It is a Saturday morning 20th June 2015, we are at Wagtail Eco Camp, southern Bwindi National Park, a home to almost half of the only World’s remaining population of mountain gorillas in the wild. I and my wife, are getting ready for our gorilla trekking adventure. The day has started well with heavy breakfast, but we are unlucky that it’s raining here on addition to the usual coldness. However, rain is not a threat to us because we came well equipped with rain jackets and water proof hiking boots.
It is time now to board our 4×4 Land Cruiser to the park headquarters for briefing about gorilla tracking activity. The drive is so adventurous, the area is very hilly, has beautiful views, characterized by majestic hills and deep valleys. In case a driver does a mistake, the car can roll up to the bottom of the valley, for sure, no one can survive. We took very beautiful photos of the scenery yesterday because the weather is so clear. Today, its misty, we can not take clear photos.
We have arrived at the park headquarters, Its a short drive from Wagtail Eco Camp, took us less than 25 minutes. A 4 x 4 vehicle is recommended because the road is very bad, impassable when it rains. We are now waiting for other tourists to arrive at the park headquarters. At this point, there about four (04) gorilla families namely; Kahungye, Nshongi, Businjye and Mishaya. By 8:00am, we are divided into groups of 8 persons and allocated to different gorilla groups. In our group, we are going to visit Kahungye gorilla family. We are in a briefing about this group and gorilla trekking activity. Am hiring a porter for my wife only, am physically fit, and do not need a porter. The porter is carrying our small bag containing our items like Insect repellent, extra batteries for our cameras, drinking water and snacks. I only need a walking stick and I have bought one at US$5.
We start the trek in search for mountain gorillas, we are escorted and guided by park guides, they are so knowledgeable, we are firing them questions about gorillas and other wildlife in Bwindi National park and they are making our trek enjoyable and informative. We are accompanied by armed rangers, the trek is quiet strenuous, we are going through steep and slippery jungle grounds, so far we have hiked for 2 hours with stopovers for some of our friends to rest. Finally we have met a Silverback gorilla named as Gwigi eating leaves. Gwigi is moving around in thick vegetation, we are following his path, at some point we block his way and charges, we take submissive positions as advised by the guide (Squat and face down) while others attempt to run away. Oh My God this is amazing! Taking submissive position is a sign to the silverback that he is the king, he is in charge of that territory. We are having fun with the gorillas, we are taking fantastic photos and videos. However, we are warned NOT to use flash while taking photos. Gwigi is eating, others are playing with and young ones swinging on trees. We have only 60 minutes with the gorillas. Sadly we have to walk back to our base, we are awarded our certificates, then we embark on our vehicle back to our lodge. Descending is less strenuous and takes less than an hour. We arrive at the camp, Lunch is ready, we have to relax and take a community walk in the evening.
About Kahungye Gorilla Group
According to our park guide, Kahungye Gorilla group is one of the recently habituated Gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Habituation is the process by which primates are adapted to human beings or the process by which Gorillas are made familiar to man- this is done to ease trekking hence promoting Gorilla tourism in Uganda.
Kahungye Gorilla group has more than 13 members. The group was opened for tourism on October 2011 after habituation process and is one of the newest groups in the Park found in the Rushaga sector close to the Nshongi family and Mishaya gorilla group.
The group conflicts started after just one year leading to splitting, creating a new family that is called Busingye. The group is active and led by the dominant silverback Gwigi, which means “door” in the local language.
Lodges around Southern Bwindi National Park
As you plan to take a gorilla safari in Uganda, choosing the right accommodation is very important. This depends on your interests and budget. There are so many gorilla trekking lodges in Rushaga sector ranging from budget to deluxe and luxury eco lodges. Among these include Chameleon Hill Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge, Nshongi Gorilla Resort, Gorilla Safari Lodge, Rushaga gorilla camp, not forgetting Wagtail Eco Camp where we stayed. There are also other accommodation options in nearby towns of Kisoro and Kabale. It can take about 90 minutes from these towns to the park headquarters. Therefore, you must start early at around 5:00am if you sleep in Kisoro or Kabale towns.
What you need to know when going on a gorilla trek in Uganda
First of all you need a gorilla permit that acts as permission for one to participate in this activity. The cost of gorilla trekking permits in Uganda varies depending on nationality and season. For instance, foreign non residents pay US$600 per permit, while Foreign East Africa residents pay US$475, and Ugandans pay UGX250000. In low seasons (April, May and November), there is a discount on gorilla permits where foreigners pay US$350 only. However, you need to contact your travel agent about availability of this promotion. Uganda gorilla trekking permits can be booked through credible travel agents like African Jungle Adventures Limited, African Adventures Safaris, Gorilla trek Africa, Gorilla Expeditions, Abacus vacations, Active African vacations, Prime Uganda safaris and Go Gorilla Trekking among others. You can also book direct through Uganda Wildlife Authority offices located on Plot 7 Kira Road, Kamwokya, P.O. BOX 3530, Kampala, Uganda, Telephone:+256 414 355000, +256 312 355000,
Fax: +256 414 346 291, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Uganda tourism:
Uganda is a country endowed with lots of tourist attractions stocked in National Parks like Mountain Elgon National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Kibale National Park, Mountain Rwenzori National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semliki National Park and above all Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (the home of mountain Gorillas). *Drainage features include Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga, Lake Gorge & Edward among others.
Relief features like Mountain Elgon, Mountain Rwenzori, Kigezi Hills among others. Valleys like East African Rift valley (western arm), Victoria basin and so on.