COVID-19 SOPs/ Rules & Regulations in Uganda
Uganda has announced the reopening of its International Airport for all travelers including tourists and all tourist activities effective 1st October 2020.
Because the health and safety of travelers is Uganda’s top priority, the country has established robust health and safety guidelines to ensure this.
For travelers who are interested in gorilla trekking tours in Uganda, we’re excited to welcome you back to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, where was gorilla trekking; one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences in Africa is done.
Please be aware of the new measures and guidelines/COVID-19 Gorilla Trekking Standard Operating Procedures that have been put in place by the Uganda Ministry of Tourism and Uganda Wildlife Authority to protect visitors/tourists, staff and the primates from the spread of Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID-19.
Below are the Gorilla Tracking Rules & Regulations as established by Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
- Before engaging in gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, visitors shall be briefed about the activity. The briefing shall be done at the respective national parks headquarters.
- The prevention measure for COVID-19 will be an integral part of briefing messages and also information, Education, and Communication (ICE) materials will be displayed in all appropriate access locations.
- At the briefing points, it mandatory for all visitors and staff to wash hands or sanitize with an alcohol based hand sanitizers (containing at least 60% alcohol).
- Also at the briefing points, all visitors and staff will be screened for body temperature taken, using non-contact infrared thermometers. Visitors with temperatures above 37.5 degrees Celsius shall be denied entry trekking.
- Briefing and debriefing shall be done in small groups of 8 visitors after they have been assigned gorilla families for trekking.
- During the briefing, visitors, staff, and porters who will be observed to be ill with flu, diarrhea, stomach upset, malaria and others will not be allowed to trek the mountain gorillas.
- All visitors, staff and porters must wear N95 masks, surgical masks or cloth masks with filters while at the briefing point and during trekking.
- Tourists with disposable masks such as the N95 and surgical masks shall be required to carry at least two (02) or more masks to ensure single use for each day of visitation.
- Visitors without masks or those who do not abide by the handwashing and sanitization measures shall not be permitted to enter to trek gorillas.
- Only 8 visitors shall be allowed to trek a gorilla family each day.
- Visitors must keep a distance of not less than 10 meters (33 feet) away from gorillas during this period of Coronavirus.
- The assigned UWA ranger guides shall ensure that the social distance of 2 meters is maintained among the trekkers, where possible.
- Before the gorilla trekking starts, visitors, staff and porters shall sanitize their hands again.
- Visitors shall carry light equipment to reduce the need for porters while doing gorilla trekking.
- Because of the reported side effects of wearing face masks for long periods and in high altitudes, trekkers shall have frequent breaks during trekking give themselves time to breathe fresh air.
- Social distancing will be strictly observed during these breaks.
- In case a visitor or accompanying members of the team experiences a health-related problem, Uganda Wildlife Authority staff shall apply the established evacuation and first aid guidelines to move the affected individual from the field. regarding the Gorilla Trekking Rules-Regulations
Before Seeing The Gorillas
- The minimum age for tracking in Uganda is 15 years. In case you have traveled with children below the age of 15, they will also be provided with an activity.
- Maximum number of visitors is 8 persons per gorilla group. This is to minimize behavioral disturbance to the gorilla and the risk of exposure to human-borne diseases regarding the Gorilla Trekking Rules-Regulations
- If you are so much interested in gorilla trekking but you are ill with flu, cough, cold, stomach ailment, be a Hero, just don’t trek for the sake of the primates.
- Wash your hands with hand sanitizer of 60% alcohol or soap and water before you head out for a gorilla trek.
On The Way to The Gorillas
- Please always speak in a low voice in the forest so that you do not disrupt the peace of the gorillas. This will also enable you to observe other natural treasures in the forest such as birds, monkeys and butterflies.
- Don’t throw away garbage in the forest. If you have a backpack, please put all the garbage in it and you can empty it at a designated point when you return to the briefing point; the delicate ecosystem of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks needs to be kept free of any form of litter.
- Follow your guide through the trekking trails and stick to the group for your safety. This will also enable you to listen to your guide while explaining the attractions seen along the way to the mountain gorillas.
- As you approach the point where the rangers observed the mountain gorillas the day before, you will get the final briefing before your next few steps to where the family is. Trekkers are often requested to leave their walking sticks and their baggage at this point.
- Human waste should be buried 30cm deep.
When With The Gorillas
- Maintain a 7m (21ft) distance from the gorillas. This sometimes means moving back, as these peaceable creatures may move in for a closer look. Playful youngsters sometimes want to climb into visitors’ laps. This is as much to protect gorillas as visitors, out of concern that gorillas share about 97% of our DNA and could pick up a human virus for which they have no immunity and which could wipe out the whole population.
- Please always stay in a group during the visits.
- Speak in a low voice; you are free to ask the guide question.
- If you sneeze or a cough, turn your head away from the gorillas and cover your mouth if necessary to cough. One of the chief natural causes of death among mountain gorillas is pneumonia.
- Smoking, drinking, and eating are prohibited near gorillas.
- Don’t feed gorillas or any other animal you may meet.
- Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the instructions of the guide. Don’t run away, it will increase the risk of gorilla chasing you.
- Don’t touch the gorillas, they are wild animals.
- Visits are limited to 1 hour/60 minutes per gorilla group per day where you will be watching the gorillas foraging, playing, and going about their business of the day.
- When taking photos, move slowly, silently and be careful when you walk. The use of flash is strictly prohibited.
- After the visit, remain silent or speak in a low voice until you reach at least 200 meters away from the gorillas.
General Health Rules
Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them:
- Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed to visit the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
- If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.
- If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
- Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.
- Do not litter rubbish (e.g. food wrappers) in the park; foreign items can harbour diseases or other contaminants.
- If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep and fill it in when you are finished.
What to Bring on Your Gorilla Safari:
Wear comfortable hiking shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes. -Put on ear plugs for those who feel uncomfortable with the jungle sounds. -Carry a packed food and enough drinking water. – Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellent. – Bring a photo of film camera. Using flashlight is not permitted so we recommend using films of 400-800 ASA.