Mountain gorillas are fascinating primates; like humans, they live in family groups, consisting of 10-30 members.
The silver male is the group leader, feeds the group, protects the group, and is the one responsible for reproduction within the group.
Like humans, they experience emotions, cry, laugh, cuddle, and have a strong social bond.
Female mountain gorillas reproduce at least once every four years, with each gestation period lasting nine months. This explains the low population of mountain gorillas.
The mountain gorilla is an endangered species. According to a 2018 study by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the total gorilla population globally stands at 1,004.
Nearly half the gorilla population is found in Uganda, with the other half in Rwanda and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).
The Mountain gorilla is the only primate known which can’t exist in captivity, implying that mountain gorillas can only be found in the wild.
In Uganda, mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Here are the top reasons why you should make gorilla trekking in Uganda your next travel adventure.
1. Uganda is the home to 50% of the mountain gorilla population in the world
According to UNESCO, an estimated 456 mountain gorillas live in the Bwindi national park.
The mountain gorillas exist in 50 groups, with each group consisting of 13 members. Gorilla trekking begins at Buhoma, which is the headquarters of the national park.
Tourists must be organized into eight individuals, with each group being led by a ranger and gorilla tracker.
The journey through the thick rainforest on a cold morning creates lasting memories.
You will view a host of other wild animals along the trip, including the golden monkey, the red-eyed monkey, elephants, chimpanzees, buffalo, Mangoby, and a host of rodents.
Tracking gorilla is a slow but exciting journey. Experienced rangers use technology to scan the possible areas where the gorillas are resting.
The real excitement begins once you find the gorillas. The best method to enjoy these fascinating primates is to follow the group as they eat, play, rest, or cuddle.
The national park policy is that visitors must keep a 7-meter distance from the gorillas.
Further, while taking photos, avoid flashlight as this can scare the gorillas.
Ranger’s advice that the best way to make gorillas calm is to mimic their behavior; when they are calm, stay calm, when they crouch, you must crouch, when they eat, pretend to pick grass from the ground.
Gorillas are the closest relatives to humans, implying that humans share at least 98% of genetic DNA with gorillas. This makes them susceptible to any illnesses that human beings experience.
If you have a cold, you should stay away from the gorillas, and in most cases, tourists are allowed to spend an hour at most with the primates. Avoid feeding the animals or taking photos if they feel unease.
2. Uganda has the most affordable gorilla tracking permit
Compared to her counterparts Rwanda and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Uganda has the most affordable gorilla tracking permit.
The average cost of a permit ranges from $450 to $600, which is low compared to Rwanda, which charges at least $1000 per license.
November, May, and April are considered the slow season in Uganda; hence you might get a cheaper permit during these periods. The ticket is exclusive of other costs like accommodation and travel costs.
To get the best Gorilla tracking experience, book a hotel as close as possible to your preferred gorilla tracking group. An entire expedition is a three-day event, with the first day being arrival at the Entebbe international airport.
3. Gorilla tracking is the most daring journey of a lifetime
Dark, ferocious, impenetrable, and complex are the four words describing Bwindi’s impenetrable national park.
The thick tree canopies combined with dense vegetation prevent light penetration in the forest, making it dark and cold. This environment is ideal for a daring journey.
With the high altitude, challenging terrain, and sporadic rainfall, gorilla tracking in Bwindi will give you a lifetime experience.
To reach the gorillas, you will navigate through the vines, thick branches, strong roots, and dense vegetation.
There are no visible paths, signs, or clearings, and in most cases, your GPS will not help you.
The journey requires patience, resilience, and discipline to follow the directions of the game rangers.
Game rangers must be armed, since the paths are not cleared, giving you the most authentic experience.
Tracking the gorillas might be tedious and challenging, but the reward is worth the trouble.
4. Get an opportunity to support Mountain gorilla conservation
You can support the effort of great primatologist Dian Fossey by visiting Uganda.
When Diana Fossey began her Gorilla exploration in 1966, the average gorilla population globally was 200.
By creating awareness about threats to gorilla existence, the International Union for the conservation of nature classified the mountain gorilla as a highly endangered species.
Today, 75% of all gorilla permit fees are channeled to various organizations undertaking gorilla conservation.
Apart from the park fees, you can support the course by empowering the local communities.
Farming and encroachment of the national park by locals are the greatest threat to the mountain gorilla.
Conservationists advise tourists to support the local communities by employing the locals as porters.
In most cases, the porters are reformed poachers who have a thorough understanding of the national park terrain.
Furthermore, employing reformed poachers allows them to appreciate mountain gorillas, hence turning them into anti-poaching ambassadors.
5. You can make it a family holiday
CNN names Uganda among the best destinations to visit in 2023.
CNN says apart from offering wealthy visitors a glimpse of the Big Five beasts or mountain gorillas, Uganda has turned to marketing its other unique attributes.#VisitUganda pic.twitter.com/vgp054YE9F
— Ruth updates (@Ruthupdates1) January 2, 2023
While the minimum age for mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda is 15 years, there are many activities that your kids can undertake while you follow the gorillas.
Batwa Pygmy experience is an excellent experience for kids. The Batwa Pygmy experience was inspired by the Batwa people who lived in the Bwindi forest among the mountain gorillas until 1992 when the Uganda government gazetted the forest. This activity teaches kids the traditions and culture of the Batwa people.
Under the guidance of a Disney-like tour guide, your little ones will learn traditions like hunting and gathering, traditional hunting using bows and arrows, playing traditional Uganda music and dance, and learn about the importance of conservation.
Batwa pygmy experience is the best way to expose your kids to conservation, make them appreciate nature, and appreciate diverse cultures and heritage.
Other than the Batwa pygmy event, your kids can go for a slight hike in the forest under a children-friendly ranger’s guidance.
During the trek, children can view a host of wild animals, especially the habituated primates accustomed to people.
FAQ about mountain gorillas in Uganda
Where can I find mountain gorillas in Uganda?
Mountain gorillas can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
How much does it cost to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?
The cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda is currently $700 per person per trek. This price is subject to change and may vary depending on the specific tour operator you book with.
How long does a gorilla trek take?
Gorilla trekking can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day, depending on how far you need to hike to reach the gorillas and how long you are allowed to spend with them (usually one hour).
What should I bring on a gorilla trek?
You should bring comfortable clothing and shoes for hiking, a rain jacket (as it can rain at any time in the rainforest), insect repellent, and plenty of water. It is also recommended to bring a hat, sunscreen, and snacks.
Can I take photos during a gorilla trek?
Yes, you are allowed to take photos during a gorilla trek, but you should be mindful of the gorillas’ welfare and avoid using flash photography.
Is gorilla trekking safe?
Gorilla trekking is generally considered safe, but as with any activity in the wilderness, there are some risks involved. You will be accompanied by a trained guide who will help ensure your safety.
Are there age restrictions for gorilla trekking?
There are no strict age restrictions for gorilla trekking, but children under the age of 15 may not be allowed to participate due to the physical demands of the hike.
How can I help protect mountain gorillas?
There are several ways you can help protect mountain gorillas:
-Support organizations that work to protect gorillas and their habitat.
-Be a responsible tourist and follow the guidelines set by park authorities when interacting with gorillas.
-Avoid purchasing products made from endangered species, including gorilla products.
-Reduce your carbon footprint and support sustainable practices to help protect the rainforest where gorillas live.
How close can I get to the gorillas during a trek?
During a gorilla trek, you will be allowed to get as close as about 7 meters (23 feet) to the gorillas. It is important to maintain a safe distance from the gorillas to minimize the risk of transmitting diseases between humans and gorillas.
How can I prepare for a gorilla trek?
To prepare for a gorilla trek, it is important to be in good physical condition as the hike can be strenuous. You should also bring plenty of water and snacks to keep yourself hydrated and energized. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the guidelines for interacting with gorillas and follow the instructions of your guide.
Can I touch the gorillas during a trek?
No, it is strictly forbidden to touch or interact with the gorillas in any way during a trek. You should maintain a safe distance from the gorillas at all times and follow the instructions of your guide.
How many gorillas are there in Uganda?
There are currently an estimated 459 mountain gorillas living in Uganda, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. This number has increased significantly in recent years thanks to conservation efforts.
How can I book a gorilla trek in Uganda?
You can book a gorilla trek in Uganda through a tour operator or directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is recommended to book in advance, as gorilla trekking permits are limited and can sell out quickly.
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