One African primate that many people adore is the gorilla! Often people pay high prices to enter into their world. In Loango we are able to offer gorillas trekking permits at much lower prices than anywhere else because Gabon is a very stable country with more protected areas than its neighbours. Despite this, western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and do still need our help and protection.
Western lowland gorillas live in social groups consisting of one silverback, several adult females, and their offspring. Silverbacks protect their females and offspring from other gorilla groups, predators, and other threats. Gorillas are vegetarian, with their diet consisting of fruit, leaves, and herbaceous vegetation. Their daily routine consists of feeding for a few hours, resting, feeding, resting, during which they will move several kilometers distance through their 20 km2 home range. Gorillas do not have set territories, but groups have overlapping home ranges. Western gorillas spend as much as 30% of their time in the trees, making them much more arboreal than mountain gorillas. Social interactions among gorillas include resting together, grooming, and play by the infants and juveniles.
Loango National Park is one of only a few places where it is possible to see habituated, wild western lowland gorillas. Despite gorillas being the largest primate species, it is difficult to see unhabituated gorillas in forest because they are naturally afraid of humans and typically will flee or aggressively charge if people get too close to them. Gorillas that are visited by people have undergone ‘habituation’. This refers to the process, where through daily peaceful contact with humans, gorillas have slowly lost their strong fear of humans and have learned to view them as neutral beings in their environment.
Visiting the habituated gorillas in Loango National Park is a unique experience. Tourists are welcomed in Loango with a maximum of 4 people per day, 4 days per week.
The best time to visit the gorillas in Loango is January – May, when they do not travel very much per day. During the dry season (June – August), the gorillas travel a lot, moving between fruiting trees and the swamps, making it the most difficult time to visit them. The gorillas move through the forest in an unpredictable way so we cannot know in advance exactly where we will find them. Therefore, it may take several hours of hiking before you see the gorillas. Hiking in the forest is likely to include walking through mud, small streams, and swamps so expect to get wet and muddy. It is necessary to be physically fit to visit the gorillas.