MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
Tips for Tourists Interested in Uganda Gorilla Trekking
Uganda is a paradise in all senses from the Chimpanzees which are the closest cousins of man to the mighty King Kong that rule Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Gorilla tracking is such an amazing experience that whoever plans to visit Uganda should include it on his or her own itinerary.
It is definite that gorilla trekking is a very charming and unforgettable activity however; you should plan your trip to Uganda with Arlanda Tours and Travel a local tourism company that has hands on expertise to plan for you this once in a lifetime experience.
While you are planning to trek gorillas in Uganda, you need to know something and that is why we have provided you with the below tips to guide you well before your gorilla trekking encounter in Uganda “The Pearl of Africa”
Where to Trek Gorillas in Uganda
With less than 100 mountain gorillas that still thrive in the world today, Uganda is home to more than a half of the world`s total population of mountain gorillas and Uganda is number one on the list of the only 3 countries in the world where Mountain gorilla trekking can be done. In Uganda, Mountain Gorilla Trekking is done in two national parks.
Currently, 22 mountain gorilla families have been habituated and are already available for tourism purposes. Out of 21 gorilla families, 19 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park while the remaining two families are found in Mgahinga National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi National park is a splendid luxurious swathe which lies across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley. Bwindi is home to close to a half of the total population of mountain gorillas. It is one of the ancient forests that have thrived through the last ice age. Bwindi is a home to 11 species of primates and 90 species of mammals.
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be done in any of the 4 trekking sectors of this magnificent park namely.
Buhoma sector in the north comprise of 4 habituated gorilla families that are available tourism purposes and these include; Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare and Katwe.
Ruhija region is in the east and it comprises of gorilla families such as Oruzogo, Kyaguliro, Mukizaand and Bitukura.
Rushaga area comprise of habituated gorilla families namely; Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, Kutu, Bweza, Mucunguzi, Bikingi, and Rwigi gorilla group.
Nkuringo sector is located in the southern part of the park and has gorilla families such as Nkuringo, Christmas and Bushaho gorilla families.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park lies at the extreme end of Uganda in the south west covering the northern slopes of the greater Virunga massif which include; Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m).
The park is bordered by the Republic of Rwanda to the South and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is therefore possible to trek in Uganda through Rwanda and trekking gorilla in Mgahinga National park is the ideal option for those entering through Rwanda.
Best time for Gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Being the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is indeed beautiful and therefore it can be visited any time of the year. Gorilla trekking in Uganda can therefore be done any day of the year. Annually, Uganda experiences mainly dry and wet season and these cannot really limit anyone from trekking the gorillas. It is however important to note that gorilla trekking is an intensive experience and that one can spend a full day trekking gorillas. The ranger guides are always available to lead you through the world of gorillas while they explain to you the ecology and behaviour of the gorilla.
The best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda is when the ground is relatively dry and so it is more rewarding to trek gorillas during the dry season which starts in June, July and August, December, January and February respectively. Bwindi is a misty forest that can never be completely dry and being a tropical rain forest, there can be rain at any time of the day but in the dry season, the forest is a bit drier which make it quite easier for the gorilla trekkers to undertake the steep slopes and dense vegetation in search for mountain gorillas. During the rainy season rainfall can sometimes be too much and this makes the forest muddy and slippery.
The low season for gorilla trekking in Uganda is usually the rainy season and this start in March, April, May, October and November respectively. The main advantage for trekking gorillas in the rainy season is that there`s plenty of forage which the gentle giants tend to feed on. Because of this, the mountain gorillas do not have to go far in the dense areas and so the visitors take a relatively lesser time to track gorillas.
Get yourself a gorilla permit in time!
It is very important to keep in mind that gorilla permits are on a very high demand and therefore one should plan early enough and purchase a gorilla permit. I would advise that you at least plan to purchase a gorilla permit 6 months before the trekking date. The competition for gorilla permits in Uganda becomes stiff especially if you are planning to come to Uganda for gorilla trekking in June, July, August, and September and from mid-December to the end of January. To be on a safer side, purchase a gorilla permit a year in advance!
Uganda has been selling permits through the Uganda Wildlife Authority at a relative fee of USD600 to foreign non-residents, USD500 to foreign residents and Uganda shillings 250,000 for East African residents. But because of the need to conserve the mountain gorillas, the price of the gorilla permit has been slightly increased especially for foreign non-residents from USD600 to USD700 and this increase will be effective from 1st July 2020.
It is advisable that you secure a Uganda gorilla trekking permit through your trusted ground tour operator.
For those who wish to do gorilla habituation where you allowed to spend 4hours of mystical encounter with the Mountain gorillas you will be required to pay USD1500.
Have your Luggage well Equipped but Light
Packing for gorilla trekking in Uganda should be done appropriately. Priority should be given to essential items like waterproof hiking boots, insect repellent, rain Jacket/poncho, drinking water and energy giving snacks, first aid kit and long-sleeved clothes. Do not forget a camera to help take good pictures as well as binoculars.
Gorilla trekking is sometimes straining and it requires that you to be physically fit before embarking on the trek. The actual gorilla trekking can last for about 2-8hours depending on the movement of the gorillas and you may include negotiating path through the stiff vegetation and steep slopes while searching for the mountain gorillas.
Upon sighting of the gorillas, they guide will begin to count your time and you will be allowed to spend 1hour of direct interaction with the gorillas while the play and feed on tree leaves and fruits.
You need to know that since they are mountain gorillas, they live in a high elevation and so you adequate drinking water and energy drinking snacks to keep you well with the stamina. Do not also forget the hiking stick which will help you in the slippery ground. You can get the walking from the park headquarters or lodge at no extra cost.
If you have heavy luggage, it is advisable that you hire a porter to help you carry the luggage. Porters are always available at the park headquarters and they can be hired at $10-$20.
It is good to wear clothes that are environmentally friendly to keep you confortable and at the same time to make you fit in the ecosystem. Wear colours which are not shouting, have long-sleeved shirts and trousers, rain jacket to help you in the tropical rain forest.
Be attentive during the briefing
Every morning before tourist embark on the gorilla trekking activity, the Uganda Wildlife Authority takes the initiative to brief visitors on the set rules and regulations that you must observe during the gorilla trekking. Some of them include;
- At all time; keep away from the gorillas for at least 7meters. Mountain gorillas share 98% of the human DNA which qualifies them to be one of our closest relatives. They are therefore very susceptible to human infectious diseases.
- In case the gorilla charges at you, stand still and avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas.
- Avoid using flash cameras and always make sure to turn off your flash camera before you begin to take photos of these creatures.
- The minimum age limit is 15years of age and anyone below this age is strictly not allowed to trek gorillas. There’s no maximum age for the aged people.
- You will only enjoy one hour of magical encounter with the mountain gorillas
- In case of a cough and sneezing, please close your mouth and nose so that the gorillas are not affected and avoid trekking gorillas when you are sick.
- Do not litre in the pack and in case you want to help yourself, (defecate) please burry human wastes at 30 centimetres deep.
We would like to wish you an amazing visit to Uganda to trek mountain gorillas putting the above tips into consideration while you plan to visit the Pearl of Africa and enjoy a once in lifetime experience. Uganda does not only have mountain gorillas as the only tourist attraction. You can spice your Uganda safari adventure by including other attractions in your itinerary like the game viewing safaris in savannah national park, bird watching, mountaineering, sport fishing, chimpanzee trekking, culture among other activities that will make your realise the unmatchable beauty of Uganda “the Pearl of Africa”