Described as one of the premier tourist activities in Uganda – gorilla trekking is a thrilling experience every traveler needs to experience. In the early years, it wasn’t so famous since the gorilla parks were still going through major establishments. Bwindi forest in Uganda, famous for the mountain gorillas was gazetted in 1991 and it was available for tourism in April 1993. In Rwanda, gorilla poaching was common in the early years until the famous American zoologist dedicated her life to protect these endangered creatures. Her grave site in Volcanoes park is another famous attraction in Rwanda and she was buried together with her favorite gorilla – digit.
GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA
Gorilla Trekking is an overwhelming activity, getting so close to the giants will give you a lifetime memories. The mountain gorillas live in groups/ families and there are over 9 habituated gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable forest available for tracking. Visitors will have to book through the Uganda Wildlife Authority to get tracking permits that allow them to enjoy a full day trekking into the Bwindi jungles. Bwindi is located in the south western part of the country, close to the Congo border and covers over 321km². The rain-forest is spread over steep ridges and valleys and is the source of 5 rivers that flow into Lake Edward.
The gorilla Trekking experience in Bwindi will start in the morning at 8:00am with a briefing from the park authorities. A few rules are shared with the visitors going to trek and a few requirements like health status since Gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. Other requirements include drinking water, walking stick etc.
In groups of 8 people, you will be led by a park ranger into the misty jungle, trekking into the forest in search of the gorillas. This might take a short time or longer time i.e. 2 to 7 hours depending on how far the gorillas might have moved. The park ranger communicates to the other rangers who are also inside the forest about the status of the creatures. There is 95% chance, you will see these animals and once you get to them, it is a captivating experience.
Take many pictures as you can but remember flash light photos are not allowed and don’t look into the gorillas eyes. After this, you will have so many stories to share when you get back home.
UGANDA GORILLA TREKKING PERMIT COST
The gorilla tracking permits in Uganda currently (2018) cost USD $600 for the foreigners and UGX 200,000/- for the East African Nationals. They can be booked for in advance, at-least 2 weeks before the day of your trekking. In high seasons, you will need to book 1 month or 2 months in advance. The gorilla permits can be bought from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) office in Kampala, Uganda. It is recommended to book through a tour operator who will help you in reserving the permits and also making other bookings like accommodation. Payments can either be made in USD or UGX at the UWA reservations office.
GORILLA TREKKING IN RWANDA
Gorilla trekking at the Volcanoes National Park is rated the best tour experiences ever in Rwanda. Visitors from across the world have visited this small country to have a feel of the amazing encounter with the mountain gorillas. Among these even includes celebrities like ‘Morgan Freeman’ and so many others. The gorilla trekking here is quite the same like in Bwindi but different experiences. It starts with a briefing from the park authorities in the morning at 8am about safety measures and expectations while on this tour. There are 10 habituated mountain gorilla families in Volcanoes national park and can be tracked in groups of 8. A team of trackers is also sent prior to check where the gorillas might have moved and this will easily help the park guide to know where exactly to track these animals.
The rain forest here is verdant, humid, with some light and there are no discernible trekking paths. You will move through steepy hills and slopes, grasping onto branches, plant roots and bushes. Your guide will lead you through the paths to where the gorillas are & this might take between 1 to 5 hours or 7 hours. It’s recommended to carry along some bottled drinking water + a few snacks to gain you more energy. The gorilla trekking will require you to have some level of fitness. Once you get to see the gorillas, it’s an indescribable moment and deserves to be recorded with a few pictures and videos.
RWANDA GORILLA TREKKING PERMIT COSTS
In Rwanda, it will cost you around USD $ 1500 to trek the mountain gorillas for a full day in the Volcanoes Park. The permits can be obtained from Rwanda Tourism offices in Kigali and prior booking is recommended. You can book through a recognized and trusted tour operator to help you get the permits and also your accommodation since it might be a little tricky to find rooms in the high seasons.
GORILLA TREKKING RULES & GUIDELINES
- Ensure to have no communicable diseases like cold or flu since the gorillas can be easily infected and/or are highly susceptible to these diseases.
- The gorilla trekking age limit is 15 years
- It’s advisable to always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
- It is recommended for you to wear appropriate gear /clothing before gorilla trekking i.e. a jacket might be helpful, a light backpack where you can put your packed lunch and proper boots to support your ankles.
DURING GORILLA TREKKING
- Keep a minimum distance of 5-7 meters (15-21 feet) from the Gorillas. This reduces the risk transmitting diseases between humans and Gorillas.
- Keep your voices pretty low at all times but you can still ask your guide a few questions.
- While in the presence of the gorillas, do not partake of food or drinks.
- Rarely the mountain gorillas charge, but if they do, crouch down slowly and avoid looking into the gorillas eyes. Wait for the gorilla to pass you and do not attempt to run away.
- Flash photography is not allowed when taking pictures of the gorillas. It’s also advisable to move slowly and carefully when taking pictures.
- Remember Mountain gorillas are still wild animals so do not touch them.
- Visitors are allowed to spend a maximum one hour with the Gorillas however if these creatures become agitated or nervous, your guide will end the visit quite early.