Sept. 7, 2009 -- Want to holiday with gorillas? World Primate Safaris arranges tailor-made safaris to track mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, chimpanzees in Tanzania, orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra and other wildlife in Madagascar.
A percentage of money from each safari sold is donated to the conservation of endangered primates throughout the world.
The company says their specialty is gorillas. We caught up with the company's managing director, Will Bolsover, to find out what makes gorilla safaris the ultimate in Africa wildlife safari holidays.
What made you want to work with gorillas?
Having worked as a guide in Africa for a number of years, I have always been interested in wildlife and conservation. The mountain gorillas are one of the best examples of where tourism and conservation have worked hand in hand and is, therefore, one of the most successful stories of eco-tourism in the world today. This is illustrated by the increase in critically endangered mountain gorillas over the last 10 years or so from a population of 650 to 740.
The genetic similarities between humans and gorillas makes this a truly bizarre and exciting experience as clients spend time with one of their closest relatives in the wild!
How do people react when they first see a gorilla?
It is without doubt one of the -- if not the -- best wildlife experiences possible in the world today. For the reasons mentioned above it is often a very emotional experience for the lucky people that get to see mountain gorillas in the wild. It does also keep you on your feet as you spend time with a silverback that can weigh up to 200 kilograms [440 pounds] ... very humbling! Gorilla tracking is also different than most wildlife safaris in that you are on foot in the gorilla's natural habitat and domain and, therefore, you being there is on their terms. This is vastly different from other wildlife safaris where you are principally watching from the safety of your safari vehicle.
Threats to Gorillas in the Wild
Have you had any bad experiences with gorillas?
No. They are portrayed as these aggressive wild animals that would attack you on sight (King Kong!) whereas the reality is that they are actually very passive and amiable primates. Habituated groups of gorillas accept human observers as part of the family group and go about their business as if we were not even there, grooming, sleeping, eating and farting!
What is the most surprising thing about gorillas?
For their sheer size they are actually very tactile and agile. Two-hundred kilograms of silverback gorilla can often climb the slenderest of saplings and show the most tender of touches to its close ones.
The speed and silence of movement as a family of gorillas moves through the forest is also very surprising as they melt into the surrounding undergrowth.
What are the biggest threats to the world's gorilla population?
Even in today's world, the biggest threats to mountain gorilla populations are poaching, bushmeat and habitat encroachment.
Where do you take people on your tours? Where do you stay?
Our safaris to see mountain gorillas focus purely on Uganda [Bwindi Impenetrable Forest] and Rwanda [Parc National des Volcans]. Accommodations include Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi to Sabyiyno Silverback Lodge or Virunga Lodge in Rwanda.
Other tailor-made safari destinations that we offer through World Primate Safaris include Madagascar, Tanzania, Borneo, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Our sister company World Big Cat Safaris also offers safaris to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and India.