African man-eating lions: Ghost and Darkness from Tsavo

“In the forests bordering on this line, there are found those lions called “man-eaters,” and moreover these forests are full of thorns and prickly shrubs.
Portions of this railway from Mombasa to Uganda are still being made, and here these lions fell on the workmen and destroyed them.
Such was their habit, day and night, and hundreds of men fell victims to these savage creatures, whose very jaws were steeped in blood.
Bones, flesh, skin and blood, they devoured all, and left not a trace behind them.
Because of the fear of these demons some seven or eight hundred of the labourers deserted, and remained idle;
Some two or three hundred still remained, but they were haunted by this terrible dread,
And because of fear for their lives, would sit in their huts, their hearts full of foreboding and terror.
Every one of them kept a fire burning at night, and none dared to close his eyes in sleep; yet would some of them be carried away to destruction.
The lion’s roar was such that the very earth would tremble at the sound, and where was the man who did not feel afraid?”

Roshan Mistari, 29th January 1899. From J H Patterson, The Man-eaters of Tsavo, 1907.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters were two large male lions in the Tsavo area of Kenya who killed around 135 workers engaged in the construction of a bridge of the Kenya-Uganda Railway, project led by British Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson.

The construction of the bridge over the Tsavo river started in March 1898 involving several thousands of imported Sikh workers from British India along with local laborers. During the next nine months of construction, the two maneless lions prowled around the campsite, dragging workers from their tents at night and devouring them, despite thorn fences (still employed today in Masai villages to safeguard against predators) and campfires.

With the escalation of these attacks, numerous workers fled from Tsavo, leading to a halt in the bridge construction, and additional Sepoy Indian soldiers were dispatched to aid in the lion-hunting.
After repeated unsuccessful attempts to ambush the lions, Patterson shot and wounded the first lion on 9 December 1898, but it escaped. Later, it returned at night and began hunting Patterson back. He shot it again with a more powerful rifle and found it dead the day after.

Tsavo Lion

To kill the second lion it took nine shots with different rifles. The first shot was fired from a platform that Patterson had built near a goat killed by the lion. After eleven days, two shots from a second rifle struck the lion while it was trailing Patterson and attempting to escape. The next day, Patterson shot it three more times with the same rifle and three more times with a third rifle, eventually killing it with the last shot in the head. He claimed it died still trying to reach him from a branch. It was the 29th December 1898, 20 days after the killing of the first lion.

Tsavo Lion

The construction crew returned and finished the bridge in February 1899. The railways are still in use today under the control of the Kenya Railways Corporation and Tsavo lions continue to occasionally threaten humans.

The lions’ skins, sold to the Field Museum of Natural History of Chicago in 1924 for a sum of $5,000 were used to reconstruct the lions which are along with their skulls.
The two lions are known as FMNH 23970, and FMNH 23969, but the people named them back then “the Ghost” and “the Darkness”.

“The Ghost” was 9 feet 8 inches (2.95 m) long, and 3 feet 9 inches (1.14 m) high.
“The Darkness” was 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) long and 3 feet 11 inches (1.19 m) high.

Colonel Patterson published the book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures in 1907. It is possible that he exaggerated the figures, suggesting that as many as 135 individuals had been consumed by the lions. This sensationalization may have played a role in boosting book sales. On the contrary, the Ugandan Railway Co. reported 28 deceased workers, with estimates ranging from 28 to 31 victims, based on their examination of Colonel Patterson’s original journal.
However, the same analysis also pointed out that the journal exclusively referenced Indian workers and that Patterson indicated that African worker casualties might have been substantially higher.

Recent studies on the isotopic signature analysis of their bone collagen and hair keratin were published in 2009 and suggested that the first lion ate the equivalent of 10.5 humans and the second 24.2 humans.
Though none of these modern studies have taken into account the people who were killed but not eaten by the animals. The diet of the victims could have also affected the outcome of the test, since many of the workers at Tsavo were Hindus and may have had a vegetarian diet, which could have led to categorize the victims as vegetarian species.

Theories for the man-eating behavior of lions have been reviewed by Peterhans and Gnoske, as well as Dr. Bruce D. Patterson (no relation to Colonel Patterson). Their discussions include the following reasons:

In 1898, a rinderpest outbreak (cattle plague) had a significant impact on the lions’ typical prey, compelling them to search for alternative sources of food.
The Tsavo lions might have become accustomed to discovering deceased humans near the Tsavo River crossing. This area was a frequent route for slave caravans headed to Zanzibar, the central hub of the East African slave trade.
An alternative argument indicates that the first lion had a badly damaged tooth that would have compromised its ability to kill natural prey. However, this theory has been generally disregarded by the general public, and Colonel Patterson, who killed the lions, personally disclaimed it, saying that he damaged that tooth with his rifle while the lion charged him one night, prompting it to flee.

Dr. Patterson also researched why the man-eating lions of Tsavo were maneless and concluded that mane absence was due to the hot temperature.

Patterson’s book was the basis for several films:

Men Against the Sun (1952)
Bwana Devil (1952)
Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959)
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
Prey (South Africa, 2007)
Prooi (Netherlands, 2016)

Tsavo Lion
Male lion at Tsavo West National Park, Kenya – June 2023 © mytouristmaps

Tsavo lions are not the only man-eaters reported in recent history, here are some of the other famous lions:

From 1932 to 1947, in southern Tanzania, a particularly menacing group of 15 lions earned the ominous moniker Man-eaters of Njombe. These lions’ aggression stemmed from the British colonial administration’s attempts to curb a rinderpest virus outbreak. To contain the virus that was decimating local livestock, the government initiated the killing of wild animals such as zebras, wildebeests, and antelopes. This action led to a scarcity of prey for the lions, driving them to seek out alternative sources of food.
The Njombe pride exhibited a cunning approach, adopting nighttime movements and daytime hunts, a deviation from the typical behavior of lions. Prior to their eventual extermination by the British game warden, the Njombe pride tragically claimed the lives of an estimated 1,500 individuals.

In 1909, Chiengi Charlie, nicknamed the “White Lion” due to his unique light coloration, instilled fear across Zambia. His unusual appearance, resembling whiteness and sporting a half tail, led local communities to hold him in a sort of legendary awe. Roaming through villages, he hunted the residents, later joining forces with two other male lions. He managed to elude capture by villagers for an entire year, during which he devoured a total of 90 individuals. His reign of terror only came to an end when he was finally shot.

Between 2002 and 2004, a young lion named Osama, named after the Arabic word for lion, claimed the lives of more than 50 individuals. When he was shot in 2004, he was just 3 ½ years old. The youth of his age has prompted certain researchers to theorize that Osama acquired his people-hunting skills from his mother. Another hypothesis posits that he targeted humans due to a substantial abscess on one of his molars, similar to the Tsavo lions.

In 1991, the Lion of Mfuwe struck terror by claiming approximately six lives in Zambia’s Luangwa River Valley. An individual from California, USA, was on a safari visit during this period and reportedly patiently awaited his chance in a hunting blind for nearly three weeks before finally being presented with the opportunity to take down the lion. Renowned for its huge size, measuring close to 10 feet in length, the lion’s remains now reside at the Field Museum in Chicago.

In 1929, there was a lion that started following and attacking people near the Msoro Mission. This lion got the name Msoro Monty because of the similar sounds in the name. “Msoro Monty” was good at avoiding traps set for him. After causing a lot of deaths, he suddenly disappeared leaving no traces.

Namvelieza, or The Cunning One, killed 43 people near Kasawa, Zambia. Tanzania’s Paper Lion got his name because he seemed to drift from victim to victim randomly, like a scrap of paper floating in the breeze.

These man-eating lions are still subjects of oral stories passed on by inhabitants of the African villages and everybody can learn a lesson from these stories. Human interference (again!) is often the root cause of these killings. When ravaged by hunger and pushed to desperation, big cats can and will turn to humans for food.

Dust Devils, Kenya

Dust devils, small-scale whirlwinds are fascinating natural phenomena which emerge under specific environmental conditions. In regions with exposed, dry ground and intense sunlight, the sun’s rays heat the surface, creating localized pockets of hot air. The heated air rises rapidly, and cooler air rushes in to fill the void, initiating a rotating motion. The Coriolis effect, influenced by the Earth’s rotation, further shapes the vortex into its characteristic spiral pattern.

Dust devils in Amboseli National Park, Kenya © mytouristmaps

Dust devils commonly appear as relatively small and mild phenomena, often measuring less than 2 meters in diameter and featuring average wind speeds of around 45 miles per hour (70 km/h). Typically, they dissipate swiftly, within a minute of forming.
Nevertheless, exceptional occurrences have been observed, where dust devils grow remarkably large and intense. In such instances, they can reach diameters of up to 100 meters and exhibit wind speeds exceeding 75 mph (120 km/h). Some of these powerful dust devils persist for as long as 20 minutes before finally subsiding.

Dust devils are frequent visitors to arid and semi-arid regions across the world. They commonly appear in deserts, dry lake beds, and open fields during warmer months.

Dust devils in Amboseli, Kenya
Dust devils in Amboseli National Park, Kenya © mytouristmaps

We captured some devils in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. This region is renowned for showcasing these mesmerizing formations amidst its vast savannahs. Here, the unique landscape and weather conditions offer a perfect stage for the graceful dance of dust devils.

Interestingly, dust devils are not exclusive to our planet. These intriguing phenomena have also been observed on the surface of Mars. Mars, known for its thin atmosphere and vast desert-like landscapes, provides the ideal conditions for the formation of dust devils. These Martian dust devils have been discovered from data reported by NASA’s Viking probes, revealing their striking similarity to their Earthly counterparts. The study of dust devils on Mars provides valuable insights into the atmospheric dynamics and weather patterns on the Red Planet.

Within the realm of dust devils lies a rare and captivating variation – the fire devil. Unlike its more common counterpart, the fire devil forms over an active fire or smoldering hot spot. As a wildfire blazes, the intense heat warms the surrounding air near the ground, causing it to rise and create a low-pressure area. Cooler air then converges, initiating a rotating motion that forms the fire devil. This extraordinary whirlwind blends the power of fire with the grace of a dust devil, creating a breathtaking yet concerning sight.

Apart from dust devils and fire devils, there are several other intriguing variations of vortex phenomena in nature. For example, “hay devils” form in the warm air above freshly-cut hay fields, gently swirling stalks and clumps of hay harmlessly through the air. “Snow devils” can occur in snow-covered areas, and “steam devils” can be observed in the steam rising from power plants or over warm bodies of water.

The Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo, Italy

Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo
photo © mytouristmaps

The Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo is a truly extraordinary plant from various perspectives, including its history, biology, culture, and size. It is the oldest known Ficus Macrophylla in Italy, having been planted by Vincenzo Tineo in 1845, making it 173 years old.

At present, it is the second largest ficus in Italy, with a crown that covers an area of approximately 1,200 square meters on the ground. The largest ficus in Italy can be found in Piazza Marina in the Garibaldi Gardens and was planted in 1863. It has a volume of 10,000 cubic meters of vegetation, a height of 25 meters, and a trunk girth of 40 meters.

The Great Ficus is native to the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales and is the ancestor of the large ficuses found in gardens in Palermo, Sicily, and southern Italy.
It has a polycaule structure, meaning it has multiple stems, and has a central body that is shaped like a radial symphysis, which is formed by the fusion of corms and aerial roots. The overall shape of the plant is sinuous and radial. The tree grows in all directions, with its central body extending vertically and laterally through higher order ramifications, and downward through columnar aerial roots that support the branches. It also grows on the ground surface through tabular roots.

In particular, this specimen in the Botanical Garden of Palermo has 44 stems, the largest of which have a circumference of around 3.60 meters, and supports the growth of eleven large main branches that have a mostly horizontal development. These main branches then give rise to lower order branches.

Best places to see Bioluminescence

photo © slworking2 / Flickr – Scripp Pier, San Diego, California

Bioluminescence is light produced by living organisms through a chemical reaction between a light-emitting molecula and an enzyme or a photoprotein, generally luciferin and luciferase. The reaction sometimes requires other cofactors such as ATP, calcium or magnesium.  Some organisms synthesize luciferin on their own, others absorb it through other organisms.

Bioluminescence produces cold light, since the process does not emit heat, and it is different than fluorescence, which does not involve a chemical reaction and the light is just re-emitted after being absorbed.

Bioluminescence is used for many different purposes like hunting, defense against predators, warning, attracting mates, camouflage and even communication, by a wide range of animals and other living creatures such fireflies, glow worms, railroad worms, centipedes, snails, annelids, fish like anglerfish or lanternfish, invertebrates, krill, cnidarians, coral, jellyfish, crustaceans, bivalves, sea slugs, cephalopods, octopuses, squid, fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Bioluminescent Jellyfish
photo © Chris Favero / Flickr

Thanks to this unusual phenomenon, these creatures create magical habitats such as bioluminescent marine bays, caves, woods and other spectacular landscapes.

Bioluminescence is a target for biology, medicine and engineering research for various experiments such as a new font of light or alternative uses in medicine.

Here is a complete list of the best places in the world where you can witness bioluminescence:

Big South Fork, Tennessee/Kentucky, USA

Titusville and Merritt Island, Florida, USA

Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego, California, USA

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA

San Juan Island, Washington, USA

Dismals Canyon, Alabama, USA

Space Coast, Florida, USA

Manasquan Beach, New Jersey, USA

Indian River Lagoon, Florida, USA

Salt River Bay, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Manialtepec Lagoon, Mexico

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Nichupte’ Lagoon, Mexico

Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Punta Cuchillos, Costa Rica

Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Mosquito Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Laguna Grande, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

La Parguera, Lajas, Puerto Rico

Goias, Brazil

Kumbalangi, Kerala, India

Goa, India

Vaadhoo Island ‘Mudhdhoo Island’, Maldives

Reethi Beach, Maldives

Ko Lipe, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Ton Sai, Thailand

Koh Tonsay ‘Rabbit Island’, Cambodia

Koh Rong, Cambodia

Tusan Beach, Malaysia

Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

Matsu Islands, Taiwan

Sam Mun Tsai Beach, Hong Kong

Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay Area, Vietnam

Toyama Bay, Japan

Hachijō-jima, Japan

Coles Bay, Tasmania

Gippsland Lake, Australia

Springbrook Park, Australia

Jervis Bay, Australia

Waitomo caves, New Zealand

Lough Hyne Nature Reserve, Cork, Ireland

Aberavon Beach, Port Talbot, Wales

Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea, Wales

Grouville, Jersey

Norfolk, UK

Zeebrugge, Belgium

The Blue Grotto, Malta

Cuisine and Culture: A Culinary Journey Through Turkey

Take a culinary journey through Turkey, and you’ll discover a richness in culture that spills over into the food. With a history that is centuries old, Turkish cuisine has absorbed different cultures, and its distinct flavors have been shaped by geography, climate, and proximity to the sea. From hearty stews to decadent desserts, Turkish cuisine is a feast for the senses.

Why is Turkey a Foodie’s Destination?

Turkey, a land where history and flavors harmonize in a magical way, invites us to discover its culinary treasures. From the bustling streets of Istanbul to the tranquil shores of the Mediterranean and the heartland of Anatolia, Turkey’s diverse regions offer an array of dishes that are as varied as its landscapes.

Let’s Get to Know Turkish Cuisine

Delicious Dishes

A Turkish culinary journey often begins with kebabs. These tender, grilled morsels of meat or vegetables, seasoned with a symphony of spices, are an iconic Turkish dish. Whether you’re savoring a juicy Adana kebab or a fragrant chicken shish kebab, you’re in for a treat.

But Turkey doesn’t stop at savory dishes. Enter Baklava, a sweet pastry that oozes with honey and crushed nuts. Each bite is like a sweet symphony, a perfect balance of crisp layers and gooey sweetness.

And don’t forget Turkish delight, those chewy, colorful confections that come in various flavors like rose, pistachio, and pomegranate. They are not just candies but a glimpse into the country’s sweet traditions.


The secret to any cuisine’s deliciousness lies in its ingredients. Turkish chefs generously employ a variety of spices, such as cumin, paprika, and sumac, to create vibrant and flavorful dishes. Herbs like mint, parsley, and dill also add a refreshing touch to many recipes.

Meats, such as lamb and beef, are often used in Turkish cooking, and they’re prepared with precision and care to ensure tenderness and taste. Vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes play a crucial role, especially in Mediterranean cuisine.

Culture and Food

Eating Habits

Turkish food isn’t just about what’s on your plate; it’s also about how you enjoy it. Turkish meals are a communal affair, where family and friends gather around a table to share food, stories, and laughter. It’s a celebration of togetherness.

One cannot talk about Turkish food without mentioning tea. Turkish tea culture is a cherished tradition. Sipping strong black tea from tiny glasses, often accompanied by a sugar cube, is a ritual deeply ingrained in Turkish people’s daily lives.

Food Traditions

Turkey’s rich cultural heritage is intertwined with its food traditions. During the fasting season, or the Holy Month of Ramadan, the streets come alive with the aromas of mouthwatering dishes being prepared for the evening ‘Iftar’ meal. It’s a time of reflection, gratitude, and breaking fast together with loved ones.

And then there’s Turkish coffee, a strong, aromatic brew that’s not just a beverage but also a symbol of hospitality. The ritual of brewing and serving Turkish coffee is a gesture of warmth and welcome.

Hospitality is at the core of Turkish culture. When you visit a Turkish home, you’re likely to be greeted with a warm smile and a generous spread of food. The concept of ‘Meyhane,’ a traditional Turkish tavern, epitomizes this spirit of hospitality. Here, friends gather, share stories, and enjoy a variety of mezes (appetizers) alongside Raki, the national anise-flavored spirit.

Regional Flavors

Turkey’s vast expanse boasts a diverse culinary landscape, with each region offering a unique palette of flavors and specialties that reflect its geographical and cultural influences. As we traverse the country, we encounter distinct regional tastes that captivate our senses.

Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Istanbul is the cultural bridge between East and West. Tourists may sample local specialties at one of the many bustling marketplaces, like the Grand Bazaar. Here, the streets are alive with the enticing aromas of spices, sweets, and street food. You can savor a medley of dishes influenced by Ottoman and Mediterranean cuisines, making Istanbul a gastronomic melting pot.

Enjoy a worry-free food trip to Turkey in 2023 with the help of Exoticca. This trusted travel company presents an array of enticing vacation packages to the “Land of the Crescent Moon,” with delightful stops in Istanbul. Go on an epic gastronomic adventure without the hassle of handling typical tourist logistics like flights and accommodations. Your only concern? Deciding what delectable dish to savor next and whether there’s room for another bite.

Mediterranean Coast: A Seafood Paradise

Heading south to the Mediterranean coast, you’ll find a seafood lover’s haven. The crystal-clear waters provide a bountiful harvest of fish and seafood, which form the basis of many coastal dishes. Grilled octopus, stuffed mussels, and succulent sea bass are just a few of the coastal treasures. The liberal use of olive oil, fragrant herbs, and fresh vegetables creates a symphony of flavors that perfectly complements the sea’s bounty.

Anatolia: Heartland of Hearty Dishes

Venturing into the heartland of Anatolia, we uncover a treasure trove of hearty dishes that have sustained generations. One such delight is Borek, a flaky pastry filled with an assortment of ingredients, ranging from cheese and spinach to minced meat. Its versatility and comforting flavors make it a beloved staple across Anatolian kitchens.

In the city of Bursa, we encounter the mouthwatering Iskender kebab, a local specialty that has gained nationwide acclaim. Thinly sliced doner meat, tender and flavorful, is generously laid over pieces of pita bread, then lavishly adorned with a sumptuous blend of tomato sauce and yogurt. Bursa’s Iskender kebab is a testament to the city’s culinary prowess.

Gaziantep: Baklava Capital

Gaziantep, a city located in southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, is revered as the baklava capital of Turkey, and for good reason. Here, Baklava is elevated to an art form. The meticulous preparation, using premium ingredients, particularly prized pistachios, results in a baklava that is unparalleled in its flavor and texture. Gaziantep Baklava is a sweet masterpiece that tempts dessert connoisseurs from far and wide.

Turkish Cuisine: A Celebration of Life

A culinary journey through Turkey will take you on a rollercoaster of flavors and cultural revelations. From the irresistible kebabs of Istanbul to the sweet delights of Gaziantep, Turkish cuisine is something your taste buds and hearts will never forget.

But it’s not just about the food; the people, the traditions, and the warmth also make dining in Turkey an unforgettable experience. The act of breaking bread together transcends borders and languages, and in Turkey, it’s a true celebration of life.

So, the next time you find yourself in Turkey, remember to savor not just the dishes but also the culture, the hospitality, and the joy of sharing a meal with newfound friends. Because in Turkey, every meal is a journey, and every bite is a story waiting to be told.

Gunung Bromo, Indonesia

Mount Bromo, Gunung Bromo in Indonesian, arguably one of the most spectacular active volcanoes on our planet, is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, in South East of the island of Java, Indonesia.

Bromo is not the tallest of the group (which is Mount Semeru, Java’s highest peak and one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia ), but the most famous, due to its active cone and religious significance: the name comes from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The summit is a pilgrimage site for the worshippers who reach the crater rim bringing offers to the gods.

What is impressive about this area, is the majestic Tengger caldera, from which rise the three peaks Bromo (2.392 m), Kursi (2.581 m) and Batok (2.581 m), composing a lunar landscape, with eerie mount Semeru in the background (3.676 m).

The best view is at sunrise from King Kong Hill on Mount Penanjakan (2.770 m), where most of the guided tours will bring you (the road is only accessible by tour agencies with 4WDs jeeps; alternatively, you can reach the viewpoint by walk, in around two hours from Cemoro Lawang).

Gunung Bromo
Gunung Bromo view from King Kong Hill © mytouristmaps

The classic tours also include, after the sunrise viewpoint, the descent by jeep on the base of Gunung Bromo, the Sea of Sand (Laotian Pasir), and the hike to the top of Bromo’s crater (an easy 40 minutes hike, but if you want you can shorten it by riding a horse or motorbike to the bottom of the 253 steps staircase that brings you on the edge of the crater).

Visiting Mount Bromo during high season (mid-late June for local visitors and July-August for international tourism) could be crowded, with hundreds of jeeps bringing people to the viewpoints, so be aware that you might spend extra time in the traffic and be sure to get to the viewpoint on time to choose the perfect spot.

Gunung Bromo
Pura Luhur Poten Temple view from Gunung Bromo © mytouristmaps

Our recommended agency to visit Mount Bromo is Bali Java Holidays Tour & Adventure.

Best Places to see Gorillas in Africa

Arguably one of the most fascinating species on the planet, gorillas are amongst the closest living relatives to humans due to their DNA, around 98% similar to humankind.
They have feet and hands like humans with big toes, opposable thumbs, and individual fingerprints.
Another important feature in common with humans is their intelligence: they can grieve and laugh, they are able to use tools, and according to some research they might have even spiritual and religious feelings.

Herbivorous, they are the world’s largest primates reaching up to 270 kg weight and 180 cm height, with an average lifespan between 30 and 40 years, although some zoo gorillas have registered a maximum age of more than 50 years (the longest living gorilla was the 61 years old Ozoum “Ozzie”, died the 25th of January 2022 at Zoo Atlanta, United States).

Adult male gorillas, after reaching the age of around 12 years, develop some characteristic grey/silver hair on the back, hence the nickname “silverbacks”.
The dominant silverback is the undisputed leader and makes all the most important decisions of the troop, choosing the movements, the feeding sites, and protecting the whole group.

There are around 5,300 gorillas in the wild and all their species and subspecies are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Mountain Gorilla © Maciej / Flickr

Thanks to the brilliant primatologist Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 to 1985, gorillas are no more depicted as violent and aggressive against humankind. Some of Fossey’s young gorillas became famous after they had been filmed playing with David Attenborough in 1979 for the tv series Life on Earth.
However, gorillas, if threatened, can be extremely dangerous and aggressive, but usually, most of the violence is directed towards other gorillas.

There are two species and four subspecies of gorillas:

  • Western Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla), divided in Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Diehli),
  • Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei), divided in Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei) and Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Graueri).

Best places to see gorillas in the wild

Gorillas live in only Central Africa, more precisely in Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola (Cabinda area), Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda.

Gorilla distribution map

You can find Western Lowland gorillas only in the Cabinda region, but there are few tourist infrastructures. You can see gorillas in the Maiombe Forest Reserve.

Cameroon is home to both Cross River gorillas (West, border with Nigeria) and Western Lowland Gorillas (South).
Cross River gorillas are quite difficult to be seen, due to their small number and the lack of tourism infrastructures.
There are great chances to see Western Lowlands gorillas at Ndzanga Sangha National Park and Lobéké National Park,
At Limbe Wildlife Centre and Mefou National Park, you can find rescued gorillas in rehabilitation.

Central African Republic
The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is one of the best places to meet Western Lowland gorillas in Africa. WWF started a project in habituating two groups of this species.

Republic of Congo
The Republic of Congo is home to more than 120,000 Western Lowland gorillas. The best areas to meet them are the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in the northwest of the country, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park around Mbeli Bai. In the Léfini Reserve you can meet rescued gorilla rehabilitation.
The best time to go is during the dry seasons, from June to September and from December to February.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Three out of four subspecies of gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but check the security situation of the country before planning your trip.
Eastern Lowlands gorillas can be found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences.
Great chances to see Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest national park in Africa.
You can see some Western Lowland gorillas west of the country in the Madiakoko Mountains, Bas-Congo.

Equatorial Guinea
There are no groups of habituated gorillas and tourist infrastructures in Equatorial Guinea, but you can avail of local tourist guides to bring you across the Monte Alen National Park to meet some Western Lowland gorillas.

Gabon is one of the best areas to see Western Lowland gorillas: in the Lopé National Park visitors can see them on generic safaris, and the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park is one of the places with the highest density of gorillas in Africa.
The best choice for gorillas sightseeing is the Loango National Park, home of the only group of habituated gorillas in Gabon.

Although Nigeria has lately invested in tourism infrastructures, the chances to meet Cross River gorillas in the Cross River National Park are still low, due to their small number and given that they are not habituated.

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of the best places (and one of the most famous, thanks to Dian Fossey’s research) to see Mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is home to around 30% of the overall population of Mountain gorillas.

About half of the remaining population of Mountain gorillas live in Uganda.
Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park have a considerable number of habituated gorillas and excellent probability of sightseeing.

Where to see Gorillas
Chances to see gorillas in the wild

Dry seasons (December to February and June to September) are the best periods, but guided tours are available all year round, and in the low seasons, permits might be discounted.

Gorilla safari permits might be very expensive, the cost is around 400$ per person in Congo, 600$ in Uganda and 1500$ in Rwanda.
The reason for these prices is the high demand and the limited availability, but mostly due to the need for found to protect the primates: 75% of the amount is to conserve the gorilla surviving population, 15% goes to the governments and the 10% goes to the local communities.