Man’s closest relatives still reign deep in the jungles of Central Africa and East Africa. With over 800 mountain gorillas left globally, these species are extremely vulnerable.
For the past years, mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda has been a highly sought after African travel experience. With the increase in demand for gorilla trekking safaris, the governments of most Central and East African countries imposed a gorilla tracking permit system. Currently, the cost of a gorilla permit ranges between $200 and $750 per person depending on season and country you are in. But what is the secret behind these expensive permits and do travelers have any guarantee on what the money is being used for?
Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo are not exactly the most popular tourist destinations globally but without the mountain gorillas, tourists would have taken a second look especially in the regions civil unrest. The mountain gorillas live in two population groups that is the Bwindi Forest (Uganda) and the Virunga volcanic circuit, covering national parks within Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. The mountain gorillas rely on the African jungles to survival and if taken away, they are unlikely to survive. An adult mountain gorilla is huge in that a male one can reach an average height of 1.9 meters with an arm span of 2.3 meters. With such huge creatures moving around, it is no wonder that local communities have reverted from hunting the mountain gorillas to even keep a safe distance between man and this beast. In this sense, gorilla trekking has provided a valuable reason to protect these creatures.
With the high gorilla permit fees, it is inevitable that people would want to know where their money is going. It is highly estimated that about half of Africa’s mountain gorilla populations are found in national parks and the rest forage outside of the parks with little protection and often in conflict with local people. The gorilla permits are used for the management of the national parks and this means some funding is used for anti-poaching management and employment. There is also limitation to the number of Uganda gorilla trekking visitors that are allowed to visit the gorillas on a daily basis. There is no doubt that Uganda safari tourists have been paying the way for the endangered mountain gorilla and hopefully this situation will continue in the future.
Getting close to man’s relative as a Uganda gorilla trekking experience is not easily forgotten because the friendly nature of mountain gorillas gives tourists all the reasons to trek through the overgrown forests and see the creatures in their natural environment.
As the popularity of gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda is spreading around the world, some even rating it as the best travel experience ever, there are warnings that should never be ignored.
Scientists today are increasingly concerned about mountain gorillas suffering from the common human illnesses. Gorillas being genetically so close to human beings; they can easily catch common infections from the people visiting them. It is therefore imperative that Uganda gorilla safari trekkers adhere to the advice and regulations from their guide that is no trekking if you are ill and even no getting closer to the gorillas more than 7 meters.
Mountain Gorilla trekking regulations may increase in the nearby future and price probably increase too and as such if you are fortunate enough to find your way to a meeting with these extraordinary creatures, consider yourself one of an incredibly chosen few!
By Sanyu Chris