Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa”, is an amazing activity that thousands of tourists have taken part in and many more yearn to engage in. Uganda is blessed to be one of the countries to inhabit the endangered mountain gorillas in the world. These endangered mountain gorillas are also found in two other countries in Africa, that is Rwanda and the Congo. With about 1063 individuals left in the world, visiting them in their natural habitat in an activity that is widely known as gorilla trekking, is one of the most sought after activity in the world with thousands of travelers flocking these countries. These mountain gorillas live in high altitude areas with lush vegetation cover, say rainforests and areas that are mountainous in nature.
Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves travelers hiking deep into the lush vegetation cover in search of the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in both the celebrated Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not much talked about when it comes to gorilla trekking in Uganda but the park offers an amazing gorilla trekking experience away from the fuss and crowdedness by travelers: with only one gorilla group to track, travelers are left with serenity as not so many people get to visit the park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, on the other hand, is the hub of gorilla trekking in Uganda. Having been gazetted as a national park in 1991, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. This park alone inhabits more than half of the total gorilla population in the world and the rest is shared with the other national parks. Bwindi is divided into four gorilla sectors of Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo each with a number of habituated gorilla groups that travelers can track.
With about 18 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda, more travelers have an opportunity to track these mountain gorillas as compared to the other countries which offer the same activity. Groups of 8 persons can track a gorilla group per day and get to spend up to one hour with them once encountered. Gorilla trekking in Uganda starts very early in the morning with a brief by the park rangers who share what travelers should expect on the trek plus the rules to be followed during the trek. Travelers are then placed in groups of 8 and allocated a gorilla group to track. the trek usually starts at 8am and during the hike, information is shared by the park rangers and travelers are also showed a number of wildlife. Upon encountering the mountain gorillas in Uganda, travelers are allowed only one hour with them and travelers are encouraged to utilize their time well. Thereafter, travelers trek back to the starting point where travelers are awarded with gorilla trekking certificates and then depart the park headquarters to continue with their activities as per their travel plan.
To be able to trek mountain gorillas in Uganda, travelers need to purchase gorilla permits. It is this permit that travelers present to the park officials on the day of trek. Gorilla permits in Uganda cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and ugx250,000 for East African citizens. These gorilla permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and travelers can book from the reservations office in Kampala, or have a trusted tour operator book them for you. Gorilla permits sell out very fast due to the increase in the number of travelers who wish to do gorilla trekking in Uganda and yet not so many permits are available. Because of this, travelers are encouraged to book way in advance their gorilla permits so as to have yours secured.
Apart from the gorilla permit, travelers need to note the following for a successful gorilla trekking in Uganda experience;
- Gorilla trekking in Uganda is for persons that are 15 years and above.
- Have some bit of physical fitness. Sedan chairs and bamboo stretchers are available for hire though, you can be carried all the way. Guides and park rangers do not leave anyone behind anyway, and it is with the slowest person’s pace that the gorilla trek is conducted.
- Be free from illnesses, especially infectious ones. Mountain gorillas are endangered, and since they have 98%DNA with the humans, they can catch these infections too, which puts their lives at risk. Flu, cough, mumps and the like are very deadly to the mountain gorillas. Do not opt to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda if you are ill.
- Importantly, have a trusted tour operator organize your gorilla trekking in Uganda safari. Your accommodation, gorilla permit, transportation and the like are not yours to worry about, all will be handled for you.
To have a wonderful and hustle free gorilla trekking in Uganda experience, travelers need to pack the right/essential items that will facilitate their trek. These include among others; good hiking boots that are comfortable and preferably waterproof for when step into water puddles, rivers or it rains, waterproof jackets, long safari trousers, long sleeved shirts, garden gloves, waterproof backpack, good camera, insect repellent creams, energy giving snacks and water and a hat.
Rules and regulations for a successful gorilla trek in Uganda
- Only 15-year-olds and above can do gorilla trekking
- Do not visit the gorillas when sick
- Only 8 persons per gorilla group are allowed per day
- Do not use flash photography
- Always maintain a 7-meter distance away from the gorillas
- Do not litter
- Do not eat near the mountain gorillas. Eating should be done at least 200 meters away.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done all year long. During the dry months of June -September, and December-February, travelers are most encouraged to visit then as the roads are more passable and the vegetation growth, especially in Bwindi, is not so overgrown as compared in the other months that are considered wet. Rains in these rainforests fall at any time, even during the dry season. Small drizzles can fall throughout the day or rain heavily in the afternoon after a sunny morning. On some occasions, though, the sun can be scorching throughout the day.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda has a number of activities that can be combined to it, say a safari in the country’s wild Kidepo Valley National park, or Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks that give amazing wildlife views and cultural encounters. No safari to Uganda is complete without gorilla trekking. Take time to plan it out with your tour operator of choice and have yourself a wonderful time.