Gorilla trekking ranks top and is a highlight for any visit to Uganda.
Gorilla trekking ranks top and is a highlight for any visit to Uganda. Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park, Mount Mgahinga Gorillas Park for this ‘’Once in a Life Time Experience’’ of Gorilla Trekking. Mountain Gorilla can only survive in the wild, so trekking into these forests is your only chance to have a peek at them while in Uganda. Nothing is more thrilling than getting face to face with these Gentle Giants in a typical natural forest. Regardless of the number of times you may have tracked these Gorillas, the experience is unique for each encounter with them. Gorilla trekking can be done in only those two Uganda national parks.
Bwindi Impenetrable Park is the most preferred destination for Gorilla trekking because of a variety of habituated Gorilla families compared to Mgahinga Park which has only one family, Nyakagezi. Bwindi Forest Park has 4 sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo with 16 habituated Gorilla families. By dividing the park into sectors, easier access routes to the different habituated Gorilla families were established. Gorillas are wild animals that keep wandering in the forest with no usual routine. The forest is large and their movements can never be restricted. The sector names are the respective trek starting points for different Gorilla families habituated in that particular area.
Obtaining a Gorilla Permit for Uganda.Once you knock down a definite plan to visit Uganda’s impressive Mountain Gorillas, make sure you secure the tracking permit immediately. Permits are limited in number yet the demand is so high. Permits can be paid for upto 2 years inadvance though it is recommended to book atleast 2 or 5 months to your visit. Ideally, permits should be booked several months before your visit to avoid missing out. Each Gorilla tracking permit goes for US$700.
In Uganda, permits are only issued by the Wildlife Authority at the Kampala offices. As a foreign visitor, you will not have to go to the wildlife offices to get the permit. Jungle Escape Africa will gladly secure the permit on your behalf. Share your desired travel dates and your passport bio data page, we shall secure the permit for you. Not only the permit but we are always grateful for an opportunity to arrange for you a full Gorilla trekking package plus sharing a lot more information and any help you may need.
The Real Trekking Experience. You should be at the park offices/headquarters at 7.30am for a formal registration as a visitor for that day and briefing before reaching out to the Gorillas in the forest. Carry your travel documents with your permit to present for registration. You will be considered a no-show and your permit nullified if you fail to make it on time for briefing and registration. Gorilla trekking is strictly a morning activity with no other sessions which involves sharing the Gorilla trekking rules and regulations to the visitors through briefing.
It is during the registration that you are assigned a Gorilla family to track. Despite the forest having many families, the permit allows you to track one family on that particular day. However, you can be lucky to bump into another family as you trail to reach your allocated family. You are not supposed to follow that family because it could be already having visitors allocated to it for that day. The maximum number of visitors for each Gorilla family is 8 per day and tracking is restricted to any individual of below 15 years.
Allocation of families takes into consideration the people with special cases like the elderly and those with a poor health state or disability. These are allocated easier treks or families that are not far deep in the forest so that they don’t have to walk a lot before finding the Gorillas. Information about one’s health or physical issues has to be shared at the time of securing the permits.
Tracking Is on Foot, there is no driving in the forest. You can only reach the Gorillas on foot. Pick a walking stick to support you as you walk in this dense forest. Also you will use this stick to estimate the depth of the water areas/streams that you will come across during the trek. Most of them are open with no bridges and abit wide for any one to jump over, leaving you with no option but to cross by stepping into them. Some of them have logs and stones on which to step. These are the ones on the larger well used paths before you branch off to smaller or no paths at all. Walking sticks are provided for free at the park offices.
Hire a Porter. Hire a porter to assist you during the trek. It is not a must if you are a regular or experienced hiker. These porters help to carry your packed lunch, drinking water and any small pack you may be having during the trek. This in the end relieves you of the burden of having to carry some stuff as you move up and down the thick forest. Also, a porter gives support at some points/spots that you may not be able to navigate on your own. Porters are hired at $15 per day.
Additionally, there is a stretcher commonly referred to as the ‘’African helicopter’’. It is more costly at $300 but it makes the forest accessible to disabled people or those who may otherwise not be able to make the hike.
Visitors are encouraged to hire porters as a way of giving back to the communities adjacent to the park. Porters are trained people from the communities and your act of hiring them will have contributed to the peaceful existence of the park and the neighbouring communities. These are some of the people who would view the forest as a source of their livelihood if they do not benefit from the tourism activities. They eventually become a threat to the lives of the Gorillas as they encroach upon their habitat.
No Individual Tracking. There is nothing like individual tracking. Any visitors to a particular Gorilla family are accompanied by armed park rangers and a head guide who help you to locate your Gorilla family. You will be safe with the rangers incase you bump into wild Gorillas and other wild animals like the elephants and buffaloes. Usually they shoot in the air to scare these animals away. During your search for the Gorillas, your guide will be sharing with you a lot of information about them and the park at large. Feel free to interact with him/her.
Gorillas do not follow designated paths or trails as they wander in the forest, these are wild animals that only mind their usual business of gathering tree leaves, shoots, roots, fruits and socialising. At some points, it is these rangers that create paths for the trackers by cutting the vegetation with the sickles and machetes. The forest is so thick with dense vegetation which makes it difficult to penetrate even on foot. It surely lives by its name, ‘IMPENETRABLE FOREST’
Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations Strictly. follow the safety guidelines during your search for the Gorillas and when you finally find them. These are passed on to the visitors during the morning briefing:
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