Want to meet mountain gorillas? Well here are some of the tips for gorilla trekking that you should know. Uganda, known by many as the adorable “pearl of Africa” is not only coveted for her stunning scenery, but also her worldly renowned beautiful and friendly people, breathtaking wildlife, towering mountains, lush vegetation, rivers and lakes, and the numerous rare and endangered primates that it harbors; chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are one of the world’s most threatened species of primates that thrive in the Virunga conservation area, a bigger region that spans three East African iconic parks; Mgahinga gorilla national park, Virunga National Park Congo and Volcanoes National Park respectively.
These national parks together with Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park provide shelter to up to 1000 mountain gorillas (2018 census) and they all provide avail endless opportunities of tracking these mighty giants in their natural habitat. A gorilla trek experience is a once in lifetime experience that allows one to have an epic one hour encounter with the world’s most endangered ape.
In Uganda, mountain gorilla trekking happens in two national parks, Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks all offering opportunities to meet over 17 gorilla families which are well habituated to entertain tourists all year long. For one to be allowed to undertake a gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, one has to buy a permit at $600 per person.
A gorilla permit allows an individual to trek and have a one hour face-to-face encounter with a family of mountain gorillas. Apart from gorilla trekking, Uganda provides her visitors with an option of gorilla habituation; this allows travelers to spend up to 4 hours with a semi-habituated group of gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are special species of the great apes in the genus gorilla, including the eastern lowland gorillas, western gorillas, and the riverine gorillas, but the mountain gorillas are only restricted to the volcanic ranges of East and Central African region.
Tips for mountain gorilla trekking
Please note that these gorilla trekking tips favor both the visitors and the mountain gorillas themselves since trekking them calls for a lot of sensitivity and when searching for them deep down in the forests, one ought to observe these simple rules. The tips/important notes to observe during gorilla trekking are as below.
Mountain trekking experience requires a minimum age of 15 years.
Visitors ought to be with sound health, and especially free from contagious illnesses such as cough, cold, flu, diarrhea and other types of illnesses that can or be able to transmit to the gorillas.
Visitors’ distance should be at least 8 meters away from the family of mountain gorillas. This is chiefly to reduce the risks of transmitting human diseases to the gorillas.
Any visitor should attend a pre-trek briefing, abide by the rangers’ / guides’ instructions, during trekking, upon meeting the gorillas and even after the trek.
Cameras with flash light are not allowed or accepted since these will scare away the gorillas, or lead them to charge.
Provoking or showing any signs of creating a fight or throwing any object towards the chimpanzees is prohibited.
Eating food, snacks, drinks or smoking in the presence of the gorillas isn’t allowed as this can transmit diseases and other illnesses indirectly to them.
Simple clothes such as shorts, T-shirts, sleeveless, sandals, flip-flops, light sneakers are not allowed. Instead strong cloths like rain coats/jackets, strong hiking/trekking boots, hats, garden gloves, long sleeved shirts/blouses, long pants and more are recommended. See full packing list here.
Wear relatively light clothing, and strong forest foot ware since the trails involve getting deep into the boggy jungles; carrying a walking stick is highly recommended as well as hiring a porter to help carry the heavy luggage.
The maximum time to spend in the presence of a gorilla family is strictly one hour, while habituation goes for up to 4 hours. However, if the gorillas become agitated for one reason or another, the rangers may stop the visit earlier.
Endeavor to disinfect your feet and hands before you move out to the jungles to meet the mountain gorillas.
Carry appropriate trekking equipment, including binoculars for clear vision, cameras for memorable photos, enough snacks, enough drinking water (1.5 liters recommended), glasses and a light back park to carry these items.
Mountain gorillas are undoubtedly some of the amazing and most highly sought after primates that no traveler should miss on their safari in Uganda.