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Uganda Gorilla Trekking

Things to observe on Gorilla Trekking

What makes the Gorillas beat the chest and charge – Rwenzori Expeditions.

in this blog post the team tries to explain the facts that you can encounter on gorilla trekking and this makes the gorillas beat the chest and charge at you and how to respond in this situation while on Gorilla trekking safari with Rwenzori Expeditions , the leading operator offering Rwenzori & Gorilla watching adventures in Uganda.

Gorillas are arguably the most peaceful of the great apes. They leave in close knit groups lead by a calm, charismatic and benevolent silverback. Differences and confrontations between individuals occur but are quickly resolved under the watchful eyes of the mighty silverback. The females and all group members are loyal to the silverback.

Gorilla Trekking UgandaGorillas will first attempt to warn off an intruder by making loud grunts and tearing down vegetation. A silverback will even stand upright on its rare legs and pound its chest as a show of power. These actions show that it is ready to defend itself and his family against the particular threat (humans, other silverbacks, or leopards).

In the rare case that gorillas charge, they do so for the following reasons

Less frequent encounters with humans after completing the habituation process: Even after a gorilla group has completed the habituation process, they are may get back to their wild state if humans stop visiting them frequently. There was a main worry within the tourism fraternity during the lockdowns due to COVID-19. There was a worry that continued absence of tourists would make the habituated groups to get back to their original wild state. The national parks acted fast and have been sending teams of rangers to monitor all the habituated gorilla groups. Visiting the habituated groups on a daily basis will ensure that they remain comfortable with humans in their presence and will be ready for tourism.

Display of Dominance: Chest beating is often observed during displays of dominance among male gorillas within a group. It’s a way for dominant males to assert their authority and establish hierarchy within the group. The sound produced by chest beating, coupled with the visual display, communicates strength and dominance to other group members.

Territorial Defense: Gorillas are territorial animals, and males may beat their chests and charge to defend their territory from intruders, including rival males or other threats. This behaviour serves as a warning signal to potential intruders, indicating that the territory is occupied and defended.

Communication: Chest beating and charging can also serve as forms of communication within gorilla groups. These behaviours may convey messages related to social status, territory boundaries, or warnings to other group members about potential dangers in the environment.

Threat Response: In some instances, gorillas may beat their chests and charge in response to perceived threats or disturbances in their surroundings. This could include encounters with other animals, unfamiliar humans, or sudden loud noises that trigger a defensive reaction.

Uganda Gorilla TrekkingGetting too close to a group member: As we noted earlier, gorilla groups remain wild even after completing the habituation process. You cannot get too close to a gorilla because it may be mistaken for a challenge. According to the gorilla trekking rules, tourists are required to maintain a distance of 7 meters away from the nearest gorilla at all times. If they come close to you, gently move away and maintain the recommended distance.

Mating Displays: During the mating season, male gorillas may engage in chest beating and charging as part of their courtship displays to attract females and assert their reproductive fitness. These displays can also help establish dominance and secure mating opportunities within the group.

Individual Variation: It’s important to note that not all gorillas exhibit chest beating and charging behaviour, and the frequency and intensity of these displays can vary among individuals and social groups. Factors such as age, personality, and social status may influence whether a gorilla engages in these behaviours.

Putting on clothes with bright colors:  Bright colors will make you stand out and attract the attention of the primates. Gorillas live in a green environment surrounded by tees, brown and generally dull colors. Approaching them in bright red, yellow or other striking colors will make you stand out and be the first target in case they decide to charge. Even if they are in their usual happy mood, they may want to probe you out of all trackers. Tourists are generally encouraged to put on dull colors which blend with the forest environment in which the primates live. read

Uganda Gorilla TrekkingGetting too close to a group member: As we noted earlier, gorilla groups remain wild even after completing the habituation process. You cannot get too close to a gorilla because it may be mistaken for a challenge. According to the gorilla trekking rules, tourists are required to maintain a distance of 7 meters away from the nearest gorilla at all times. If they come close to you, gently move away and maintain the recommended distance.

Making constant and sustained eye contact with an individual gorilla: In the normal world, a long and sustained eye contact helps communicates confidence and honesty but gorillas will only see it as a challenge. You may want to connect with them in order to understand how they feel but never do that through eye contact. Gorillas are generally shy and very subtle when making eye contact. They rarely maintain eye contact with each other for long. Looking directly into the eyes of a silverback or any of the group members may irritate them to a point of charging. If you accidently look directly into the eyes of one of the primates look away immediately.

Loud noise by trackers while close to a gorilla group: While tracking or in the presence of gorillas, it is important to remain quiet. Avoid making unnecessary noise that would scare away the primates or make them see you as a threat. Gorillas know all the different jungle sounds and will easily pick out strange noises. Always follow instructions from your Guides to avoid causing a scene. Try to speak in low tones when observing the primates or use sign language whenever possible. Only Park rangers are allowed to communicate with the primates through vocalization. Do not attempt to make fun or imitate gorilla sounds because you don’t know what they mean or how they will be interpreted by the primates

Using flash cameras when taking photos of the group: Never use cameras with flash when taking photos of gorillas. The light from the camera will raise curiosity in the primates or even irritate them. During the briefing before going into the jungle, the Rangers will advise you on the best way to take photos while with the primates.

Getting too close to a breast-feeding mother: Female gorillas are very protective of their young. Stay away from breastfeeding mothers. They are highly cautious of their surrounding and have a strong instinct to protect their offspring. They could charge without warning or mistake some of your actions as a threat to their young.


Encountering a charging gorilla can be an intimidating and potentially dangerous situation. Knowing how to react calmly and appropriately can help minimize the risk of escalation and ensure your safety. Here’s what to do if a gorilla charges:

Remain Calm: It’s crucial to stay calm and composed, even though it may be a frightening experience. Panicking or making sudden movements can escalate the situation and provoke further aggression from the gorilla.

Avoid Direct Eye Contact: While maintaining a calm demeanour, avoid making direct eye contact with the gorilla, as this can be perceived as a threat or challenge. Instead, avert your gaze slightly downward to convey submission and non-aggression.

Back Away Slowly: If the gorilla is charging towards you, slowly and gently start backing away while facing the gorilla. Maintain a steady pace and avoid turning your back on the animal, as this may trigger a chase response.

Do Not Run: Resist the urge to run, as this can trigger the gorilla’s instinct to chase prey. Gorillas are incredibly fast and powerful, and attempting to outrun them is futile and may worsen the situation.

Speak Softly: In a calm and reassuring tone, speak softly to the gorilla to convey that you mean no harm. You can use soothing words or gentle vocalizations to help diffuse tension and communicate non-aggression.

Keep Hands and Arms Down: Avoid making sudden movements or raising your hands and arms, as these gestures may be interpreted as threatening or provocative. Keep your body language relaxed and non-threatening.

Create Space: If possible, try to create distance between yourself and the gorilla by moving sideways or angling away from its direct path. This may help de-escalate the situation and reduce the perceived threat.

Use Obstacles as Barriers: If there are natural obstacles or terrain features nearby, such as rocks or trees, use them as barriers between yourself and the charging gorilla. These obstacles may deter the gorilla or provide temporary protection.

Follow Guide’s Instructions: If you’re in a guided tour or encounter a gorilla in a protected area, follow the instructions of your guide or park ranger. They are trained to handle such situations and will provide guidance on how to respond safely.

Be Prepared to Defend Yourself: In rare cases where a gorilla attack is imminent and unavoidable, be prepared to defend yourself using whatever means are available. This could include using sticks or rocks to create a barrier or, as a last resort, employing self-defence techniques to protect yourself.

Report the Incident: After the encounter, report the incident to park authorities or relevant wildlife conservation organizations. Providing details about the encounter can help improve safety protocols and prevent similar incidents in the future.


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