There are some things experienced in life that are unforgettable. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is one activity that will leave an everlasting mark for eternity. There is nothing so amazing and captivating as meeting the gorillas in their natural setting. These endangered apes are our closest relatives with a 98% genetic code similarity. They are huge and scary in appearance but gentle and peaceful in temperament. Gorilla tracking experience presents a close encounter with the gorillas, the closest you can ever get to an animal in the wild. The gorillas have very unique social behaviour akin to those of human beings.
The gorillas express their feeling in times of happiness and sadness by vocalizations and animations. Research also has it that gorillas are intelligent and has the ability to use tools and also think about their actions. For instance, a western lowland gorilla was seen in the swamp using a stick to test the depth of water to cross the channel.
The unfortunate thing is that all gorilla types are endangered species be it mountain gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas, Cross River gorillas or Western lowland gorillas.
The subspecies of gorillas found in Uganda are mountain gorillas. These mountain-dwelling gorillas also have localities in Rwanda and Dr Congo. Their total population across the three countries is slightly above 1000 and Uganda alone has almost half of the total population, about 490 individuals within its two gorilla habitats.
Where to track the gorillas in Uganda
The gorillas are tracked in two amazing and pristine forested mountainous areas of Bwindi and Mgahinga. These were gazetted into national parks to effectively protect the endangered mountain gorillas. Bwindi forest better known as Bwindi Impenetrable national park is a tropical rainforest positioned in the southwest of Uganda in Kanungu district. The primate park is a vast area with a size of about 331km2. There is a plethora of wildlife species in the forest but the mountain gorillas largely dominate it with a whopping population of 459 individuals as per the 2019 census. Gorillas are naturally social animals that live in families or troops and Bwindi has 50 families and 13 lone gorillas. Out of the 50 gorilla groups, 20 mountain gorillas families are habituated for the gorilla trekking experience. The 20 habituated families live within the four different sectors in the forest, namely Buhoma in the North, Ruhija in the East, Rushaga at the bottom South and Nkuringo in the southwest.
The four sectors are where tourists go for the gorilla trekking experience. The availability of gorilla permits depends on the four sectors. It is also imperative to note that the four sectors almost have similar terrains and the experience of tracking the gorillas is the same.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is considered to be a fringe destination for gorilla tracking in Uganda. It is a little habitat located on the Virunga ranges at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Dr Congo. It has about 40 gorillas within its boundaries according to the 2016 Virunga gorilla census. The Virunga massif based gorilla park has only one habituated family, Nyakagezi. The terrain of Mgahinga is slightly different from that of Bwindi, it is more mountainous and covered by montane and bamboo forests. Visitors can do a double gorilla trekking in Uganda to experience the tropical rainforest outlook of Bwindi and the mountainous montane and bamboo forest landscape of Mgahinga.
The Cost of The Gorilla Tracking Permit
A gorilla permit is a plastic electronically chipped card issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority granting permission to track the gorillas in any of the two national parks. The cost of the gorilla permit is 700$ per person. The gorilla permit can be booked by either contacting the Uganda Wildlife Authority directly via their reservation email or telephone or indirectly by using the local tour operators to purchase it on your behalf. The gorilla permits are highly demanded, booking must be made earlier as possible and advised.
What Happens During the Trekking Experience?
Gorilla trekking starts when you arrive at the park head offices for a briefing about the code of conduct in the forest and while interacting with the gorillas. You are allocated to a group of other visitors to track a given gorilla family. After the briefing, you drive or walk to the starting point where you plummet into the forest to begin the trek towards the locales of the gorillas. The terrain of the forest is steep, uneven and at times slippery especially on a wet day, having a hiking stick and wearing sturdy shoes are recommended. The walk takes some decent time because the abodes of the gorillas are hidden and also the gorillas keep moving from one place to another. it is some challenge to track them down. Trackers are advised to carry adequate drinking water and dry foods to keep their bodies up to speed. When you reach the localities of the gorillas, you find them in a group of 10-30 individuals enjoying the foliage and playing around. Most trackers are frantically amazed by the gigantic size of the silverback. The silverback sometimes pops out and walks around its family as a way of marking its territory to protect its family but it does not do any harm to the trackers since it is familiar with humans.
Trackers are instructed to keep a 10-metre gap between themselves and the gorillas, lower their voices, restrict their movements and flashes are not allowed on the camera. The interaction with the gorillas involves observing and watching them feed, associate and play among themselves and also capturing their visuals. At the death of an hour, the interaction ends and you leave the forest to meet your safari guide to return to the lodge or proceed with other errands.
The Best Time to Trek The Gorillas
The best time to trek the gorillas by popular vote is the dry season which consists of June through October, December and January-Mid March. In the dry months is when the roads leading to the park and the walk trails in the forest are dry, making it easy for the visitors to access the gorillas and enjoy them. Additionally, the sun is bright enough to offer clear visuals of the gorillas during the trek.
In conclusion. mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is the best wildlife experience you should never miss! Contact us at Africa Adventure Safaris for a tailored gorilla trekking tour at pocket friendly rates.