Uganda is a well known destination for mountain gorilla trekking in Africa. This country located astride the Equator is home to nearly half of the remaining 900 mountain gorillas left in the whole world. Mountain gorillas turn out to be major tourist attraction though the country is also a fascinating destination with many other touristic adventures/ activities including white water rafting along the Nile, chimpanzee tracking, game viewing in small groups, mountain trekking and more.
The country has two gorilla national parks and the endangered mountain gorillas can be trekked from Uganda’s hilly and forested national parks basically from Bwindi Impenetrable Natural Forest ( a home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas) and Mgahinga National park in the Gahinga ranges in the South West of Uganda.
The journey from Kampala to Bwindi Forest takes between 7 and 9 hours to drive from Kampala to the two mountain gorilla homesteads in Uganda. During this drive, you can be able to enjoy en route views of the real Uganda’s scenic views as well as enjoying game drives in Queen Elizabeth or Lake Mburo national parks.
Alternatively, you can use charter planes from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kihihi or Kisoro airstrips that are near Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla national parks.
See Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas
Nearly half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas can be found in Uganda’s jungles of Bwindi Natural forest and Mgahinga ranges. Tracking mountain gorillas from Uganda, is an exciting an thrilling encounter/ experience one can ever have. Mountain gorillas too are a close relative of human race, sharing so much character in common like caring for the young ones, eating, and playing among others.
In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable Natural Forest hosts the highest number of these endangered species and with 14 habituated gorilla family groups (Mubare Group, Habinyanja Group:, Rushegura Group, Bitukura Group among others) for visitors. In their family groups, a Silverback-a male adult gorilla is usually the head and therefore responsible for the protection of its family members from any sorts of attacks if any.
Visiting the mountain gorillas is such a wonderful experience, however it’s done only in groups of 8 members where 8 visitors are allowed to visit a gorilla family group per day and limited to only an hour’s stay with the animals . During this one hour stay, tourists are permitted to take photos, make videos and even watch them as they play, eat and even tease each other.
Where to Go Gorilla Trekking
This interesting tour activity can be enjoyed from only three African countries that is Uganda,Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo on the Virunga ranges of Africa. Uganda is one of the best destinations to watch the mountain gorillas. When booking a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda, many travelers are puzzled with which particular gorilla group to book for their hiking expedition. There are several habituated gorilla groups in Uganda that are open for <a title=”Gorilla Trekking” href=”http://www.gogorillatrekking.com”>gorilla trekking</a> and these have continuously attracted many tourists who look for this amazing experience! These groups are found in different areas within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
There are several groups available for tracking. These include; the Mubare group, Habinyanja and Rushaga family. All these groups are found in the Buhoma Area (also referred to as main Bwindi) of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Mubare group was the very first group to actually be habituated for gorilla tracking in Uganda and this was in 1993. It was named after the stunning Mubare hills in which this group was discovered.
The Habinyanja group was later habituated in 1997 for gorilla tracking and first received tourists in the year of 1999. at first the Habinyanja group was a huge group with many individuals. However the family split from and it was named Rushaga group. These two groups crisscross each other now and again and also co- exists peacefully. The Rushegura group was also habituated in 2000 for tracking and also received tourists in 2002 and it’s considered to be the huge group in Buhoma Area of Bwindi impenetrable National park.
The Ruhija region of Bwindi Impenetrable National park has also got different groups and these include; Bitakura group which is among the newest groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National park, this group is found and roams the verdant forest within the Ruhija area. The Rushaga region of Bwindi forest also habitat of Nshongi group as well as the Mishaya Gorilla family. The Mishaya group split from the biggest gorilla group in Bwindi forest the Nshongi gorilla family which still leaves in Rushaga region in southern forest.A gorilla trekking safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National park will expose you to all these groups of the Rushaga Region.
The Nshongi group is currently the biggest habituated gorilla family in Uganda, it has got 25 members, some of the group members left to form another group which is called Mishaya group, and this family has greatly attracted many people to come for gorilla safaris to Uganda. The Nkuringo gorilla group is among the most physically challenging although rewarding region in the forest. The region has also got an accommodation facility which is called Nkuringo gorilla camp and this group comprise of 19 members and its favorite to people who have tracked over one group.
The mountain gorillas are found in Uganda, Rwanda, and in Congo, they are specifically found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park, volcanoes National park and in Virunga National park, many people have traveled to these countries in order to enjoy the mountain gorillas which has helped in increasing the gorilla tracking tours to Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
Important Things to Know About Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is done in the natural habitats of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. Elsewhere you can go gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visiting the gorillas in the wild is a lifetime experience one shouldn’t miss before leaving planet earth. Mountain gorillas share 98% of human DNA and are therefore very susceptible to catching human diseases. These infections particularly respiratory ones can be spread from humans to the mountain gorillas. They also don’t have a strong immune system to deal with communicable diseases. A common cold could eventually prove life-threatening to the gorillas.
There are therefore various rules for gorilla trekking are therefore in place to help protect these precious primate;
- A habituated gorilla group of tourists amounting to 8 people can visit a given group of mountain gorillas each day. Once you’ve found them, you have just one hour to be in their company. If you have a cold, flu or other contagious infection, you shouldn’t go gorilla trekking at all because you will leave the gorillas infected.
- You should keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas, although of course the gorillas themselves are unaware of this and will often get very close, in which case you should try to move away.
- When you’re with your group, you should try not to make sudden movements and to keep your voices low so that the group remains relaxed. Although these mountain gorillas are now used to seeing people, do bear in mind that they are still wild animals and can sometimes react unexpectedly, so always heed your guide’s and trackers’ instructions.
- You won’t be allowed to eat or drink when you’re with the gorillas.
What kit should you take for a gorilla trekking safari?
Paths on gorilla treks can be slippery, muddy and steep so sturdy walking boots are essential. Some people take thick gardening gloves because of the brambles and nettles en route and you should wear long trousers rather than shorts. A waterproof jacket may come in handy and take some water and a snack in case it’s a long trek. You might also find a walking stick or pole helpful.
For a small fee, porters are available at the trailheads to carry your backpacks and offer a hand during tricky parts of the hike. Even if you don’t really need them, hiring a porter is a helpful way to contribute directly to the local economy and chatting to them en route can enhance your experience both of local life and of your gorilla trek.
Photography on a gorilla trekking safari
If you’re a keen photographer, taking your own pictures of mountain gorillas is one of the most magical photo sessions you’ll ever experience. Do bear in mind that the light can be poor in the rain-forest and that use of flash is not permitted. You might also need to protect your camera against heavy rain.
Where to Stay
For accommodation, its best to book those around and near the established sectors since this gorilla tracking activity starts early mornings. And are various accommodation facilities in both Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla parks such as lodges, camps and cottages with standard bed services and cuisines. Upon making your booking for a gorilla safari you need to get to know the location of the gorilla group prebooked so that you can get possible lodges where you will stay.