Mountain gorillas are significantly the most beautiful and sought after wild animals by a million travelers in the world. They are incredibly special, unique, gentle, humble, inspiring and largest primate species in the word. A face to face encounter with these unusual wild creatures in their natural habitat is undoubtedly the most humbling and thrilling experience that comes once in a life time. Tracking mountain gorillas is incomparably the most rewarding travel adventure that makes travelers to experience value for their money and authentic African experiences.
Fortunately, Uganda is one of the three countries where one can visit the mountain gorillas in the wild. Home to nearly half of the total remaining population of the mountain gorillas, Uganda is the number 1 destination to go gorilla trekking.
Where to Go Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
With two national parks gazetted to protect the mountain gorillas, Uganda offer a traveler an unusual chance to track the endangered giants in the wild tropical rain forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park.
If you are planning for your safari to Uganda, simply set yourself off to the dense jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to meet these spectacular attractions in the wild. It is unbelievable to meet them and after you discover the fact that they are truly our close relatives that have chosen to live only in the wild and not even in the zoo.
In the world, these unique species count not more than 1010 and out this, almost half of the world population reside in the jungles of Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The UNESCO world heritage site of Bwindi is a favorite to most travelers looking for gorilla trekking safaris in Africa. The park has 10 habituated gorilla families with each family allowing 8 tourists. This leads to 80 gorilla permits available per day. Most gorilla safaris to Bwindi start from Kampala, though some can start in Mbarara and Kisoro. If you are to track the gorillas in Bwindi Forest, it is advisable to stay atleast a night before the trekking day.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one habituated gorilla family. These gorillas are known to move between Uganda and Rwanda given that the forest is connected to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Plan Your Gorilla Safari
Here is a useful guide to plan a gorilla trekking trip to Uganda. Getting this dramatic and inspirational experience comes with sacrifice as you travel to the misty valleys along the Albertine Rift in Southwestern Uganda.
The one hour of face to face interaction comes at a cost and yet the experiences thereafter are equally non regrettable.
Important to Know
Gorilla tracking in Uganda means hiking through the jungles and the steep slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which covers an area of about 331 square kilometers or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Given the fact that the hike is a strenuous adventure, it is important that you keep at your pace or ask the guide to slow down. While in your trek, your expectations shouldn’t rely only on mountain gorillas, there are also some unique, primates, forest birds and flowering plants that will come on your way.
Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas
There are about 900 mountain gorillas living in the wild and these can be found in only three countries; Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Uganda is proud to host nearly half of the population within Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga Forest.
It is estimated that more than 450 gorillas live within the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park . Today there are ten gorillas families that have been habituated for gorilla tracking. Each family usually consists of about 10-15 members.
To make your gorilla safari experience better, the park management has helped to habituate various gorilla families where the guides will to take you through during your trek.
In Uganda, there are about 18 habituated gorilla groups that are set for visitors to track every day. Habituated gorilla group mean that such mountain gorillas are now used to human presence given the fact that the process takes about 2 years for them to familiarize with humans in the wild.
However, Uganda also offers visitors with great opportunity to habituate a gorilla and this is through Gorilla Habituation Experience where visitors and researchers spend almost the whole day exploring the daily behavior while enjoying all the 4 hours interacting with these unique creatures face to face. This is really the most amazing experience in life but it requires one to be in the best physical state. Gorilla habituation comes at a price of US$1500.
Visitors intending to go for this experience, they can obtain gorilla permits at a cost of $15000 per visitor for foreign non residents, $1000 for foreign residents and shs.750000 for East African residents.
Gorilla Permits and their Prices
This experience comes at a cost of $600 for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and about US$80 for East African residents. These permits are obtainable only during the peak season meanwhile for visitors intending to track mountain gorillas during the wet season, Uganda Wildlife Authority agreed to continue offering discounted permits for one year (2017) and specifically for the months of April, May and November. During this season, the permits are obtainable at $450 for foreign non foreign residents, $400 for foreign residents and shs.150000 for East African residents. Although possessing a gorilla permit is a must, it doesn’t guarantee you to see a mountain gorilla, it at least gives 95% chances.
Useful Tips & Travel Information
To protect the mountain gorillas, there are strict rules and regulations that have been put in place to guide visitors during their gorilla trek. Here are the most important tips and guidelines.
Observation of the mountain gorillas is strictly 1 hour. Upon finding the gorilla family you have an hour to spend with them, observing them and photographing them.
It is advisable to stay quiet, move slowly and avoid sudden movements during your stay with the gorillas.
When taking photos or shooting videos of the gorillas, don’t use flash.
People with communicable diseases such as flu and cold are not allowed to track the mountain gorillas.
Children below 15 years are not permitted to track the endangered mountain gorillas.
What should you come with?
This experience takes a bit of time and it is such a breathtaking adventure that requires you to be physically fit and it is advisable that you come with a bottle of water. For Gorilla Habituation Experience at least two bottles of water with some snacks or energy boosters! Most importantly, you should come with waterproof hiking shoes, rain jackets, sunscreen and a hat, insect repellents, camera at least with 400 to 800 ASA and never forget your gorilla permit as well.
Remember that mountain gorillas are critically endangered species and they are susceptible to human diseases and the best to over come this effect is only possible if you followed the following rules and regulations.
You must observe the distance of about 5 to 7 meters away from mountain gorillas while enjoying the one hour with them, keep your tone down but feel free to ask questions, don’t wave at the gorillas, don’t use flash cameras while taking photos otherwise gorillas can recharge against you, keep your trash till you come to visitor center and dump them to any dustbins, don’t eat or drink near gorillas, in case you are sick please stay back and an alternative visit can be arranged for you and if you have cough or flue you are advised to cover your noise or mouth while sneezing, never touch a gorilla, don’t smoke and others that the park management will brief you during the early morning briefing.
In conclusion, gorilla tracking is a tedious adventure and visitors who intend to track mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park should be physically fit to hike.