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Gorilla watching

Gorilla watching recommendations

Meeting a gorilla is something that has to be experienced to be believed. Here’s our guide to making the most of your gorilla encounter

1. Rwanda

Rwanda is about the size of Wales, with good main roads (making it quick to get around) and a relatively well-developed infrastructure. The work of Dian Fossey, as dramatised in the film Gorillas in the Mist, makes Rwanda’s Volcanoes NP many people’s first choice for a mountain gorilla safari. Very few return disappointed; the relaxed gorillas and relatively open habitat – montane vegetation, often with expansive views – greatly improve the chances of good gorilla watching.

2. Uganda

Mark Carwardine recommends Bwindi Impenetrable NP in south-west Uganda for the country’s best gorilla-viewing. Here, 330 sq km of equatorial rainforest is home to 310-340 mountain gorillas. The dense, overgrown park earns its ‘impenetrable’ title, but your reward for trekking into the jungle is to experience one of the most biodiverse places in the world and (with luck) an astonishing hour with the park’s gorillas. Mgahinga NP, the Ugandan part of the Virunga Conservation Area, is another option.

3. Nigeria

Cross River gorillas (CRGs) are found only in Cross River State. The Nigerian government has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure but as yet the chances of seeing gorillas here are slim. There are only 100 or so gorillas, and scientists are cautious about habituating any of them. Visiting the habitat helps conserve it, though, and there are two outstanding primate sanctuaries and reintroduction projects based in Calabar: Pandrillus, for drill monkeys and chimpanzees; and Cercopan, for numerous monkey species.

Note: there are FCO warnings on travelling to areas of Nigeria – plan your visit carefully.

4. Central African Republic

One of the best places to track WLGs is Bai-Hokou in the Dzanga-Ndoki NP. A WWF 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. Do check current FCO advice before travel.

5. Gabon

Gabon made a bold bid to diversify its economy by creating 13 national parks in 2002, most of them containing gorilla habitat. Habituation is underway at Mikongo, on the east side of Lopé NP; although the WLGs are still wary, tracking them is an amazing experience and even a glimpse is rewarding. Moukalaba-Doudou NP has some of the highest densities of gorillas, and an ecotourism project began there in 2008 with help from www.gorillas.org.

Loango NP offers the rare combination of rainforest and Atlantic beach, home to gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants as well as whales and dolphins offshore.

6. Equatorial Guinea

The Monte Alen NP is a spectacular forested park. Its rugged terrain has protected it from commercial logging, but as yet there are no habituated WLGs. The ECOFAC programme is developing tourism infrastructure.

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