Mountain Gorilla trekking is the highlight of any tour to Uganda and am sure it’s right if I say Uganda safari is incomplete without visiting these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Uganda is home to over half of the remaining population of these animals in the wild and its only Uganda where you have two options of gorilla trekking destinations. In Uganda, gorilla trekking is done in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park both in the western part of the country.
If you can remember the famous 1988 film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ which shows how these endangered primates survive in the African jungles of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. After watching this movie everyone feels inspired to visit these rare and endangered animals’ natural habitat.
But before you think of flying into Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo for gorilla trekking there are some tips you have to put in mind before even you leave home and below are some of the tips to consider if you are to enjoy your gorilla trekking safari in Uganda – Africa.
First of all, you will have to acquire a gorilla trekking permit that acts as permission to enter Bwindi Forest National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in search of mountain gorillas in the wild. Gorilla permits in Uganda cost 750$ per person and can be obtained from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Alternatively, you can book your gorilla permits through tour operators in Uganda to help you simplify the process of visiting the UWA offices to pick your gorilla permit on your arrival in Uganda before you start your trip.
Note: Gorilla permits in Uganda are on high demand in some months of the year, for example, between June and September, and December and February. If you are traveling in such periods, you are advised to book your gorilla trekking permit in advance at least 3 months in advance.
Another important factor to consider before traveling to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mhaginga Gorilla National Parks for mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda is the age. The minimum age is 15 years and there is no maximum but you must be physically fit because the trek in search for gorillas is quite strenuous and requires some level of fitness and sometimes it can take several hours from 1-8 hours depending the movement of the gorillas in the search for food and shelter. If you have a hiking problem, there are some gorilla families that are near, where you hike for less than an hour and meet the gorillas. Old or disabled people can hire porters to carry you to the gorillas.
Respect Gorillas’ Space and follow the guide’s rules
Very early in the morning when you reach the national park headquarters, the ranger guild will brief you about the dos and don’ts to follow while you in the gorillas in the jungle; for example, the tourists are required to keep a distance of about 7 meters away from Gorillas, still, they have put their phones in silent, when taking photos they should remove the flash, talking in a low tune and others as you will hear them when the ranger guide is briefing you before starting the trekking.
The other factor you should not undermine when planning a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda is the time of the year when to travel, Uganda has two seasons, the rainy season which starts from September to November and March to May and the dry season which starts from December to February and June to July. For gorilla trekkers, it’s advisable that you travel during the dry season. This is because of several reasons the first one being the bad roads, roads in the park are in bad conditions where you will need a strong 4×4 safari vehicle to access the park and still if we talk about the actual gorilla trekking experience during the dry season, gorilla trekking in the dry season is a bit easy and enjoyable since everything will be a little more accessible due to less rain and less mad.
Be prepared for any weather
Since Bwindi Forest National park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park the home to the mountain gorillas both all tropical rainforests, receiving rainfall is at 89% probability meaning at any time you can see rain even if it’s a dry season, so it’s advisable to be prepared for rain at any time even if you travel in the dry season. Carry a raincoat for you and even find a way you can keep your camera dry in case of rain.
You should put on long-sleeved shirts or blouse and long pants. Cover your hands with garden gloves. Carry insect repellent, rain jacket, and a hut.
Enough Snacks and bottled water
You will not find any shop the national parks, so it’s advisable to carry enough water and snacks when heading to the park, some tour operates recommend that you ask for packed lunch when going for gorilla trekking but still carrying water and snacks should be added. Gorilla trekking in Uganda needs hiking through a thick jungle, climbing hills and another thing the time you took while trekking is unpredictable since these animals are in the natural habitat they are free to move anyhow in the jungle, so you may find when then gorilla family you are supposed to track have moved and gone deep in the jungle where you have to track for something like 6hours, there you packed lunch, snacks and water will rescue you from hunger.
So once these few gorilla trekking tips are followed when going for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest national park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park, you will have a very interesting and memorable time with these amazing animals.