For a successful gorilla safari, one must pack the right clothes and trekking gear. Here are some of the most important things that you should pack.
Put on your sturdiest trekking shoes with a rubber sole and thick trousers and a long-sleeved top as protection against vicious stinging nettles. It’s often cold when you set out, so start off with a sweatshirt or jersey which also help protect against nettles. The gorillas are thoroughly used to people, so it makes little difference whether you wear bright or muted colours. Whatever clothes you wear to go tracking are likely to get very dirty as you slip and slither in the mud, so if you have pre-muddied clothes you might as well wear them. When you are grabbing for handholds in thorny vegetation, a pair of old gardening gloves are helpful. If you feel safer with a walking stick, you will be offered a wooden one at the start of the ascent.
Carry as little as possible, ideally in a waterproof bag of some sort. During the rainy season, a poncho or raincoat might be a worthy addition to your daypack, while sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a good idea at any time of the year. You may well feel like a snack during the long hike, and should certainly carry enough drinking water at least one liter, more to visit the Susa group. Bottled water is sold in Ruhengeri. Especially during the rainy season, make sure your camera gear is well protected, if your bag isn’t waterproof, seal your camera gear in a plastic bag.
Binoculars are not necessary to see the gorillas. In theory birdwatchers might want to carry binoculars, though in practice only the most dedicated are likely to make use of them. The trek up to the gorillas is normally very directed, and walking up the steep slopes and through the thick vegetation tends to occupy one’s eyes and minds.
If you are carrying much gear and food or water, it’s advisable to hire one of the porters who hang about at the car park in the hope of work. Locals always ask visitors to emphasize that it is not demeaning or exploitative to hire a porter to carry their daypack, on the contrary, tourists who refuse a porter for ‘ethical reasons’ are simply denying income to poor locals and making it harder for them to gain any benefit from tourism.