70mm, f/5, 1/250s, ISO400
As much as we try to focus on highlights, attractions and activities other than gorilla tracking, this remains — undeniably and deservedly — the region’s top drawcard. I am fortunate enough to have lost count of the number of occasions I have been out with gorillas. My first time wasn’t exactly conventional. Near the beginning of a 10-month roadtrip, I left my car at the Uganda-DRC border and was collected by Virunga rangers in a massive military truck … the rest you already know. This photo is from a few years later, in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, during my time with Gorilla Doctors.
The thing about gorilla tracking is that it’s never the same. And so it never gets old. Close relatives of ours, each gorilla has a unique personality, and each family its own character. And, much like with us, moods vary from day to day, so even visiting the same family twice won’t give you the same experience. Nor are the parks where they are found the same. Though most visitors only go gorilla tracking once — understandable, given the price — there are five (!) national parks in the Gorilla Highlands region where it’s possible to spend time with gorillas. They’re all beautiful, so I’ve instead opted to rank them by how off-the-beaten-track your experience will be, from highest to lowest:
- Kahuzi-Biega NP, DRC
- Virunga NP, DRC
- Mgahinga Gorilla NP, Uganda
- Bwindi Impenetrable NP, Uganda
- Volcanoes NP, Rwanda