Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is one of the unique and most sought after activities by many tourists visiting the country. This unique and fulfilling activity doesn’t take place just anywhere in the world, but, it can only be done in a few countries in Africa and Uganda is blessed to be one of them harboring more than half of the world’s population, 1004 or more mountain gorillas as of the May 2018 population census.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is an activity that involves searching for the endangered primates in their habitat which is often lush, steep and impenetrable as they live in mountainous and tropical forests.
Where in Uganda does gorilla Trekking take place?
Gorilla trekking takes place in the southern parts of the country in only 2 national parks, which is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park– a UNESCO World Heritage site that was declared in 1994. These Uganda National parks are natural habitats to the gorillas as they cannot survive in captivity.
In Uganda, there are a total of over 18 habituated groups that tourists can visit and each habituated group is permitted to be visited only once per day for a maximum of one (1) hour by only eight tourists. The habituated gorilla groups are in five different sectors namely Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhijja, Nkuringo in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Ntebeko sector in Mgahinga Gorilla National park. For the fact that gorilla trekking is a very popular activity among tourists visiting or planning to visit the country coupled with the fact that that there are few habituated gorilla groups, prior gorilla permits booking is required of at least three months to up to two years in advance. Gorilla trekking permits can only be booked through Uganda Wildlife Authority the body that governs and protects the protected areas in the country, or through a trusted Tour Operator company. Gorilla trekking requires some bit of physical fitness but one ought not to worry much about it as the pace of the slowest member is what is followed by the rangers and they (the rangers) never leave anyone behind. It should also be noted that persons below the age of 15 are not allowed to trek gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is best done in the dry seasons of the year that is December-January and June-October. However, since the gorillas are in tropical rainforests and mountainous areas, rainfall is expected anytime during the trek. You might start your trek on a sunny morning but end up being drenched in rain by midmorning, that’s why one should adhere to the kind of equipment or preferred wear advised by your tour operator. Before the start of the gorilla trekking activity, you will meet at the sector’s headquarter where you will be briefed by the ranger guide of the DOs and DON’Ts while on the trek and when you do meet the gorillas. The gorilla trekking activity may take from a few hours to almost the whole day depending on the location of the gorillas. The gorillas seldom stay in the same place, and it is for this reason that rangers set out in their search prior to the beginning of the trek the next day thereby informing the ones that are to lead the trekkers of the gorillas’ current location or where they were headed to.
Upon meeting the endangered primates, you are allowed a maximum of one hour with them during which you can take pictures or videos of them carrying on their day to day activities or you may simply take it all in with your own eyes and just live in the moment.
You might be wondering about what it actually takes to trek gorillas in Uganda, well, nothing so out of the ordinary. Reechoing what has been mentioned above among others;
- Be 15 years or more
- Have a gorilla trekking permit which you can have if you book early enough at a cost of $700 only by June 2020
- Be physically fit (or not, they’d still wait for you)
- Be healthy, that is you shouldn’t have any contagious illness when visiting the gorillas for they are prone to catching it too.
- Carry all equipment advised by your operator.
- Last and most important, have a trusted tour operator arrange for you this once in a lifetime experience from the word go. Your tour operator of choice will be with you every step of the way and will answer all your questions and queries whatsoever.
Just like there are rules and regulations to be followed in almost all important places and activities, Gorilla trekking too has a number of them that ought to be followed before and during the trek plus when in the presence of the primates, say;
- Only eight visitors per day are allowed to a particular group. This is in order to minimize behavioral disturbances, stress and possible risk of infection.
- Tourist trekking must be 15 years and over to avoid contraction of childhood diseases like mumps, measles among others and for the fact that they might not be capable of trekking.
- The time spent with the gorillas is limited to only one hour.
- Flash photographic cameras are not allowed as they can threaten and frighten gorillas thereby provoking aggressive reaction or charge.
- Sick persons are not allowed to visit the primates
- All visitors should remain at least seven meters away from the primates.
- Always keep your voices as low as possible and if need be, whisper
- Always remain in a group and do not spread out or surround the gorillas.
- Body language is important and visitors shouldn’t raise their hands, point or even stare at the gorillas. This is threatening to them and they might charge. Keep your eyes down as often as possible.
- Eating, drinking or smoking is not allowed when with the gorillas. This should be done at least 200 meters away.
The above rules among others should be adhered to not only for your own safety but for the benefit of the gorillas as well. They are an endangered species and it is upon us to sustain them for the coming generations.
What must I carry for my gorilla trekking trip in Uganda?
To have a successful gorilla trekking trip in Uganda, early preparation must be done and that includes packing the right wear for your long-awaited and well-planned trip. Most tour operators do advise you in this regard once a trip is confirmed. For a gorilla trekking trip to Uganda, one must carry among others these essential materials;
Wet weather clothes (remember it rains just about any time in these tropical rainforests), good walking/hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellent creams, waterproof jackets and bags, gloves and a good working camera (you will need the pictures and videos to show off), among others.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a must-do activity, no safari to Uganda is complete without it. Choose a good reputable tour operator to have it planned for you and you will experience one of the most memorable moments in your life when you come in close contact with our relatives, the mountain gorillas.