Gorilla trekking is amazingly one of a few most sought after primate adventure in Africa. This relatively new adventure is one of the most rated wildlife safari experiences in Africa. For first time travelers, there are a number of tips that must be put into consideration if you are to be rewarded with the most dramatic experiences. They include among others;
Where to go for gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking in particular is only conducted in the tropical rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Uganda, gorilla safaris are conducted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. These two national parks are situated at the edge of Albertine rift valley, southwestern Uganda.
Today, Uganda offers refuge to more than 480 mountain gorillas making it a home to half the population of all the mountain gorillas that still thrive on earth. Currently, there are fewer than 1004 mountain gorillas that still exist on the planet and only distributed within the Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides, about 17 gorilla families have been habituated and readily available for gorilla trekking and research purposes. To trek these rare creatures, you are assigned to only one habituated family track in a group of eight visitors. Permits for this lifetime experience in Uganda cost $600 per person and you can book one through a ground tour operator or through reservationist at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
In Rwanda, you can strike your imaginations with these dramatic creatures only in Volcanoes National Park in the northwest. This park comprises of 10 habituated families. The most popular families among others include the Susa A and Susa B which is also famous as Karisimbi family, Sabyinyo, Agashya (the 13 group), Hirwa and others.
Be Aware of the Cost of gorilla permits
Gorilla trekking is somewhat not cheap. However it is affordable and worthy the price charged. All the three countries have standard fees charged for one to obtain a gorilla permit. To be part of this dramatic experience in Rwanda, you need $1500 to secure a permit and in Uganda you can obtain one at $600. In the DR Congo, you can track mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park and this park lies in the eastern part. Gorilla permits in the DR Congo cost $400.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking can be done at any time of the year however; you need to understand which season of the year is ideal for you to go for this lifetime experience. Uganda and Rwanda for instance experience 2 (two) seasons-the wet and dry season. The wet season starts from March to May and from October to November while the dry season begins from June to September and December to February. The significant part with the rainy season is that, there is normally much food for gorillas to feed on and most of them remain within the nearby areas unlike the dry season where they move to distant places to look for what to eat. The challenge with rainy season is that the habitat usually becomes muddy and slippery making it a little bit challenging for one to hike through the steep slope and thick forest to look for a group of these magnificent creatures.
Fitness level for gorilla trekking
A reasonable degree of fitness is needed for one to successfully track the mountain gorillas. To track the mountain gorillas, you may spend about 2-8 hours and the fact that this adventure entirely involves hiking through the thick tropical rainforest and steep slopes. In other words, gorilla trekking is a strenuous experience and requires some level of physical fitness in you.
Also note that acclimatization is important. These great apes live in the mountainous areas and you may need to spend at least a night in the parks so that you can get used to the highland climate. The volcanoes are known to be a bit cold and you may need to spend a night in the park before going on a gorilla trek in the forest.
Packing list for gorilla trekking
To be part of this life changing experience, you must pack appropriately for the activity. There are essentials for gorilla trekking and you have to start with waterproof hiking boots/shoes, daypack, long sleeved shirts/t-shirt, camera with no flashlight and bottled water. Other things to pack are energy giving snacks, gardening gloves, insect repellent, first aid kit, hat, sunscreen, sweater, pants and others that will make you feel comfortable. The last essential is a walking stick which you can get at the park headquarters.
Gorilla trekking rules
Gorilla trekking also has guidelines which must be observed by all trekkers at all times. These guidelines are aimed at attaining safety of both the visitors and the hosts (the mountain gorillas). Here are some strict rules that you must adhere to
- Visitors are allowed to spend only an hour with gorillas. This is aimed at giving the gorillas more time to do their chores in privacy.
- You cannot stare at the gorilla in their eyes. To the gorillas, this is provoking them.
- A distance of atleast 7 meters should be maintained at all times while you are with mountain gorillas.
- No flashlight is allowed while you are taking pictures as this may irritate these creatures and perhaps cause harm to you. If your camera has a flashlight, turn it off before you start taking photos.
In conclusion, mountain gorilla trekking is undoubtedly one of a few rare experiences you need to be part while on safari in Africa. For any plans to see the critically endangered mountain gorillas you have only three options and that is for you to pay a visit to Uganda, Rwanda or DRC (but DR Congo is still recovering from political instabilities).