Bad News Gorillas

Sorry for the recent lack of posts. In the past three weeks, one or both of us has been in Stockholm, San Diego, Bloomington, or Richmond, so it’s been a little hectic to put it lightly.

Also, we’re thinking of making the leap from this Blogger host to our own domain and Jeff’s been working hard on making that happen, which is why you’ve been hearing a lot more from me lately than from him. But don’t worry, he’ll be back soon. If and when we make the leap to our own domain, we’ll let you know, so stay tuned.

Anyhow, in a recent post on the things that interest me in Africa, I mentioned gorilla trekking, which is a possibility in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. I was pulling my information from a guidebook, which is of course outdated even before it hits the stores. The slow nature of research and publishing mean that guidebooks are always a step behind. I’m aware of this, so I definitely don’t treat guidebooks as bibles. The guidebook I was working from put the cost of gorilla trekking at around $250 dollars per person. I figured this had risen and thought that maybe I’d read somewhere else, perhaps on a message board, that prices were now up to around $375. Well, I spent a little more time looking into this last week and found out that in fact, prices had risen, as of July 1, 2007, to $500 per person! Wow.

On a backpacking trip, where it’s possible for two people to get by on something like $25,000 to $30,000 for an entire year, spending $1,000 on one day is a lot. In fact, it’s not even one full day; you only get to spend one hour in the presence of the gorillas (although it could take you many hours to trek to their location). And the $500 doesn’t cover lodging or food; it simply covers the privilege of spending one hour with these magnificent animals.

Which leads to the other side of the equation. These are amazing creatures that few people ever get to see in their natural habitats. It’s clearly an exclusive activity and as such, you pay the price. Plus, while Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo–all rather poor countries–could turn this into a huge profit maker by making into a Disney-type enterprise, they haven’t. In fact, they’ve been quite diligent about protecting the gorillas by instituting strict regulations and keeping the number of people allowed to see the gorillas each day to a small handful. (A maximum of 8 people can be in one group, and the number of groups depends on the number of groups of gorillas with a one-to-one ratio maintained between people groups and gorilla groups.) And while I haven’t been able to find any hard information on how the $500 fee is used, it seems that it does get put back into conservation and in supporting local people.

So really, I’m not complaining that $500 is too high of a price. Clearly, gorillas are worth $500. We just have to decide how much seeing gorillas in the wild is worth to us, and how it compares to all the other things we want to do.

If it were you, what would you do?

12 Replies to “Bad News Gorillas”

  1. I know there will be many once in a lifetime things to do on this trip, but I think you and Jeff should definitely do this. It seems it is one of the top things you both want to do on this RTW trip.

  2. I would do it. It may seem like a lot of money now, but in the greater scheme of things it’s not going to break you. Also, this could be your only chance to ever do this and as time goes by the prices will just get higher and higher. The one consolation about paying so much money is knowing that if these countries are able to make a decent amount of money out of these type of things they’ll have a much more vested interest in protecting these animals and their environment.

  3. Call Angela and set-up a time to go to the Louisville Zoo and feed the gorillas.

    I got to do it and it was amazing. Not in the wild, but still face to face with a gorilla. I probably got closer than this excursion will get you all and it was free!

    So I say, save your money and visit the zoo which also supports conservation.

  4. I agree with Lisa. While it would be exciting. There are so many things you all want to do and the behind the scene at the Louisville Zoo is very upclose and personal. Lisa fed a gorilla and I thought a tiger was going to eat me.

  5. I’m not sure if you can put a price on this experience. But I say, everything has different prices on this trip. Some will be really cheap and some will be more expensive. Sometime is gonna be expensive, so I’d make it this. Hiking, which you love to do, through the jungle to see gorillas. Sounds awesome to me.

  6. Save your money!

    Feed Bengati bananas and cantaloupe! He even eats the peel! Bet you won’t get to see that on your trip! Plus he’s much better behaved then those wild gorillas!

    I can’t put a price on the experience that I had with the gorilla. It was awesome and I wouldn’t trade it. Plus he gave me a high five. Will the wild gorillas do that?

    Danny adds: besides haven’t you seen Congo!

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