Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is undoubtedly the most sought after tourist activity in the country, that has a number of tourists visiting the country to take part in it. Uganda is one of the three countries that inhabit the endangered mountain gorillas with the others being Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves gorilla trekkers going deep into the lush forest covers of the jungle in search of the endangered mountain gorillas for an encounter. Mountain gorillas are endangered and up until 2018, they were listed as critically endangered. Mountain gorillas live in very lush vegetation cover and in mountainous areas, which Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo provide.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in the great Bwindi Impenetrable National Park-a UNESCO world heritage site and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which makes part of the great Virunga Conservation Area.
With about 1063 mountain gorillas still left in the whole world, Uganda is surely blessed to have more than half of the total number in its two gorilla trekking destinations. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park alone has almost half the total number, with about 459 individuals calling it home. Often times when gorilla trekking in Uganda is mentioned, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is what comes to the minds of many. Bwindi has about 17 fully habituated mountain gorilla groups that travellers can trek in the four different gorilla sectors or gorilla regions of Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is however a great gorilla destination as well, that travellers who are after tranquillity and exploration in great detail could choose to do gorilla trekking from.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda allows more gorilla trekkers per day as compared to the other countries that have gorilla trekking as a gorilla activity. With about 18 habituated gorilla groups in the country that travellers can trek per 8 persons per day, more travellers can be able to do gorilla trekking. Travellers on a gorilla trekking expedition are allowed to encounter the gorillas for only one hour.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda usually starts as early as 7am with a briefing by the park officials who orient the travellers on what to expect during the gorilla trekking exercise and also give them the rules and guidelines to follow during the same. Travellers are then placed in groups of 8 before being allocated a gorilla family that they will be tracking. Gorilla family allocation in Uganda is based on travellers’ physical ability and also preference. Travellers embark on the search of the gorillas at 8am being led by park rangers and guides who not only protect you but also share their knowledge of the park and the animals that inhabit it. Once the gorillas are encountered, travellers are allowed only one with them during which time they might take pictures with suitable cameras and also make videos. After, travellers trek back to the starting point from where they receive their gorilla trekking certificates.
Travellers need to purchase gorilla tracking permits for them to be able to take part in gorilla trekking in Uganda. Gorilla tracking permits in Uganda with effect from July 2020 will cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and ugx250000 for East African citizens. Gorilla tracking permits in Uganda are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority from where travellers can book with their reservations team, or through trusted tour operators who are registered with AUTO, a body that regulates tour operators in Uganda. For the fact that many travellers are after gorilla trekking in Uganda, gorilla tracking permits sell out very fast. Travellers are therefore advised to book their gorilla permits way in advance to secure their permits and also to choose the preferred gorilla region of their choice.
To have a successful gorilla trekking in Uganda experience, travellers are advised to carry essential gorilla trekking gear. Clad with the right gorilla trekking gear or equipment, travellers are assured of carrying only memorable memories with them. The essential gorilla trekking gear include among others;
- Good hiking boots with a good grip and preferably waterproof for when you step on water puddles, mud, or when it rains.
- Long-sleeved t-shirts that have your arms protected from insect bites as well as pricky vegetation cover that is also reactive
- Long safari pants that allow free movement
- Waterproof jackets
- Garden gloves for a strong grip on the hiking stick and also on vegetation during the trek
- Waterproof backpack to safe keep your important materials say cameras, phones and the like
- Energy giving snacks
- Insect repellent creams
- Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
In addition to the above, it is important that travellers have some physical ability to successfully accomplish gorilla trekking. Sometime before you are due to travel for your gorilla trekking in Uganda safari, you can do some exercises say running to keep fit. Also, travellers should endeavour to have a trusted tour operator organising and executing one’s gorilla trekking in Uganda safari.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done by persons who are only 15 years and more. persons below that cannot take part but could have other park activities available for them as the elders do gorilla trekking.
There are gorilla trekking rules and regulations that travellers on a gorilla trekking in Uganda safari are expected to follow and they include among others;
- Do not visit the gorillas if you are sick or with any communicable diseases as you put the gorillas at risk as well.
- Gorilla trekking is for persons that are 15 years and older
- Only 8 persons per gorilla group per day are allowed
- Do not litter the jungle
- Maintain a 7-meter distance away from the gorillas to safeguard yourself and the gorillas from attacks and also infections
- Do not look straight in the eyes of the gorillas
- Do not touch the gorillas
- Do not eat or drink near the gorillas
- Do not use flash cameras on the gorillas as they get stressed and may charge at you
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be carried out throughout the year but it is in the months of June-September and December-February that travellers are most advised because they are drier with passable roads and paths during the trek. Given that both Bwindi and Mgahinga are tropical rainforests, rains fall at any time, even during the so-called dry months. Packing right for gorilla trekking is therefore the most important.
There are various accommodation facilities that travellers can book when planning a gorilla trekking in Uganda safari. The lodging options vary according to budget with very up-market, mid-range and basic options available. Travellers are however advised to only book after confirming the gorilla sector one is tracking from.
Other activities that travellers can incorporate on a gorilla trekking in Uganda safari include among others game viewing in Kidepo Valley National Park or Murchison falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park as well as launch cruises, walking safaris, horse riding safaris among so many others. Bungee jumping and white water rafting on the Nile can also be added on a gorilla trekking in Uganda safari. Alternatively, you could have gorilla trekking in Uganda as the climax of your African safari. Whatever you choose, make sure to have a trusted tour operator to plan for you the best gorilla trekking in Uganda experience and you will be amazed by the beauty of these gentle near-human great apes, the mountain gorillas.