Gorilla Walking Safaris

Choosing Between Gorilla Trekking And Gorilla Habituation? What You Need To Know

Choosing between Mountain Gorilla trekking and Gorilla habituation is important aspect when crafting out your travel plans to Uganda. Mountain Gorillas are absolutely the highlight of any Uganda Safari while the presence of mountain gorillas in Uganda brands the country truly the pearl of Africa. It’s with no doubt, 90% of travelers in Uganda add Mountain Gorilla Trekking on their travel Plans. Its of no interest travelling to Uganda and miss out such an awesome life changing experience with a mountain Gorilla.

Mountain Gorillas which are equally endangered are rarely found elsewhere except in Bwindi impenetrable national Park or Virunga National Park which is shared between 3 countries, Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. Uganda is more blessed to have two National parks with these most admired and looked for apes while they call this home. Bwindi forest and Mgahinga National parks are among Uganda’s most visited parks, as most of the visitors who fly to this country do not miss out getting close trekking the gentle giants.

Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National parks are quite challenging to hike, you need to be little bit fit to enjoy the magical experience of finding them in their natural habitant. The chances of locating Mountain gorillas in their natural environment are quite excellent as they are tracked by an advance team who locate where the group spent a night and then follow their footsteps until they find them. When the family group is found by the advance team of trackers, one of the sights sounds will be noise of tree logs and falling branches as the gorillas tend to climb trees most especially young ones.

In Uganda’s Mountain Gorilla parks, are two options of Visiting the Mountain Gorillas. There is Mountain Gorilla trekking and Mountain Gorilla habituation. Here is what you need to know when choosing the right experience for you.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking.

Mountain Gorilla trekking is the most fascinating activity in Uganda’s gorilla parks, Trekking the great apes in the Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park is top-notch by almost every visitor visiting Uganda. For as long as Gorilla Trekking is on your Itinerary and permits secured, you will automatically ascend into the Jungles in search for human Closest Relatives and absolutely fall in love with the rare species.

Securing a Gorilla Trekking permit costs USD 700 and can be purchased from Uganda wildlife Authority an organization responsible for protecting Uganda’s wildlife. Gorilla permits can now only be secured through a trustworthy tour Company which normally arranges most of all your travel plans in Uganda. As always, the demand for Mountain Gorilla tracking in most cases exceeds supply, therefore booking in advance is vital and will surely guarantee you space on your preferred date during your travel.

Gorilla Tracking starts from any part of the park entrances/regions of Bwindi forest national park or Mgahinga National Park while Gorilla families are allocated at the park headquarters by the park guides and rangers before departure for trekking on foot in the jungles. Bwindi forest which is 331 sq.kms big has 4 regions or entrances that are Buhoma on the west, Ruhija on the north, Rushaga and Nkuringo on the southern sector each with different Gorilla families as well as Mgahinga national which has only one habituated gorilla family and apparently shared by Uganda and Rwanda.

Upon finding the gorillas during Gorilla Trekking, Guests spend with the mountain Gorillas an hour only and return back to the starting point for debriefing and souvenirs. Gorilla Trekking is a guaranteed one hour when you find the Mountain Gorillas to conclude the timed visit and later park guides and rangers will lead you back to the headquarters. This is different from Gorilla habituation where visitors spend 4 hours with the mountain gorillas when they finally find them.

You will be briefed on the eve of the Gorilla Trekking by your guide  to be at the major Gorilla Trekking Briefing point approximately 7 or 7:30 am depending on distance or how far the accommodation you stayed at but it is very important to be early for Gorilla Trek briefing. Later with other guests from other lodges, the park guide will distribute 8 members for each gorilla family. Tracking starts at 8 am when you all descend or ascend into the Jungles in Search for the Gorillas with Ranger guides, Escorts guides and sometimes porters.

It is important that you communicate earlier of any possible physical or health problems to your driver guide as they will find the right Gorilla Family for you before the start of the trekking. Visitors with excuses like weaknesses, the old and physical disabled can be allocated gorilla families which are quite nearby and easy to reach or with easier terrains to reach. At worst case scenerios that you can’t walk or trek in the forests, There is an option of the “African Helicopter” that can get you to the mountain Gorillas. The African Helicopter is a local stretcher manned by 15 local persons from the Community rotating in turns and will take you to the Gorillas and bring you back. The service of the African helicopter would cost USD 300 distributed by themselves while an extra tip to them would be much appreciated.

Mountain Gorilla Tracking starts in the morning and the gorilla permit work for only one day. In case you miss the activity, the permit will be expired. That’s why for visitors who prefer to do Gorilla tracking and later add Rwenzori Hiking are advised to start with gorilla tracking, to avoid missing out the activity in case there are delays on the mountain.

Visitors going for gorilla tracking are given guidelines like keeping required distance between them and mountain Gorillas, packing enough drinking water, having good Hiking shoes, keeping voice low while in the jungle, avoid leaving things in the forest like empty bottles, taking photos without flash and much more. These rules are the same with Gorilla habituation activity.

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Gorilla Tours Uganda
Baby Mountain Gorilla Plays besides her mother

Gorilla Habituation

Mountain Gorilla Habituation, This is quite unique from the normal Mountain gorilla tracking, an experience offering more far stretched encounter and time than the Gorilla Trekking experience.

Gorilla habituation Experience allows visitors to stay with Mountain gorillas for about 4 hours. The thrill is different, this is a bit longer time in the forest and with the Great Apes. Visitors will have more time to take photos, to study more about the behaviors of the gorillas. The experience is a life time.

Unlike the gorilla tracking, Gorilla habituation involves going with researchers or Rangers who are on the process of familiarizing and making the particular gorilla family get used to human presence. This is a chance to be part of the team which makes the gorilla families ready for human presence. While the researchers and rangers will be doing their work, visitors will also be following and enjoying the gorilla family.

Mountain Gorilla habituation permit costs USD 1500 in Uganda, this is quite more than the normal 700 USD for gorilla tracking. But of course, the experience doubles many times, and is still worth the monies paid for the experience. The permit can now only be reserved through your trusted Travel agency or Tour company in Uganda.

Gorilla habituation is apperantly done only in Bwindi National Park Rushaga region. This isn’t like gorilla tracking which is open to every region and both gorilla parks. So far, the activity can be done in Rushaga and booking in advance is important to secure a space for the awesome experience..

For Gorilla habituation, a maximum of 4 members are allowed for the Gorilla family. This is quite different from gorilla tracking where 8 members are allowed for each Mountain Gorilla family.

Gorilla Trekking rules of the do’s and don’ts also apply to the gorilla habituation process while more information will be given to the visitors in briefing. Questions of how to behave after seeing the gorillas will be answered by the park guides and rangers during the Gorilla habituation

Just like for gorilla tracking, there are porters at the park headquarter, in case a visitor has extra luggage or needs help with the day pack or  cameras, porters are available at a fee of USD 20 while an extra tip at the end of the Gorilla experience will be much appreciated. These are Batwa and other local people around the Mountain Gorilla parks and hiring a porter, you will be directly helping local people around the park or those who used to stay in the park before it was gazetted into a UNESCO site.

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A Short Video About Gorilla Trekking In Bwindi Forest

Best Time To Do Gorilla Trekking And Gorilla Habituation

Gorilla Trekking and Gorilla habituation takes a toll rise in the months from June, July, August, september, October then again Dec, Jan and Feb. Due to weather patterns in Uganda, there are dry season months which are regarded as the best time to visit Bwindi and Mgahinga or more so regarded as peak Tourism season months.

Other months are regarded as low season months, but still absolutely possible to track mountain gorillas during those months. Even though your trip lies within low season or high season, booking and securing your Gorilla permit in advance for either Gorilla tracking or Mountain Gorilla habituation is very important so to be sure you have the right permit on the right day

Accommodation Facilities Around The Gorilla Parks.

Bwindi impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park which harbor Mountain Gorillas have different levels of accommodation from Budget, Midrange, Luxury and High-end Lodges.  Most of the Gorilla safari Lodges are located on the boundaries of the Parks or in the Communities around the game parks.  Luxury Lodges like Clouds, Gorilla Forest Camp, 4 gorillas Lodge, mahogany springs, sanctuary,  Bwindi lodge, Buhoma lodge, Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge and Gahinga lodge in Mgahinga National Park are some of the Top-notch safari Lodges that would give your Gorilla Trekking a spice-up experience.

Location & How To Connect To Mountain Gorilla Parks

Mountain Gorillas can be seen south of Uganda in Bwindi Forest national Park or Mgahinga national Park. The easiest and most common way to connect to Bwindi and Mgahinga is through road transport. This is where driver guides pick clients from the Entebbe International airport and then drive to Bwindi or Mgahinga south of Uganda.  It should be noted that this is a longer distance of about -/+ 9hours drive. The distance can be broken down by taking it half way to Lake mburo national park or lake Bunyonyi as a break between the long drive to the Gorilla Homes. Either way one can arrive in Kigali-Rwanda and drive to cross boarders from through Cyanika or Gatuna land boarders.

Arriving in Kigali-Rwanda is a more closer distance arriving into Bwindi forest or Mgahinga National Parks while the driving experiences and encounters along the way are so different.

There are also Domestic flights by Auric air, Aero link Uganda and Bar aviation among others flying to Kisoro airstrip or Kihihi airstrip which are short driving distances to Bwindi forest and Mgahinga national Parks. At the airstrips is where you meet your driver guide for pick up and transfer you to your lodge in anticipation for the next day trekking and getting upclose and personal with a mountain Gorilla

In combination with other Destinations in Uganda, Gorilla trekking and Gorilla Habituation can be added on a Uganda safari. Other interesting Destinations like Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Ishasha Sector or Murchison falls National Park can be added and later arrive into the Bwindi forest for the Mountain Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla habituation. Driving distances are less since most of the other destinations are closer to each other and closer to Bwindi Forest.

Tip & Recommendation: For both Mountain Gorilla Trekking and Habituation, booking in advance is very vital. Although Gorilla tracking allows only 8 members per gorilla family which are actually many, the demand is too high most especially in high or peak seasons months. For Gorilla habituation, the number of people to visit a gorilla family is half compared to those allowed for gorillas. This rises the need to book in advance at least a year before to secure you a spot during your visit to the Mountain Gorillas.

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What You Need To Pack For Gorilla Trekking Or Gorilla Habituation

Nice Gripped Walking/hiking shoes

Warm Clothing for the Bwindi sector

Light safari clothing for warm areas

Insect repellants

Sun Screen

Hats/caps

Rain Jacket and/or ponchos

Long light pants

Head lamp/touch

Binoculars

Backpack for carrying small luggage

Gloves if you want (But not necessary)

Tips and Gratitude’s

Here are a few Tailor-Made Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla habituation itineraries you can build on or we can craft out for you.

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