Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda. Facts and Figures You Need to Know

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda is one of the most breathtaking safari activities that continues to attract throngs of tourists to visit Uganda with high expectations of participating in this highly rated adventurous activity that is said to be a climax of a typical trip to Uganda, The pearl of Africa. With about 800 endangered mountain gorillas remaining in the whole world, Uganda is proud to share the largest population of these endangered creatures resident in Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks found in the southwestern part of the country.

However, the ever-growing number of tourists who travel to trek and habituate the gorillas is offering such an important factor in the boost and bid to restore and conserve their population. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is not only a magical experience allowing you to see these wonderful and human-related creatures, but it is also an activity that is mainly geared to conserve and protect these mountain giants. This ultimate guide blog will give you the insights and basic facts you need to know about the whole experience of gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Where to see the mountain gorillas on a gorilla tour in Uganda?

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

On a typical gorilla trekking safari in Uganda, you are able to find and see the gorillas in the mountainous regions of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. The gorillas are believed to live in such regions just as their name suggests. In your search for the gorilla during the trek, you are able to find a small population living in the Virunga Mountains, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla highlands park whereas the largest population of over more than half of the remaining gorillas reside in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of  Uganda. Oret Uganda Tours offers you the opportunity of going for gorilla trekking in Uganda to explore and habituate these magnificent creatures taking a trip to one of the parks in Uganda or both.

Best time to visit for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Despite gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda being an all year round adventure, the gorilla destinations of Bwindi, Mgahinga and Volcanoes National parks experience seasonal changes which often dictate the best time to visit in order to have the best gorilla trekking experience. At least the majority of tourists prefer visiting from June to September as well as from December up to February. But for an enthusiastic traveler who is yearning to trek the gorillas, you can visit Bwindi forest park at any time of the year whether it is a rainy season or during the dry season. The only advantage of going for gorilla trekking in Uganda during the wet seasons of March-May and Oct-Dece is that during these months, the gorillas tend to stick to the lower slopes as food is plentiful and temperatures are milder, therefore trekking times can be much shorter.

What is the cost of a permit for gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking in Uganda requires that every traveler intending to visit Bwindi or Mgahinga for the trekking experience needs to obtain a valid gorilla permit from the state authorities in charge of the wildlife conservation, particularly the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The cost and availability of gorilla permits vary by country. Currently, the gorilla permits cost USD600 in Uganda and USD1500 in Rwanda and these must be purchased prior to travel. The authorities often increase the permit and transfer costs without notice, so the budget for the highest amount to make sure you’ll be able to partake in this wonderful experience. Each park where the gorilla trekking is carried out from is entitled to issue only 10 gorilla permits daily for each gorilla family in those parks and this reason for rating the permit at such a cost. This is to ensure that the gorillas’ exposure to humans is limited since they are believed to be very fragile to human infections. all proceedings collected from the gorilla permits sold is invested back by the government in financing the patrols that are instrumental in protecting these apes from poachers and their lethal snares.

How to Obtain and Secure a Gorilla Permit?

To make sure that the gorilla trekking experience in Uganda is organized successfully, it is advisable to obtain a gorilla permit very early (at least 3-7 months) before the day you plan to visit. This helps you secure your permit and be rest assured that the real experience will ultimately be achieved. You can obtain the permit through a registered tour operator, or directly from UWA offices with help of their website. The following guideline shows you a step-by-step procedure of obtaining the gorilla permit through a tour operator;

  1. Choose a date from the calendar when you wish to visit the country for gorilla trekking and the tour experts will advise you on the best dates available to start the booking process.
  2. You will be required to book at least with half of the gorilla permit fee through the tour operator who will then send you confirmation details via email. (Please note that you can book online through PesaPal, PayPal or using your credit card money transfer)
  3. Please remember to instruct your bank to deduct the bank charges for the transaction from your account. they don’t ask for any extra money for the gorilla permit if you are reserving the rest of your tour through them. Any additional costs will be for services like telephony and transport that will be incurred when acquiring the permit.
  4. You will send a copy of your passport availing the details which will be used to register for your permit. Normally, all we need is just your full name, nationality, and the passport number.

What to Expect on a Typical Gorilla Trekking Day in Uganda?

Gorilla trekking in Uganda

For an enthusiastic traveler preparing for a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience of gorilla trekking in Uganda, there should a lot running into your mind about the whole trekking activity. Let’s try to summarise for you the expectations of this exceptional experience.

1. On the Gorilla Trekking Day

Gorilla trekking in Uganda starts in the early morning with a pre-gorilla trek briefing from the ranger guides at the park headquarters where trekkers are briefed about the rules and guidelines of the activity and the actual trek begins with a hike into the forest moving in groups of eight led by a park ranger as you search for the allocated gorilla family until you finally find it and relate with it for a maximum of a full hour. The Gorilla Trekking activity can range between 1-6 hours until you locate their habitat depending on their previous movements, the location of their feeds and the season of the year. Since the trek is quite strenuous, a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Interacting with the Gorillas during the gorilla trek

To ensure the gorillas don’t get too used to human presence, and because they share many of our genes and are able to catch our diseases, the maximum time allowed to interface with the gorillas is restricted to 1 hour. This is plenty of time to watch their activity as they feed, play and also give you the opportunity to take photographs (But with no FLASH). During this time, the park rangers will be able to provide you with a background to the family you are visiting while answering any of your questions as well.

Important Guidelines to Consider

If you are intending to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda, it is quite important to acquaint yourself with the basic knowledge base of this whole awesome experience.

  1. The park rangers will lead you and do their best to find these gorillas for you. These people are in regular radio contact, as they monitor the health, safety, and mountain gorilla populations.
  2. Even though there are no tourists that have been hurt by the gorillas, the tourists need to remember always that an adult gorilla is many times stronger than the human and can be bothered by the human activity, most especially in case the gorillas are tending the infants or sick or not in the real mood to the bothered.
  3. The maximum group size for checking the gorillas is 8 to 10 people per trekking group.
  4. The gorilla trekkers must be fit and in good health. Tracking is the thick forest at a height of 2,000m, passing the steep mountains and the ravines that can be tough and regularly wet.
  5. The gorillas are also liable to many human diseases, colds, diarrhea as well as flu. You are also advised not to go gorilla trekking if you have any of those diseases.
  6. The cough can be so bad to the gorillas. In order to reduce the chances of spreading bacteria or the viruses, cover your nose and mouth in case you want to cough.
  7. These gorillas can also get diseases from discarded human rubbish. So please don’t litter or spit as you trek the mountain gorillas.
  8. Don’t in any way touch the gorillas, even though they come closer since they can be very snooping
  9. End ever not to make any movements
  10. In case a gorilla charges, don’t make any movements. Always stay calm and slowly bend down and also avoid direct eye contacts, up to when the gorilla moves away in its own time.
  11. Always live a distance of 7 metres between you and the gorillas, even though the gorillas might not stick to the rules, in case the these gorillas start moving towards you, the rangers may advise you to move back away from them.
  12. Don’t ever edge the gorillas. Just view them from a distance and in groups.
  13. It’s only one hour that is allowed with the mountain gorillas
  14. Also, personal DVD recorders are allowed. The professional filmmakers also want to buy the filming permits in advance from RDB OR UWA.
  15. In case you want to the toilet, inform the guide and he will dig for you a hole and make sure that you cover the hole afterward in order to prevent the transfer of diseases to the gorillas
  16. You will also be given a list of gorilla trekking rules with the permit and you will be reminded about them as you move.
  17. Flash photography is also not allowed.

What to Pack for Gorilla Trekking?

Most people traveling for a gorilla trek in Africa take a small daypack to carry their water supply, food, and camera equipment. Here are some other items we recommend packing for your gorilla trekking experience.

  1. Comfortable hiking/walking boots: As you’ll most likely be trekking for a few hours to reach the gorillas, a good pair of boots is essential.
  2. Trousers and a long-sleeved shirt: You’ll be ‘bushwhacking’ into a misty rainforest, so wear trousers and a long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the thick undergrowth and nettles.
  3. Gloves: A pair of gloves will protect your hands when grabbing branches and vines, particularly a tough pair of gardening gloves.
  4. Light rain jacket: Even if you’re visiting during the dry season, it’s a good idea to pack a light rain jacket. These tropical forests can be damp and there can still be rainfall.

How do mountain gorillas look like?

It’s also known that mountain gorillas and human beings share 98% of the same genomic material. The male mountain gorillas can grow to six feet tall and also weighs between 350 to 500 pounds. As the male gorilla grows, its hair on the back becomes silver in colour, thus giving it a name silverback. The adult male will be ten times as stronger than the strongest human. The silverback’s arm also stretches 7 feet wide. These mountain gorillas also connect through sounds like the roars, shouts and grunts. These adults also eat up to 75 pounds of leaves, bamboo, flowers, roots as well as shoots each and every day as they move around the forest.

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