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How to Handle a
Gorilla Encounter

Essential Tips for Travelers

Encountering a gorilla in the wild is a thrilling yet daunting experience. For many, the idea of facing a 400-pound (200 kg) silverback gorilla, the strongest primate in the world, deep within the dense African jungle can be intimidating. To help ease these concerns, here are some essential tips and guidelines for those embarking on a gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda, Uganda, or Congo.

Pre-Trek Briefing

Before heading into the jungle, you'll receive a thorough briefing on proper behavior around gorillas. This briefing is crucial to ensure that the gorillas remain calm and stress-free while also keeping you safe from any potential aggressive reactions.

Wild encounters

Maintain a Safe Distance
Always keep at least 7 meters (23 feet) away from the gorillas. This "social distancing" helps prevent the transmission of diseases between humans and gorillas and minimizes stress on the animals. If a curious juvenile or an adult gorilla approaches you, slowly move back to maintain the recommended distance. If a gorilla is on a path towards you, step aside to let it pass.

Avoid Direct Eye Contact
Staring directly into the eyes of a silverback gorilla can be perceived as a challenge to its dominance, which might provoke aggression. If you find yourself in a direct gaze with a silverback, look away calmly to diffuse the situation.

Turn Off Your Camera Flash
Ensure your camera’s flash is disabled before you encounter the gorillas. Flash photography can disorient and scare the gorillas, potentially provoking a charge from the silverback.

Move Slowly and Steadily Avoid making sudden movements such as running or picking up objects, as these actions can startle the gorillas and lead to defensive behavior from the silverback.

Stay Close to Your Group Never isolate yourself from your trekking group. Staying close together minimizes the chances of a gorilla singling out an individual, which can happen if the silverback becomes agitated.

Speak Softly Gorillas appreciate a peaceful environment, so keep your voice low and speak in whispers if necessary.

React Calmly to Charges Although rare, a silverback may charge if it feels threatened or if you inadvertently come too close. If this happens, remain calm, do not run, and adopt a submissive posture by crouching and looking down.

Avoid Eating Near Gorillas Do not bring or consume food near the gorillas. Their diet is highly specific to the plants in their habitat, and foreign foods can upset their digestive systems, potentially causing serious harm.

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