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16. Essential Points To Understand About Embarking On A Mountain Gorilla Trekking Adventure.

16. Essential Points To Understand About Embarking On A Mountain Gorilla Trekking Adventure.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking Adventure – Embarking on a gorilla trekking journey is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that demands thorough preparation. Here are 20 essential tips to consider before venturing out on your gorilla trekking expedition…

Mountain gorillas, teetering on the brink of extinction, are categorized as critically endangered, merely two steps away from total extinction. This renders them the most elusive primates globally. Recent statistics reveal a scant population of just over one thousand mountain gorillas remaining worldwide. Moreover, their habitat is restricted to only Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

What is gorilla trekking?

Gorilla trekking entails embarking on a guided hike through dense rainforests to observe a specific gorilla troop in their natural habitat. Interacting with these mysterious and majestic creatures is a transformative encounter. Witnessing the playful antics of the juveniles, the nurturing behavior of the females with their infants, and the commanding presence of the silverback, one begins to comprehend the enduring allure of these anthropoid beings.

However, before embarking on this extraordinary gorilla trekking expedition, there are several essential points to grasp. Unlike a typical game drive, the proximity to the gorillas during a trek necessitates a different level of preparation and awareness.

Here’s a compilation of 16 crucial insights to equip you for your mountain gorilla trekking adventure and ensure a memorable experience amidst these remarkable creatures!

1. Where is the best Destination for gorilla trekking?

Mountain gorillas exclusively inhabit the Virunga Massif, a volcanic mountain range straddling the border regions of Rwanda, the DRC, and Uganda.

At Kenlink Tours, we organize gorilla treks primarily in Uganda and Rwanda, as the political instability in the DRC deters most travelers from visiting for gorilla trekking.

In Uganda, mountain gorillas reside in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Bwindi is widely regarded as the premier destination for gorilla trekking. Not only is it renowned for its stunning scenery, being recognized as one of Africa’s most biodiverse forests, but it also boasts a significantly larger population of gorillas compared to Mgahinga. As of 2018, Bwindi’s mountain gorilla population stood at 459, while Mgahinga is home to approximately 80 individuals.

2. Where Do Gorillas Live?

Residing in mountainous forests, mountain gorillas, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, inhabit elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 meters (8,000 to 13,000 feet).

As herbivores, mountain gorillas primarily feed on vegetation abundant in their habitat, including roots, shoots, wild celery, and fruits. These plants thrive in the cool and humid climate characteristic of mountainous regions.

3. When Is The Best Time To Go For Gorilla Trekking In Africa?

Gorilla trekking tours are available year-round, although certain times of the year are characterized by more rainfall.

The optimal periods to embark on these tours are from June to September and December to February, coinciding with Uganda’s drier seasons. Additionally, these months align with holidays for many individuals from the Northern Hemisphere, making them particularly appealing.

It’s important to note that the rainforests housing the gorillas never truly dry out entirely, so rainfall is to be expected throughout the year. During peak seasons, trekking permits tend to be pricier and in higher demand.

4. How To Book a Gоrillа Trekking Pеrmit

Gorilla trekking permits can be conveniently booked online, but it’s crucial to plan well in advance as they tend to sell out quickly.

The team at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park strongly advises visitors to secure their gorilla permits through a reputable safari agent or tour operator such as Kenlink Tours. This recommendation stems from the challenging and sometimes hazardous nature of the roads leading to Bwindi. Given its remote location, responsible logistics planning is essential. Moreover, traveling in a group can offer cost savings.

When you choose to embark on a gorilla trekking adventure with us, we handle all aspects of your experience, including obtaining your gorilla trekking permit, arranging transportation, accommodations, and more, regardless of which gorilla park you opt to explore.

5. How Much Is Gorilla Trekking Permit?

Gorilla trekking permits for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda are priced at $800 per person, effective from July 1, 2024. Meanwhile, a permit for Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda carries a higher cost of $1,500. (For an in-depth comparison of gorilla trekking in Rwanda versus Uganda, please refer to our article on the subject.)

These permits serve a dual purpose: financing gorilla conservation efforts and regulating visitor numbers to ensure the well-being of the gorillas. Excessive visitor traffic could adversely affect the gorillas’ natural habitat and lifestyle.

Furthermore, the revenue generated from trekking permits contributes to the development of local communities in the vicinity of the parks. This investment in community development helps foster sustainable livelihoods and promotes conservation efforts in the region.

6. What Are The Chances To See Gorillas?

Like any trek or safari experience, there’s an inherent understanding that nothing can be guaranteed with absolute certainty.

However, it’s exceedingly rare for groups not to have a sighting during their gorilla trekking adventure. Prior to embarking on the trek, the parks deploy trackers who communicate with your guide via radio and GPS, ensuring you’re guided in the right direction to encounter the gorillas.

During the trek, you’ll have the opportunity to observe a gorilla troop, which constitutes their family unit. This increases the likelihood of encountering a diverse range of mountain gorillas, including endearing infants.

7. How Many People Are In Each Trekking Group?

Whether gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda, each gorilla troop is limited to a maximum of eight visitors per day, excluding trek guides and porters.

Every trekking group is designated a particular gorilla troop to observe. Guided by your trek leader, in collaboration with a human tracker, you navigate through the forest to locate your assigned gorilla troop.

Upon reaching the troop, visitors are permitted to spend only one hour in their presence. This strict time constraint is enforced to minimize the potential impact of human presence on the primates.

8. How Long Does It Take To Allocate Gorillas?

During the morning briefing with the national park rangers, they typically have a general idea of the locations of different gorilla troops.

Visitors are given the option to select from short, medium, or long treks. Those opting for a short trek can anticipate locating their troop within approximately half an hour, whereas participants of the long trek should prepare for a journey lasting two to three hours or more.

We highly recommend choosing the long trek, especially if you’re in good physical condition. Hiking through the dense rainforest offers a remarkable experience in itself. Moreover, the longer treks heighten your anticipation as you approach the moment of encountering the gorillas!

9. What Happens After Finding Gorillas?

During the morning briefing led by the national park rangers, attendees are briefed on the approximate locations of various gorilla troops, providing an initial sense of direction for the trek ahead.

Upon commencement of the trek, visitors are presented with the option to embark on short, medium, or long treks. Opting for a short trek typically results in locating the designated gorilla troop within approximately thirty minutes, while participants of the long trek should prepare for a more extended journey lasting two to three hours or even longer.

Choosing the long trek is highly recommended, particularly for individuals in good physical condition. Traversing through the dense rainforest unveils a captivating experience in itself, immersing trekkers in the natural beauty and biodiversity of the surroundings. Moreover, the extended duration of the longer treks enhances the anticipation and excitement as you draw nearer to the moment of encountering the majestic gorillas amidst their natural habitat.

Ultimately, the decision regarding trek length depends on individual preferences, fitness levels, and desired intensity of the experience. Whether opting for a shorter or longer trek, each journey promises unforgettable moments and a deeper appreciation for the remarkable world of mountain gorillas.

10. Is proximity to mountain gorillas considered safe?

Mountain gorillas in their natural habitat are generally not considered dangerous, provided they are at ease and undisturbed. Despite their impressive size and strength, mountain gorillas are known for their gentle and reserved demeanor.

Furthermore, the mountain gorillas that trekking groups encounter have undergone a habituation process spanning nearly two years. Habituated gorillas, in particular, are accustomed to human presence and are deemed safe to be in close proximity to.

Nevertheless, it’s imperative to exercise caution and adhere to specific guidelines. Visitors must follow all instructions provided by their guide, who possesses extensive knowledge of the gorillas and their behavior. Your guide will advise you on safe standing or sitting positions during the encounter.

Adherence to these rules significantly mitigates the likelihood of any aggressive behavior from the gorillas, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved.

Essential rules to observe during gorilla trekking:

  1. Maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters (10 feet) between yourself and the gorillas at all times.
  2. If the dominant male gorilla (the silverback) approaches you or exhibits aggressive behavior, refrain from backing away. Instead, remain in place and lower yourself into a submissive, crouched posture.
  3. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises that may startle the gorillas.
  4. Refrain from staring directly into the eyes of the gorillas, as this action can be perceived as hostile.
  5. Smoking, drinking, or eating is prohibited within 200 meters of a gorilla troop.
  6. Gorilla trekking is not permitted for children under the age of 15.

 

11. Is it safe to travel to Uganda or Rwanda?

Both Uganda and Rwanda are stable nations that warmly embrace tourists. Opting to travel with a reputable tour operator like Follow Alice, which employs local tour guides, is a prudent choice. Local guides possess intricate knowledge of their respective countries, enhancing safety measures during your journey.

Notably, all three gorilla parks prioritize security and safety, and there have been no reported negative incidents. It’s important to note that in these parks, the only inhabitants are gorillas, not guerrillas.

12. What Should I Pack on a Gorilla Trekking?

Each individual’s gorilla trekking experience varies depending on factors such as weather conditions, the intensity of the forest hike, the gorillas’ whereabouts, and other variables.

Being prepared with the right gear allows you to focus your energy on enjoying the jungle trek and your time with the gorillas. We recommend packing the following items:

  1. Camera: Capture memorable moments from your trek and time with the gorillas. Bring along a waterproof bag to protect your camera in case of rain.
  2. Insect repellent: Choose a repellent containing DEET, offering the best protection against mosquitoes and other pests.
  3. Sturdy gloves: Protect your hands from thorns and rough terrain in the rainforest by wearing a durable pair of gloves.
  4. Walking stick: Consider bringing a walking stick to aid in balance and stability, especially on wet days. Walking sticks are typically available for hire at the park gate.
  5. Daypack or rucksack: Use a backpack to carry essentials like your camera, rain jacket, and water. We provide water and lunch for your trek, as further discussed.

Having these essentials ensures you’re equipped to make the most of your gorilla trekking adventure while staying comfortable and prepared for whatever the journey entails.

13. What Should I Put On For Gorilla Trekking?

Here’s what to wear on the day of your gorilla trek:

  1. Lightweight clothing: Opt for breathable materials suitable for warm to hot daytime temperatures in Bwindi. Avoid thick fabrics that may cause discomfort.

  2. Long-sleeved top and long pants: Keep your arms and legs covered to protect against scratches and insect bites during the trek.

  3. Rain jacket: Pack a rain jacket in your daypack as rain showers are possible during the trek.

  4. Long, thick socks: Wear socks that cover your legs and feet to prevent insects from getting too close.

  5. Sturdy walking shoes: Ensure you have sturdy walking shoes suitable for navigating uneven terrain.

Here’s what not to bring:

  1. Navy or black clothes: Avoid dark colors as they attract tsetse flies, which have painful bites. Opt for green, tan, grey, or brown clothing to blend in with the forest and minimize disturbance to the gorillas. These colors also conceal dirt and mud accumulated during the trek.

  2. Camouflage or military-style clothing: In Uganda, only the military is permitted to wear camouflage-style attire. Choose alternative clothing options for your trek.

14. Can I hire a porter on a gorilla trek?

While it’s common for trekkers to carry their belongings in a daypack, hiring a local porter from nearby villages is an option for those seeking assistance. Porters typically charge a fee ranging from US$15 to $25, excluding a customary tip.

Engaging a porter not only lightens your load but also contributes to the local economy and supports the livelihoods of community members. If you choose to hire a porter and are satisfied with the service provided, it’s customary to offer a tip of $5 to $10 on top of the agreed fee.

Opting for porter assistance not only enhances your trekking experience but also fosters a positive impact on the local community, aligning with responsible tourism practices that prioritize sustainability and support for local initiatives.

15. How Much Should I Tip Tour Guides?

Gorilla trekking guides should be tipped if they provide excellent service throughout the experience.

The amount you choose to tip is ultimately up to you, but for those seeking guidance, we suggest bringing $20 to $40 in cash for tipping purposes. You can present this tip to the trek guide visibly, allowing them to distribute it among all staff members involved later on.

In cases where some rangers may not accompany you on the return journey after spending time with the gorillas, we recommend tipping them before embarking on the return trip.

16. How do I choose a trekking tour operator?

With numerous tour operators offering gorilla trekking trips to Uganda or Rwanda, selecting the right company and group can feel overwhelming. We suggest choosing a fun, responsible, and personable operator like us, prioritizing your enjoyment above all else.

It’s also beneficial to opt for a tour operator that employs local individuals, ensuring that your visit contributes positively to the local economy—another reason to choose us!

At Kenlink Tours, we facilitate pre-travel WhatsApp group chats, allowing you to familiarize yourself with your fellow travelers and our team. We maintain constant communication with our exceptional local guides, whom we know and trust to provide excellent care to our guests.

Interested in our gorilla trekking tours in Uganda or Rwanda? Check out our offerings here [insert link to Uganda tours] and here [insert link to Rwanda tours]. We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

Have questions or want to discuss this trip further? Don’t hesitate to reach out! We’re here to assist and would love to hear from you. 

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