’s potential for serious safety problems for trekkers. On top of this, human food isn’t necessarily ideal for gorillas, and is an easy way for them to pick up human illnesses.
  • Avoid showing your teeth (this includes broad smiles) or making direct eye contact with a gorilla as these can be seen as an being quite aggressive.

    Gorilla

  • Keep noise to a minimum- sudden movements or loud noises can startle the gorillas. Your hour with them is so precious you don’t want to scare them away!
  • Make sure to learn how to use your camera before you head into the forest. Any flash photography, noises or whirs could startle your subjects and electronic noises are a surefire way to ruin the magic of the forest.

And there it is- a guide to gorilla trekking etiquette that should leave you well set up for a magical hour in the forests of Uganda or Rwanda.