Can Primate Parachuters Be Responsible Tourists?

If our goal is to make travel in the Gorilla Highlands region more responsible, what do we do with Primate Parachuters?

The Primate Parachuter (PP) shall be a provisional term for a tourist who is only interested in seeing mountain gorillas, and maybe chimps. For many PPs, time in Rwanda/Uganda is severely limited, usually because this is an add-on to a grander African trip. (If you are new to this and wondering, there absolutely are visitors who fly in for a couple of nights only.)

We have always tried to persuade people to give this area substantial time — to travel slow and admire spectacular nature, have meaningful interactions with locals, immerse themselves in culture and history, and so on. While some PPs don’t do this because they lack time or interest, maybe others miss it because they don’t know what is possible?

Let’s not dwell on this deeper question now, let’s instead ask ourselves if there is anything we can do for PPs within the confines of their dramatically short visit. We are not asking as a tour company, we are asking as producers of podcasts, publishers of a pocket guide booklet and other media promoting responsible tourism. … You know, in the context of the ideal of “making better places for people to live, and better places for people to visit”? You know, having a positive impact on the local environment?

What’s your take?

photo by Marcus Westberg


  1. Andy said on Facebook: The primary issue (couldn’t resist) is that Gorillas are awesome … hence why people will detour out of their route to go see them … as in other awesome things like … the Pyramids, the Great Barrier reef, and certain muffin cafes in NYC … the other issue is that you need to design your services around PP looking at… attention.. the gorillas.. the route to the gorillas… the airport closest to the gorillas… map their journey… from the first google search.. to getting back on the plane… find your ‘story’ around this journey…

  2. Deane said on Instagram: I have just been to Rwanda & Uganda for 5 weeks and loved it. I attended the baby naming ceremony. The only other place I went was Zanzibar for 4 day. As an Australian I can say Rwanda and Uganda are over looked by Australians in favour of South Africa and Kenya. Marketing in and partnerships in Australia would help. I am spreading the word and plan to bring back a group of Aussies next year

  3. David said on Instagram: As a tourist, I want to be able to make my own plans and spend my money how I want. I saw gorillas for the first time last year in 2021 in virunga in Congo and Virunga Park wanted me to do a 3day package but I did not want to spend my money on the other things. I had to fight for this and I eventually saved myself about $500 by only going to see the gorillas.

  4. Focus on adventure and special interests where Uganda stands out – encounters with communities and local people, bird watching, fly and sport fishing, adventure and activity based holidays. In addition, Uganda should make better use of its waterways, Lake Victoria, and its River systems..maybe safaris by boat. Should also make the best use of the Rwenzori Mountains.
    Rwanda with much less natural resources seem to have diversified more than Uganda. But..never been to Rwanda

  5. Yes, Gorilla’s are awesome but Uganda has so much more to offer. People flying across the world just to land somewhere for three days makes me sad… Slow travel is the only way to go for me, personally. If you’re really into gorilla’s then imagine spending some more time in a region where they live and where people have been living with them for decades, isn’t that so much more exciting than just snapping a picture and flying back home?

  6. I spent two years in the company of gorillas, documenting their behavior and getting to know individuals. Simply put, gorillas are extraordinary. It is easy to understand why so many people come specifically to see them. Being in their presence, even if only for 1 hour, feels magical. During my time in Kahuzi-Biega, I interacted with a lot of tourists who came to see the Grauer’s gorillas, and many were “primate parachuters”.

    I am not surprised people come only to see great apes, but I am constantly surprised by how often there is extremely little interaction between visitors and trackers. It is a missed opportunity. I learned so much from my conversations with the trackers, not only about gorillas and forest ecology but about Congolese culture, customs, history, art, struggles, passions…. So much!

    While l always encourage people to immerse themselves in as much of the local culture and natural history as possible when visiting any place, the reality is that many people cannot or will not find the time to do it. In DRC, the trek to/from the gorillas can be intense and opportunities to engage with trackers are often lost to the focus on physical exertion. Furthermore, many people like myself would rather be fully immersed in the sensory experiences of the forest and wildlife than engaged in conversation at that time. Creating opportunities for deeper exchanges with trackers, perhaps at the end of the trek, is an easy way to help broaden experiences during exceptionally short visits. I think the opportunity is already there but a lot can/needs to be done to better organize and facilitate interactions.

    Would love to be a part of a longer dialogue about this because I have a lot to say!

  7. Seeing the gorillas is for sure a wonderful and unique experience but so are all the other amazing things Uganda and Rwanda has to offer! If you come seeing the gorillas I highly encourage you to browse this website and you will find plenty of other really cool things to do that are actually quite easy to combine with seeing the gorillas.

    I am a big fan of slow travelling and as a digital nomad I am in the lucky position to do so. I find ‘flying in and out’ exhausting for the body, mind, wallet and planet. So I hope we can encourage more people to consider to travel slow and focus more on doing less but getting out more, if their time allows it ?

Comments are closed.