Category: Gorilla info

Gorilla Forest Camp in Bwindi National Park

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Gorilla Forest Camp; The Top Notch Lodge In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is about 530 km from Kampala which takes between 8 to 10 hours’ drive to complete the journey. This puts the tourists taking a Uganda safari to see gorillas at a point where they will have to spend an overnight near the park to go gorilla trekking next day morning and then plan the return journey the day that follows. Even if they opt to fly, the gorilla trekking encounter starts at 8am and no flight that arrives in Bwindi before that time. This means that you ares till required to spend a night around the park.

Sanctuary-gorilla-Forest-Camp
Gorilla Forest Camp

Spending an overnight in Bwindi is something the tourists to Uganda for gorilla tracking in Bwindi forest always take key note of. This comes with the lodge selection which is also influenced by the level of travel budget. The Gorilla Sanctuary, also known as Gorilla Forest Camp is located in the Buhoma Area which is the daring region for gorilla trekking activity and it is re-known as the pioneer region of this activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, thus most travellers planning to do a gorilla safari to Uganda tend to opt for it though the competition for gorilla permits tend to leave out the majority.

Located at close distance from the Buhoma Park entrance inside the Impenetrable Forest, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp offers top notch overnight accommodation to upmarket world travelers. Its Accommodation is offered in a range of eight luxury tents which are very spacious and stylish with each tent having two queen sized beds, in supplement to the warm beds, the rooms feature huge bathtub looking into the impenetrable forest ideal for soaking the tired muscles after a daylong gorilla tracking experience.

Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp has impressive forest views and an ample open place and a lounge in a very calm environment only interrupted by the songs of birds and mountain gorillas that occasional visit to the lodge.

gorilla-forest-camp

Planning a flying Gorilla Safari and stay at Gorilla Sanctuary

You need 3 days and 2 nights to complete a 3 days Uganda gorilla safari with a single gorilla trek. If you need more than one trek, then you need more than 3 days, for example, some tourists want to do 2 gorilla treks, we call it double gorilla tracking, where you visit two different gorilla groups. Below is a typical 3 day flying gorilla safari to see gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable forest and and stay for 2 nights at Gorilla Forest Camp.

Organizing a Gorilla Tracking Tour – Initial States

If you want to see the gorillas in the wild (In their natural habitat), it means you must fly to Africa, the only place one can see the mountain gorillas in the wild. According to the gorilla census 2011, there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, and this population is found in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. However, gorilla tourism in DR Congo is less developed due to political instabilities.

aerolink
Aero Link Uganda Plane

As you plan a holiday to see gorillas in the wild in Bwindi forest, start with identifying your intended travel dates. After that, then check for availability of International Flights from your home country to Entebbe International Airport. If the flights available fit your intended travel dates, please go ahead and make tentative booking.

The next step is to check for availability of gorilla trekking permits through local Travel Agents / Tour Operators or you can inquire and book direct through Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala. If you happen to find gorilla permits available on your preferred dates, please go a head and confirm your flights. In case you happen to find no permits, better you find alternative dates. The demand for gorilla permits is very high throughout the year. One is thus advised to book early at least 2 months in advance. Further more, you should get availability of rooms at Gorilla Forest camp in Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable forest.

If you find no space, there are other gorilla trekking lodges around Buhoma such as Mahogany Springs Lodge, Buhome Lodge, Gorilla Resort and Bwindi Forest Lodge among others. Then you must book a regional flight in advance from Entebbe Airport to Kihihi Airstrip, and there must be arrangements for transfer by road from Kihihi Airstrip to Gorilla Forest lodge. We have both daily scheduled and private charter flights operating along this route. Scheduled daily flights are offered by Aerolink Uganda Limited, while Private Charters are offered by Kampala Aero Club and Eagle Air. Tour Operators can help you will all arrangements like booking permits, accommodation and flights.gorilla_safari

At this moment, we assume that all bookings are confirmed and it,s time to fly to Entebbe International Airport. If you booked through a local tour company, you will find a representative from that company waiting for you at the airport. Usually they carry a placard bearing your name. To get this, you should inform the Agent about your arrival date, time and flight number. Local based safari companies usually offer free airport transfers to guests, or at a subsidized cost.

If you made private arrangements without involving a tour company, then you need to organize for airport transfer to your pre-booked hotel around Entebbe International Airport. Depending on the flight you booked, get ready to fly from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kihihi Airstrip in Western part of Uganda. It is less than 60 minutes flight. At Kihihi Airstrip, you will find a safari vehicle awaiting for you, and then drive for 90 minutes to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, arrive in time for lunch at Gorilla Sanctuary, relax in our cottages as we wait for evening entertainment from the Batwa people (Local community). Gorilla Forest camp is some times visited by mountain gorillas.

GFC dinning
GFC Dining

The next day is for gorilla tracking adventure, get up early for heavy breakfast walk to the park headquarters for a briefing about the trek. You will be divided into groups of 8 persons maximum and assigned to a gorilla group. Start a guided walk in accompaniment of armed rangers, trackers and park guides. Depending on the movement of the gorillas in the forest, the trek can take between 1 and 7 hours. Its quiet strenuous and a certain level of fitness is advised. Sight and stay with gorillas is one hour, take photos and videos with gorillas. You will be receiving advise and guidance from the guide in the whole process. After the trek, descend to the base, have lunch and take a forest walk if interested. Dinner and overnight at Gorilla Forest Camp.

This is the 3rd day and your last day in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. Have breakfast and hit the road back to Kihihi Airstrip, then get a plane to Entebbe International Airport for your onward flight or for lunch and dinner at your hotel around Entebbe or Kampala.

What do Gorillas Eat?

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Items eaten by Gorillas

Gorillas are herbivores – they do not eat meat though some people thing they can eat small animals but this is not true. Gorillas spend most of their day time feeding on vegetation – The type of foods that they will mainly consume really depends in the region in which the gorillas live.

Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National park Rwanda
Mountain Gorillas feeding – Volcanoes National park Rwanda

The following are some of the items on which Gorillas feed

In times of scarcity, gorillas can eat insects like white ants and termites – being intelligent; gorillas are capable of using tools like sticks to scoop termites from the ant hills or the ground.

Gorillas feed on fruits like passion fruits, jack fruits, mangoes, oranges among others. Such fruits contain vitamins which do well in the bodies of Gorillas.

They also feed on plant leaves – green leaves contain chlorophyll which promotes anti bodies hence fighting diseases. Green leaves contain food values that fight against diseases.

Gorillas feed on food stuffs like bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes among others. Such food stuffs are eaten raw – they are nutritious. The gorillas have sharp teeth that splits food into pieces – then swallowed after serious chewing.

Gorillas also feed on flowers – some flowers contain sugar content that attract gorillas chew them. Flowers contain nectar juice containing food values that attract Gorillas to spend time chewing them.

Gorillas also feed on Carrots and other sorted food like water melon, raw cassava among others. Sorted food is applied to Gorillas in the Zoo – in other words, Gorillas under control – not in natural environment.

Water helps them quench their thirsty – Gorillas drink water from lakes, rivers, water falls, pond among others – like human beings, Gorillas consume a lot of water in dry season than in wet season.

Gorillas eat stems of plants – the back skin from plants, feed by Gorillas.

The apes also feed on nuts – by the use of sticks to scoop them from the ground and they are more interested in Ground nuts and some other stems.

Gorillas also feed on twigs and shoots of plans – swigs are your tree branches and shoots are the young plant leaves which are have just come out.

A Great Gorilla Trekking Experience in Rwanda

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mountain-gorilla-safariYou came close to meet what it means to be human in the Central African wilderness. Forget the Big Five – mountain gorilla trekking, our close relatives in Rwanda is Africa’s most interesting wildlife experience.

It was a minute I would be dreaming of for a long time. The 200-kilogram silverback and I locked eyes. It was an influential, powerful connection, something I would never felt previously with a animals. His dull, mahogany eyes bore into mine and I was transfixed, unable to move from my clumsy crouch in a patch of stinging nettles. He dropped the piece of bark he was biting on and turned to face me. Right then, I felt the gap between man and animals move from a chasm to a tiny sliver. As a mountain gorilla took a step towards me, I felt my heart beating faster than the drums of the traditional 50 Getaway April 2013 dancers we had seen that morning. I was extremely interested. The mountain gorilla watched me, looking for something in my gaze. At that point he picked his nose, analyzed his stubby finger with all the power he had recently blazed on me, and put it in his mouth.

Having spent much time in South African National Parks, watching the Big Five on foot and camping breaths away from predators, had not prepared me for mountain gorilla trekking; Looking at a leopard in the eyes from a game watching vehicle is miles far from sharing a connection to a animal that shares 98% of your genes.

Gorilla tracking activities in Rwanda done in Volcanoes National Park which is found on the northwester part of country and boarders Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Mountain gorillas can also be found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park, and Virunga National Park in DRC.

Looking at a leopard in the eyes from a game watching vehicle is miles far from sharing a connection to an animal that shares 98% of your genes. And, apart from a few grunts and a bit of fur, could almost be human (especially the nose-picking part).

This thrilling wildlife experience in the Rwandan jungles doesn’t include the inaccessible trek to ‘darkest Africa’ that you may envision. A four-hour flight to Kigali from Johannesburg and a three- hour picturesque drive through coffee and tea estates and hills wreathed in smoke and sprinkled with villages is all it takes to get to Volcanoes National Park in the northwest of Rwanda. The forest reserve includes park of the Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes traversing Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Together with Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, about 40 kilometers away, it’s the only habitat in the world where mountain gorillas can be visited in their nature environment.

Directly over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, violent insurrection has forced vacationers to opt on gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda. I picked Rwanda, having been captivated by the film Gorillas in the Mist, based on primatologist Dian Fossey’s ground- breaking conservation work.

I traveled to Rwanda with a group of nine from Johannesburg and our expectations, which had been unmistakable from the moment our flight took off, peaked when we landed at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters in Kinigi on the misty early morning of our arranged adventure. Rwanda’s 10 habituated gorilla families are monitored every day, so trackers and rangers know where they are pretty much all the time and how long it will take to hike to them. When leaving the park headquarters, ranger Iryamukuru Jean Bosco gave us the lowdown on gorilla decorum and told us about our target, the Urugamba gorilla family, named after the dominant silverback. At that point we hit the rough road towards the slopes of the imposing Visoke Volcano in a Land Cruiser Hardtop, getting a free ‘African massage’ along the way.

There’s on official entrance to Volcanoes National Park and gorilla trekking permits are checked at the headquarters before you set off with the ranger guide to the boundary closest to where your assigned gorilla family is found. We stopped in a village, hired porters and headed through fields of Irish potatoes, daisy-like pyrethrum and Africa’s most beautiful cows (herders in the 15th century had 19 words to describe colorful Ankole hides).

We stepped over the stone-wall park boundary, entering the mysterious Central African rainforest. Painted in a million shades of green, it’s a place of greenery festooned hagenia trees, ancient looking greeneries, bamboo bushes, twisted vines like thick dreadlocks and sloppy paths peppered with giant earthworms… and the occasional human-like gorilla poo (the most amazing excrement I’ve ever seen). After an hour of trekking, we arrived at a clearing where the trackers waited and hacked our route off the path through shrubberies of nettles.

All of a sudden, they were there. A few meters before us, on a home of grass, a mother, baby and adolescent gorilla were quietly playing together, rolling around in a ball of dark fur. Iryamukuru had taught us to make the profound guttural noises that connote a peaceful “howzit” in gorilla language (à la Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist), and we snorted away anxiously, hoping we weren’t saying ‘attack me’ by mistake.

Unforgettable gorilla safari in Africa

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Ironically, health risks to the gorillas have increased with the growth of gorilla tourism. Sharing 98% of human DNA, mountain gorillas are very susceptible to contracting human illnesses. Strict ‘gorilla etiquette’ rules apply when tracking, including observing a minimum distance of 7 meters and preventing anyone from tracking if they have a cold or other transmittable disease.

mountain-gorilla-eating-tuberNevertheless, it is not unheard of for gorillas to break the rules themselves, and approach human visitors. Sometimes rangers will advise you to step back, and sometimes there is little you can do to avoid contact. Let’s face it—if a two hundred pound silverback decides he wants to ruffle your hair, there is little you or anyone else can do about it.

It happened to one of our clients, in a chance encounter with a gorilla group passing through the gardens of his lodge. His experience was captured on video and used to promote African Wildlife Foundation, one of the major long term supporters of gorilla conservation, yet the inadvertent close contact seen in the film initially raised a few eyebrows in conservation circles.

The truth is, whilst Gorilla Doctors have identified the cause of death for some gorillas as infections that have originated as human viruses, they have not been able to say whether these came from the local community or visiting tourists.

Equally, gorillas also have their own viruses and bacteria. Currently, the team is collecting samples from the Sabyinyo group in Rwanda, who recently suffered a serious outbreak of respiratory illness. They may never ascertain the origin of this particular family’s problems, but there is an ongoing debate about whether tourists should do surgical masks while on a gorilla trek in Rwanda in order to minimize the chance of passing on any contagious diseases.

Furthermore, it seems there is a surprising correlation between habituated gorillas (gorillas that have learned to accept the presence of humans) and faster rates of population growth. Gorilla Doctors have ascertained that the annual rate of growth for the habituated gorillas in the Virunga is more than five times that of the un-habituated gorillas in the same area.

They attribute this pattern to the fact habituated gorillas can more easily benefit from ‘extreme conservation’ practices such as medical intervention. Simply put, completely wild gorillas are harder to treat when they develop illnesses, injure each other, or get trapped in snares. So while habituated gorillas may be more vulnerable to human illnesses, the net result of their habituation is having a greater chance of healthy population growth.