What to do when encountering a gorilla

“What should I do when encountering a gorilla?”. This is a common question asked by travelers that are preparing to see the gorillas in the wild. The thought of coming face to face with a 400pound (200kg) silverback gorilla, the world’s strongest primate, in the dense African jungle can be unnerving.

Before going out into the jungle you are given briefing on how to behave while with the gorillas to ensure that the gorillas are not stressed by your presence and also protect you from any backlash from the gorillas.

The following tips assume you are encountering a habituated gorilla during the gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda, Uganda, or Congo.

However, note that different gorillas have different character and the guide will always caution about certain cantankerous individuals in the gorilla family.

Here are the guidelines and tips on what to do when encountering a gorilla during the gorilla tour

Keep 7 meters from the gorillas (social distancing).

You are advised to always keep at least 7 meters (23 feet) from the gorillas at all times. This is to avoid stressing the gorillas, and it is also a way of “social distancing” with the gorillas to avoid possible transmission of diseases between gorillas and humans.

But the playful and curios juveniles may move close to observe you. Other times an adult may just like the spot where you are and could move and sit or stop right next to you. In these situations, step back till you are about seven meters, or keep moving back as long as the gorilla is moving towards you until you can move no more.

If you are in the gorilla’s path that walking towards you, set aside and let it continue on its path.

Avoid eye contact with the silverback gorilla

Eye contact with the silverback gorilla is an indication to the silverback that you are challenging his supremacy. He will get agitated and may charge at you. So immediately you find yourself in a direct stare with the silverback gorilla, please look away. Yes, of course it is quite tempting to look into the fiery big reddish-brown hypnotizing eyes of this gentle giant.

Do not use flash with the camera

Turn off the flash from the camera before encountering the gorillas. Flash from the camera disorients the gorillas, scaring them away. It may also provoke the silverback gorilla to charge.

Do not make sudden movements

When in the vicinity of the many gorillas do not make sudden movements, such as running or picking branches. The gorillas may feel threatened and flee or provoke charging from the silverback.

Keep close with your group

Do not isolate your self and keep away from the rest of your tracking group. Keep close to the group so that the silverback can’t easily single you out in case he is agitated.

Speak in a low tone (whispers)

Keep your voice low as the gorillas love peace. If you have to speak do so in whispers.

In case a silverback charges at you crouch and look down

This is rare but has happened if perhaps you got too close to him or any of his members or do something that puts him off. The silverback may charge at you and if this happens stay calm do not run. Look down and crouch.

Do not eat near the gorillas

Do not carry any foods or eat near the gorillas. The gorillas have a strict diet comprising of plants in their habitat. Any foreign food may upset their digestive system and cause death.

Silverback gorilla – learn about the strongest primate!

What is a silverback gorilla?

A silverback gorilla is a male gorilla that has reached full adulthood or maturity. When the male gorilla reaches this stage of growth it develops a slivery gray lining on its back, or rather, the hairs on his back become slivery gray. Similar to how humans develop grey hair in their late adult life. But unlike humans, the female gorillas do not attain this slivery grey back.

The silvery gray back of the male gorilla looks silvery (contrasting beautifully with the dark black of the rest of the body) and thus the name “silverback gorilla”.

The male gorilla attains the prestigious “silverback” status between the age of 13 – 15 years. Before attaining the “silverback” status, the male gorilla goes through the following stages of growth;

  1. infant (0 – 4 years) that is still dependent on the mother still breastfeeding,
  2. juvenile ( 4 – 6 years) that has been weaned by the mother and becomes semi-independent,
  3. adolescence (6 – 8 years) who are not yet sextually mature
  4. sub-adult (8 – 10 years) who has become sexually active
  5. blackback male (10 – 13 years) sexually mature but not fully mature physically
  6. Silverback male (13+ year) fully mature

What is the size of the silverback gorilla?

The silverback gorilla is the biggest primate in the world. By 13 years the male gorillas that have now turned into silverbacks grow tremendously in size, achieving a size that is twice that of the adult female gorilla.

The silverback will reach a standing height of over 5 feet (1.5 meters), and weigh up to 450 pounds (204 kg)

What is the strength of the silverback gorilla

“How strong is a silverback gorilla?”. This is a curious question asked by a lot of people. Well, without a doubt the silverback gorilla is physically the strongest of the apes.

The strength of a silverback gorilla is estimated to be equivalent to the strength of 8 grown healthy men. If you know rugby union, this is the forwards group of one rugby team.

A silverback can easily dismember you by pulling your limps off your body with no effort. A silverback holding onto a part of your body such as an arm or leg would crush your bones in an instant.

The silverback fights by drilling his extremely powerful jaws into the adversary’s flesh and will instantly tear flesh and crush bones.

Is the silverback gorilla aggressive? How dangerous is it?

Naturally gorillas are docile primates that do not love violence. Peace means so much  to the gorillas (a sheer contrast with chimpanzees).

Even with such immense strength, the silverback gorilla rarely engages in aggressive encounters, be it with other gorillas or other wildlife, unless if his group or authority is really threatened. His first reaction is too flee from any aggressive situation.

This none-aggressive nature of the silverback gorilla has earned it the tag “Gentle Giant”.

What do silverback gorillas eat?

Silverback gorillas or gorillas generally, are generally vegetarian feeding on leaves, fruits, stems, and roots of shrubs. The gorillas have also been observed to feed on insects or bugs that supplement on the vegetarian diet to get vital nutrients such as proteins and other essential minerals the gorillas may not get in vegetation.

The gorillas do not drink water. They get sufficient water from the vegetation they feed on.

Do the gorillas eat meat? There is only one incidence when gorillas eat meat and it is quite bizarre! Gorillas eat their dead babies. Shocking uh?! This logic behind this bizarre ritual by the gorillas that are thought to be vegetarian has been explained as way the efficient way gorillas can dispose of the dead baby gorilla’s body so that no prey gets to taste a baby gorilla. This way the gorillas are protecting their live infants from interest of other preys in the jungle.

What are the responsibilities of the silverback gorilla

The silverback gorilla is the dominant gorilla in the group (gorillas live in groups or call them families). He is the leader and protector of his group.

The silverback gorilla directs the daily activities of the group, that is, he leads the search of food, and determines where and when to spend the night in the forest.

The silverback gorilla also has the priority right to mate with the females.

Note that there can be more than one silverback gorilla in a group but only one of these is the dominant and the leader. Other silverback gorillas within the group may challenge the dominant silverback for leadership and if successful can take over the group. This happens when the dominant silverback gorilla has grown so old and frail and other potential silverbacks get to notice this challenge him. Other than the possibility of facing a challenge from within, the dominant silverback can also be challenged by lone silverback wondering in the jungle looking for a group to take over.

Where to see the silverback gorillas.

Gorillas are endemic to the African continent and there are two species, the western gorillas in western Africa, and the eastern gorillas in central/eastern Africa. The eastern gorillas (mountain gorillas) are more popular due to the gorilla trekking activity offered in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, that allows tourists to trek in the jungles to see the gorillas. Coming face to face with the enormous silverback gorilla without any barrier is one of the most beautiful moments that are hard to explain. You can book a gorilla tour to see gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Uganda’s Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

keeping safe in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best places in Uganda to see big game like elephants, lions, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and antelopes among others.

But it is also the park where safety has been a concern for travelers. Its location on the border with the unstable eastern Democratic Republic Congo does not help matters. For example, in 2019, using Congo as a base, bandits kidnapped a tourist from the park that was released after a negotiated ransom.

Attacks on people by wild animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park have been on the increase, for example an Indian tourist, that perhaps thought the Buffaloes here were as approachable as the domesticated Indian Buffaloes, approached so closely towards a lone buffalo in Queen Elizabeth park and was instantly attacked and killed!

So the question is how safe is, Queen Elizabeth National Park? Well, Queen Elizabeth National Park is quite safe as long as ones exercise caution and follows the park rules. In this article I discuss how to keep safe when on a safari tour in Queen Elizabeth National Park and highlight some of the park rules important for your safety.

Here is how to keep in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Take an armed park guide

If you are on a self drive tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park, it is advised to take an armed park guide for extra protection. The guide knows the behaviors of animals and so he or she would advise and guide on how to approach particular animals, and if the worst comes to the worst, that is in case of an animal attack he or she can use the gun to scare off the animal by firing in the air.

Do not leave the car, especially near bushes

Do not be tempted to leave the car when in the park. Even when the area may look clear of the big animals, a dangerous snake may be a few steps away from you. Only leave the car in gazetted picnic sites within the park, and even then first see that the area and surroundings are free from any animals.

Keep a safe distance from the wildlife

Always keep a safe distance of about 70 meters from elephants, buffaloes, lions, and other big game. 70 meters is considered the comfort zone of most big animals when they will not feel threatened by you.

Do NOT go off the drive track

This is one of the most abused park rules and the cause of most incidents of attacks by animals. The desire to get closer to a distant sighting causes many to go off the drive track. In the process the car gets stuck and travelers are forced to go out of the car, getting exposed to serious danger from animals.

Avoid bright colors such as red

Bright colors like red signify danger for many animals and can trigger an attack. The bright colors will also make you stand out and catch the attention of wildlife. Wear nature blending colors such as green and brown

Do not feed animals. Do not keep fresh food open in the car

Many travelers have the tendency of throwing foodstuffs to animals especially monkeys and baboons. This has embolden the animals that aggress people who carry foodstuffs with them or in the car. Also avoid keeping fresh foodstuffs like fruits and bananas in the open view in the car as these can attract elephants and baboons.

Apply insect repellent

Big game are not the only threat to safety in the park. The mosquito is the number one killer in Africa through causing malaria disease. Apply insect repellent to keep away the mosquitoes and other bugs.

Apply sunscreen

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located along the equator and therefore receives direct sunshine. If you luck melanin ensure you take sunscreen lotion to protect you from sunburn.

Areas of  to be more careful about safety in Queen Elizabeth National Park


Ishasha is the remote area of Queen Elizabeth National park located along the Congo border and can therefore be easily accessed from Congo. The area is famous for the tree climbing lions and offers such a prestine African bush experience. Ishasha is the location where the unfortunate incident of kidnapping of tourist happened. The security services have since established a strong standing on the border. However, take caution while here and if you can take an armed park guide for extra protection.

Kazinga Channel

The Kazinga Channel is one of the biggest highlights of the Queen Elizabeth National Park hosting boat cruises from which tourists are able to see crocodiles, hippos and other wildlife attracted to the channel. Take extra caution while close to the channel as hippos leave the water to graze (in the evening through to early morning)

Animals to be very careful about


Keep a safe distance from Buffaloes, they are senseless killers who do not need a strong reason to attack as long as you get close. They also do not provide any warning signs before attacking and are very good at ambushing from a bush.


Keep a safe distance from the elephants especially if they have calves. You should know elephant behavior especially when they are agitated. Unlike buffaloes, elephants will show warning signs before attacking to give you a chance to back away.


A leopard with a cub is potentially the most dangerous animal. If you have seen one with a cub keep a safe distance. Leopards like to spend the day in the tree so before getting close or under any tree first scan it to ensure there is no leopard


Of the big game, hippos are the biggest killers in Africa. Hippos come out of the water in the evening to graze all through the night and early morning before returning to the water when the temperatures rise. Simply avoid walking near bushes in the evening. Hippos will quickly attack as long as you get close.


Can a handicapped person do gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo is a bucket list adventure that every nature lover wants to tick off, and yet it is a physically demanding activity that will require walking through thick jungles and hiking across tough terrain on highlands and mountains before finding the Mountain Gorillas, that as their name tells it, live in the mountains and are found in only those three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo). The level of difficulty of the gorilla trekking is therefore a concern for even the regular outdoors goers, which leaves one wondering, should the handicapped or disabled even think about taking part in this once-in-a-lifetime adventure??

Can a handicapped or disabled do gorilla trekking? This is an important question I want to address in this article.

The answer is YES! The handicapped, disabled, elderly or any physically impaired and challenged person has a chance of tracking the gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda.

Provisions have been put in place to enable every person have the opportunity to track the gorillas, as long as one is aged 15 years and above which is the age requirement for the gorilla trekking.

The famous “helicopter” in Bwindi National Park Uganda

The sedan seat stretcher, famously called the “helicopter” in Bwindi National Park, is a comfortable seat fixed to a metallic platform with handles that is lifted on shoulders by a group of four young and energetic men. The handicapped or elderly person is carried shoulder high to the gorillas and back.

The royal stretcher in Rwanda


In Rwanda, a well-sawn stretcher is what is used to carry the handicapped or disabled person to the gorillas. Unlike the “helicopter” chair in Uganda that a person sits on and is carried in that sitting posture, the stretcher in Rwanda is flexible as it allows one to lie-down or seat as you are carried through the trekking.

Is there an extra cost for the provision of carrying the handicapped?

Yes, hiring the stretcher or sedan seat stretcher costs about $300

This money goes directly to the community who are called on by the park to provide this service. Perhaps this can be another opportunity to give back to the local community.

Blind couple goes gorilla trekking in Uganda

Miriam of Kagera Safaris with her blind gorilla tracking clients shortly before tracking the Nshongi gorilla family of Bwindi National Park

Insane.. right? Well this was our first thought when our friend Miriam from Kagera Safaris informed me they were organizing a gorilla trekking trip to Bwindi for a blind couple. It happened and in November 2019, Uganda got the first blind people to track the gorillas.

A testimony that no matter the handicap, one can still track the gorillas. If a blind person that relied on the eyes of another to “see” the gorillas can do it, then why not you?

What are the requirements for flying out (departing) through Entebbe Airport

Entebbe International Airport is Uganda’s foremost airport and until recently had been the only international airport in the country. We now have newly designated international airports in Uganda, such as Hoima, Kasese, Gulu, Arua, Kisoro, Mbarara, etc…, but these are yet to be fully equipped to handle international air traffic. Therefore, as of now, Feb 2023, flights into and out of Uganda go through Entebbe International Airport.

Entebbe Airport turned into a den of thieves and conmen?

The start of the year 2023 has seen Entebbe Airport come into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. There has been an eruption of accusations about corruption and impunity at the airport, that has thrown the credibility of the airport management (Civil Aviation Authority) into disrepute.

Many travelers, especially locals that had been first time fliers have come forward to narrate harrowing tales of how immigration staff played on their ignorance as first time travelers to extort, intimidate and malice. Many travelers narrate how officials at the airport come up with any flimsy excuse to corner the anxious and timid traveler to pay a bribe or else miss the flight. Many travelers have missed flights because they could not afford a bribe.

Over time, fed up travelers have resorted to flying out through neighboring Kenya (JKIA) and Rwanda (Kigali Airport).

Uganda Civil Aviation Authority cleaning the house

The noise eruption has helped get the attention of the top authority of the airport and the country that has set out to clean the house and rescue the reputation of Entebbe airport.

First of all, many staff whose evidence surfaced about them engaging in bribery and other malpractices have reportedly been apprehended and dismissed from the airport.

The Civil Aviation has laid out the requirements for departing and the process of leaving, from arrival to boarding your plane.

What you should have when flying out through Entebbe Airport (2023)

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid visa for the countries where it is required
  3. An airline ticket (printed on paper or e-ticket on phone)
  4. Valid yellow fever vaccination card (in case the destination country requires it)

The requirements may change from time to time for different countries and so travelers are advised to seek additional information from the respective airlines.

What is the process of going through Entebbe Airport for departing passengers?

  1. First security stop. This is the main entrance to the airport. Passengers leave the car to go through the security scanner on foot, while the car is quickly searched. The passengers, after going through the scanner wait for the driver on the other side, and goes back into the car after it goes through the gate.
  2. Car park access. The car is parked in the public car parking area and the passengers continues to the departure level. Trolleys are available in the car parking area if one needs to use one.
  3. Second security stop on departure level. This is point where the traveling passengers are separated from the non-traveling passengers. At this point the traveler shows his or her passport and ticket before they are allowed to proceed to a restricted area.
  4. Hold Baggage check point. The bags are screened through the screening machine by the Civil Aviation Authority.
  5. Documents verification. Traveler joins the queue where the travel documents are verified. The passenger is required to present the passport as legal identity of the traveler, and the flight ticket showing their destination of travel. The yellow fever card is also presented (in case the destination country requires it).
  6. Check in counters and Baggage drop. Once the traveler is cleared, traveler presents the passport, ticket, or visa with stamp for check in. Immigrations check stamps your passport with exit visa, airlines check in will issue you with a board passing after weighing your luggage and issued with a receipt in case of excess luggage which is left at the airline’s counter.
  7. Immigration Desk. Responsible for border management and detection of human and child trafficking. Passenger will be required to present passport for exit visa/stamp, boarding pass, and hotel booking.
  8. Last security check. Passenger will be required to go through this last security point before entering the boarding gate and any prohibited item will be withdrawn from the passenger.
  9. Boarding gate: the passengers will be required to go the boarding gates, 20 minutes before the flight departure. At the entrance of the boarding gate, the passenger will undergo a last check by the Airline prior to boarding to confirm that nothing has changed throughout the process.
  10. The passenger will then board the plane.