There are million questions related to gorilla tracking in Africa. The most difficult of all is about who can track these gentle giants. To start with is the age, anyone below the age of fifteen is allowed to track the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and of course DR Congo. All parents wish the best for their children, this being true, many clients want to track with their children who are underage. So we find our selves losing clients because of age. The second question is about fitness. Fit or not fit, you will be able to track the gorillas. It is so surprising but even the very old, above ninety years come and enjoy the trek. So if you were still undecided whether to book a gorilla safari or not, just go ahead and book a trip of your lifetime and see the endangered gorillas in the wild.
Tracking the giants is divided into two routes. The first trek is the hike from the closest car park to the bamboo forest and Volcanoes national park boundary and the trekkers usually spend 35 minutes to one hour depending on the pace they are moving on. While the second trek enters the same bamboo forest at the forest edge. The second route is known for the advanced and super fit trekkers, which is not the case for those taking the first. The first route trekkers can be predictable, and it is usually quite flat and undemanding though it will be different if you request for Susa gorilla group, which involves a longer and steeper ascent. It is the most strenuous group in Volcanoes national park.
The second gorilla trek route is quite tricky to predict, it usually depends on the movement of the gorillas or where they will have spent the night and on the steepness of the terrain en route. There are some other factors that may determine how hard this second trek will be such as the density of the vegetation that is bending, crawling through the jungle can be tiring especially if you have to dodge vicious nettles and whether it raining or has rained recently, in which case everything will be muddy and quite slippery underfoot.
In Rwanda, the allocation of gorilla groups is not based on accommodation or sectors as the case is in Uganda. Groups are allocated on request, fitness or age. In this, the most essential question here is how difficult the hike will be is which group you are allocated. It is on record that the hike to the Susa Group is the most strenuous but also most rewarding, with more than 40 gorillas on show, while the Sabinyo Group is the most reliably straightforward to reach, yet the hikes to Kwitonda, Hirwa and Group Thirteen are not that strenuous, you may call them moderate hikes whereas the hikes to Amahoro Umubano Groups tend to be more difficult, but not as tough as the Susa Group. If it is not your lucky day, any gorilla group might turn out to be difficult to hike, gorilla tracking not being a theory that it does not change, it all depends on the movement of the animals and where they spent the night. In addition, you cannot be guaranteed which gorilla group you will be allocated in advance. However the guides at Musanze do make a conscious attempt to match individuals to the most suitable group, this is so often on request. In general, the biggest number requesting for the Susa group consists of the lean-looking under-40s, while the opposite holds true for Sabinyo group.
Furthermore, the muddy routes or steepness and high altitude are also challenges to gorilla tracking. The biggest number of our visitors come from towns and cities with good road and communication network, which is totally the opposite in Africa, so they are unused to walking on the more irregular and seasonally slippery surfaces typical of the ascent paths and forest floor. This in mind, wearing strong waterproof shoes or hiking boots with a good tread and solid ankle support is highly recommended. Furthermore, if you think you might struggle in these conditions, there is a lot to be said for avoiding the rainy seasons, especially the months of February, March, April to early May, when conditions can be dauntingly muddy. To those whose dream is to meet the gentle giants face to face, all these are nothing!