What is Gorilla Trekking Like in Uganda Rwanda Congo Africa?
A gorilla trek in Uganda can last for about 2-6 hours and it involves hiking through the dense vegetation and steep slopes while in search for mountain gorillas. How the start and the entire day of the gorilla trek like? Prime Uganda safaris and tours, gives an insight into what the day of gorilla trekking entails from start to the end.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Rwanda in volcanoes National Park. Congo in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park .Bwindi is home to almost half of all mountain gorillas on earth. A trek to see gorillas can last from 2 to 8 hours, involving hiking through the thick, dense forest, up and down hills! It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Below is what a gorilla trek in Uganda entails.
Transfer from your lodge or camp to the park headquarters
- A day of a gorilla trek in Uganda typically starts with you and your driver guide transferring from your hotel, lodge or camp to the respective national park headquarters. All travelers are expected to be at the park headquarters by 7:00 am.
- Unlike Mgahinga National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has four headquarters−one in each gorilla trekking sector (Buhoma, Ruhiija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo).
- There is no single lodge you will find at the park headquarters but rather at some distance away. Therefore if you book a gorilla permit for trekking, say in Buhoma then also book a lodge within Buhoma region to avoid long drives and disappointments.
When you are at the park headquarters
- While at the headquarters, you will be welcomed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger guides who will show you where to make yourself comfortable.
- UWA representatives will cross check through your documents such as passports, and gorilla permits before entering the park. A gorilla is an official document that gives access to the gorillas. It is issued out by the Uganda wildlife Authority.
- Cross-checking your documents will be done to ensure that the trekker is of the right age (15 years and above) and to find out the nationality, to determine which country sends the highest number of tourists for marketing purposes.
- You will register and then wait for the pre-gorilla trekking briefing.
- Note: Gorilla permits are issued for a specific day so make sure you go for gorilla trekking experience after cross-checking the date and month on your permit carefully. Do not go for the trekking before or after your actual trekking date.
- Also, if you book a permit for Buhoma and you end up in Rushaga for example, you will not be allowed to trek gorillas in Rushaga because you would be in the wrong place.
Pre-gorilla trekking briefing and guidance
- For any traveler on a Gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, a pre-gorilla trekking briefing is a MUST. The briefing starts at 8: 30 am by a UWA ranger guide who will tell you about all the gorilla trekking rules and regulations for your safety and for the safety of the endangered mountain gorillas.
- Any traveler who misses the gorilla briefing session stands high chances of missing to trek gorillas.
- During the briefing, you will be put together in groups of 8 people and each group given a gorilla family to trek.
- Elderly people and those who are not physically fit are also advised to hire porters who will help them carry the important things during the trek.
- Those who would like to fulfill their dream of gorilla trekking but fill like they will not manage because of some physical challenges, can be carried to into the forest on a Sedan chair or bamboo stretchers.
Some of the gorilla trekking rules and guild lines include;
Washing your hands before visiting the gorillas
All the visitors, staff and trackers must wear masks.
Avoid wearing brightly colored clothes. Wear green, light brown or khaki.
Wearing a face masks in the presence of the gorillas.
Don’t visit gorillas if you’re ill with flu, cough, cold or stomach ailment.
Follow the guide through the trails and always stay in the group
Speak in low voices
Do to not live any rubbish in the park
Visitors must stay at least 33 feet (10 meters) away from gorillas.
Pictures may be taken but no flash
Make no sudden movements when you with gorillas
Turn away and cover your mouth if necessary to cough (chief natural cause of death among mountain gorillas is pneumonia).
Don’t smoke, drink or eat when you are with gorillas
Note: Ensure that you have the required items for gorilla trekking before the actual trek, such as;
- Packed lunch box
- Comfortable hiking shoes with good traction, suitable for climbing steep muddy slopes
- Long sleeved shirts/T-shirt/blouse, trouser and rain Jacket/poncho
- Plenty of drinking water
- Sunscreen lotion and a hat
- Insect repellent
- A walking stick
- Garden gloves to protect when supporting yourself on tree branches
- A pair of binoculars and camera
- Before the actual gorilla trek begins, an advanced team of expert rangers trace the gorillas to find out where they are. It involves tracking down specific Gorilla families and locating them based on their last known location, where they spent the night, and their feeding area.
- Once they find them they will communicate to the park headquarter and then gorilla trekkers will follow. Gorilla trackers do this to ensure that the visitors who come to see the gorillas get to see them and as such guarantee a 99% chance of seeing the gorillas.
The actual gorilla trek
- Walking behind a ranger guide you learn all about these incredible creatures and what you’re up against. Don’t think that they will be just around the corner. The actual gorilla trek can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours (sometimes longer).
- The trek can be easier at the start but things immediately changes when you reach the jungle proper. There’s no pre-trod path for you to follow. Just the gap the ranger guide has forced in between the trees with casual swings of his machete.
- You will hike through difficult terrain, thick vegetation, muddy areas, hills and valleys, sometimes to altitudes of more than 3500 meters. The activity can indeed be very strenuous and challenging for unfit visitors.
- Remember to carry a walking stick and you can hire a porter to carry your backpack and help you at the challenging terrain. Also wear strong waterproof hiking boots.
- At higher altitudes, you will also have to contend with a thick overgrowth of stinging nettles that can easily penetrate light clothing. Please wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
- As if fiery skin rashes weren’t enough of a deterrent, it also rains a lot in this area and can get very cold. Please remember to carry a light weight rain jacket/poncho and a sturdy garden glove.
- Also, at this altitude, you will certainly be a little breathless, and exhausted. Energy giving snacks and plenty of drinking water are essential.
- Sometimes, this exhausting experience can makes you question the very sanity of your decision. But nothing worth having is easy. But someone of good fitness who does a reasonable amount of walking is unlikely to find the walk all that tough.
- If you’re not used to walking though, you should request a group closer to the trailheads.
During your trek to the gorillas, you will also see a variety of other forest creature. For example, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is rated by IUCN as the richest and most diverse fauna community in East Africa with over;
- 120 species of mammals including 10 species of primates
- 360 bird species
- 220 species of butterflies and
- Over 1,000 flowering plant species, including 163 species of trees, and 104 species of ferns.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also one of the scenic parks in Uganda containing 3 spectacular volcanic peaks.
An as you search for the iconic mountain gorillas in Mgahinga, you will come across other forest creatures including the very rare golden monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys swinging in trees as well as a variety colourful birds.
Meeting the gorillas
- The discomfort and fatigue experienced during the strenuous gorilla trek will vanish the moment you will set eyes on our giant cousins, the magnificent mountain gorillas. Breathe, relax, and start admiring. This ain’t a zoo!
- It is partially down to their sheer size (weighing up 200 kg) — you can’t fail to be impressed by a creature that colossal. But there is something deeper and more endearing—the combination of awesome strength with profound gentleness, the depth of their social bonds, their harmony with their environment; their vulnerability and their struggle to survive.
- Coming face-to-face with these gorillas of Uganda is truly a humbling and unforgettable safari experience. Trust me! You will not remain the same.
- The gorillas you will meet are familiar with humans, and never harm peaceful humans.
- You will just feel as if you have wandered into a foreign home and quietly observed the father, mothers, and children going about their daily lives. They each have their own character just like us and each family has their own traits.
- The ranger guides know each individual gorilla and are happy to share tales about their characters, interactions, and squabbles.
- The kids show the same reckless curiosity that our own young show. This always forces their overprotective mothers to backtrack and collect their distracted little babies, when worried of the strange, hairless primates with their clicking cameras and awestruck faces.
- Yo may also see a strong giant silverback, striking a pose as it munches a succulent bamboo shoot. Or one especially irritable female rushes past you with a hoot of warning, or a baby emerging from the bush walking on all fours toward you.
Remember the rules when you are with the gorillas
You will have one hour to observe the gorillas, ask questions, and take photos and videos of the encounter.
No drinking or eating around the gorillas
Flash photography is prohibited.
You should not walk closer than 7meters from the gorillas
When the gorillas move closer towards you, please stay calm and slowly try to move backwards to regain the 7 meter distance
Towards the end of one hour, take the last snap and return to civilization.
Hiking back to the park headquarters
After spending an hour with gorillas, hike back to the pack-headquarters where you will find your driver guide.
Fortunately, hiking back is not as strenuous as hiking up. You will be full of magical memories with gorillas hence find it easy to reach the starting point within no time.
Upon returning to the park headquarters, collect your gorilla trekking certificates, and pay tips to your range guide and porter and say your goodbyes as you prepare for your next destination.
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