Sadly, reflecting the world we live in, this wide-reaching question has a relatively narrow answer. Where-as a more widespread species such as the elephant can be found in multiple locations on more than one continent, the habitat for the gorilla is far more restrictive, and limited only to the dark continent.
Increasingly driven out of their natural habitat by war, deforestation & poaching, today the two main subspecies of the gorilla – the Mountain Gorilla and the Lowland Gorilla – are only found in isolated pockets across the central belt of Africa. Their ever-decreasing numbers mean that in order to view them you will need to pay for a visitor permit, join a guided trek and follow the strict protocols in place and, in order to minimise their interactions with humans, your small group will normally be limited to only 60 minutes with these magnificent creatures.
Lowland Gorillas, the smallest of the gorilla subspecies and the more challenging to track and habituate, can be identified by their shorter hair, skull size and nose shape, and they tend to have smaller group sizes than their mountain cousins.
Political instability and lack of infrastructure & access prevent everybody except the most intrepid from seeing these creatures in many of the locations in which they are found - Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea, but there are two locations where the keen Africaphile is able to see these magnificent creatures.
In Gabon the wonderful Loango National Park is home to approximately 1500 lowland gorillas, and your base has to be the Loango Lodge, where in addition to tracking the gorillas, the lucky visitor may also spot hippos surfing in the waves, forest elephants strolling along the beach, and chimpanzees roaming across the open scrub.
In the neighbouring Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, they can be found in the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, which although very remote has comfortable accommodation available in either Mbeli Camp or Mondika Camp, and in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, proclaimed as one of Africa’s very first National Parks. Here the fortunate few can stay in relative luxury at both Mboko Camp and Ngaga Camp.
The critically-endangered Mountain Gorilla, of which there are fewer than 900 remaining, typically have troop sizes of between 5-30 females, and are normally presided over by a dominant male who has a striking streak of silver fur across his back. They are only found in 3 countries, one of which, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is off limits due to civil war and unrest, so the two big-hitting destinations for gorilla-viewing are Rwanda & Uganda, with the former your best chance of successfully tracking them.
The largest populations live in the Virunga Mountains, which stretch across all 3 countries, with the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda the most easily accessible, situated as it is just two hours drive from Kigali airport. Our top recommendations for lodges here are Bisate, Singita Kwitonda & Sabyinyo Silverback, all of which rank amongst the finest safari lodges found anywhere in Africa. Over the border in Uganda it is the Mgahina National Park, where the Mt Gahinga Lodge is your best bet to stay, or in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where we suggest that you stay at either the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp or Bwindi Lodge.
Before you plan your gorilla adventure, it is just worth remembering that the viewing terrain in Rwanda is generally easier than in Uganda, and as Rwanda has twice the number of habituated gorillas, permits tend to be more easily available.
If this blog has got you interested in booking your next holiday then get in touch with us by calling 020 7843 3500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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