Gorilla trekking is undeniably one of the most sought after adventures by most tourists on safari in Africa. If you are planning to spend your next vacation in this continent this coming, this is one of a few lifetime experiences that you shouldn’t miss out in life. To have the most enjoyable safari while in Africa, it is better that you plan your safari with a recognized tour operator a fact that tour agents/operators are very knowledgeable about attractions and accommodation options in most of the destinations and also they can advise you accordingly. To help you plan for your gorilla trekking safari in Africa, we have come up with a guide and we believe that you will have the most enjoyable vacation in life.
Planning a Gorilla Trekking Trip
Where to trek gorillas in Africa
While gorilla trekking in Africa has become a bucket list adventure for most tourists, others still do not know which destination to visit to see these exceptional creatures. Unlike other wildlife species, mountain gorillas are only tracked in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Uganda, you can embark on this life changing adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in the southwest. In Rwanda, you will head to the northwestern part of the country where Volcanoes National Park is situated and the Virunga National Park in eastern DRC. Besides mountain gorillas, you can also pay a visit to Kahuzi Biega National Park where the eastern lowland gorillas can be tracked.
Gorilla trekking being the most highlights to those who are interested in visiting Uganda and Rwanda. The world’s estimated total population of the mountain gorillas is 1006 individuals thriving in the wild. Gorilla trekking is conducted in four known national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Parc nationale des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is the best and the most visited place in Uganda. This incredible national park is situated in the south western part of Uganda, one of the most endowed tourism destinations in Africa. The park protects more than half of the remaining total population of the mountain gorillas, declared endangered primates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). To most travelers who take safaris in Uganda, Bwindi is the number 1 destination to be included in their tour itineraries!
Gorilla Trekking Etiquette
To be part of this lifetime experience, visitors are assigned to only one habituated gorilla family and interestingly, each country features its own habituated groups for you to strike your imaginations with these dramatic creatures while in their natural habitat. Note that mountain gorillas are never found in any zoo except only in the wild where they thrive. That said, Uganda boasts of over 480 individuals of these critically endangered apes representing about half of all the world’s thriving mountain gorillas today. For fascinating experiences with these apes in Uganda, about 15 groups have been set aside for you to realize your dreams.
To track gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, you should be 15 years and above and you will have only an hour of face to face encounter with these remarkable apes. If Bwindi National Park is your dream destination, there are 4 main sectors where treks kick start each day and they include Buhoma, Nkuringo, Ruhija and Rushaga. Interesting, each of these sectors comprises of its own habituated groups and each group have different stories to tell thus rewarding you with unique experiences. The notable families for this lifetime experience at Bwindi National Park include Mubare gorilla group, Rushegura and Habinyanja family all in Buhoma region; Bitukura, Kyaguriro, Oruzogo, Nshongi, Nkuringo, Kahungye, Mishaya, Bweza, Busingye and Nyakagezi in Mgahinga National Park. If you need to spend more hours with gorillas then gorilla habituation experience is the best option. This primate adventure is an extra-ordinary experience which offers you all the 4 hours for you to strike your imaginations with these rare species in addition to the whole day exploration. For this adventure, you will trek Bikingi and Bushaho gorilla families and it is only conducted in Bwindi National Park.
On other hand, Volcanoes National Park comprises of 10 fully habituated groups for you to track and they include the Susa ‘A’ family, Karisimbi also famous as the Susa B, Ugenda, Amahoro, Sabinyo, 13 group also called Agashya, Umubano, Kwitonda, Hirwa and Bwenge. Virunga National Park consists of gorilla families like Rugendo, Kabirizi, Lulengo, Humba, Mapuwa, Munyaga, Bageni and Nyakamwe.
Gorilla tracking permits
To be part of this breathtaking adventure, you need $600 to book for your permit in Uganda, $1500 if you are to track gorillas in Rwanda and $400 for DR Congo. Note that a gorilla permit is a must to have and offers you opportunity to track only one habituated gorilla family in your respective destination.
Packing list for gorilla trekking
A fact that gorilla trekking is conducted within Africa’s jungles, appropriate packing is a must and your packing list should include key items like insect repellents, water proof hiking boots, long sleeved shirts or T-shirts, gardening gloves, first aid kit, backpackers, energy giving snacks, bottled water, trousers, camera, binoculars, sweater, rain jacket, hat, sun glasses, toiletries, walking stick which you will obtain at the park a mention but a few.
The dos and don’ts for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is one of a few most restricted adventures a reason it still offers authentic experiences to tourists. Among other significant rules and regulations that visitors are required to observe at all times while with these endangered apes in the wild include; if you are not feeling well, you won’t be allowed to go for gorilla trekking, only eight tourists are allowed to track only one habituated group, only an hour is given to you to strike your imaginations with these dramatic creatures in the wild, no eating, smoking or drinking in the gorilla habitat, only persons above 15 are legible for this lifetime experience, a distance of about 7-10 meters must be observed at all times while on your actual trek, in case of cough, make sure that you cover your mouth among others that will be briefed to you by the park official before setting off for the actual trek.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Africa
While this life time adventure is said to be an all year round experience, there is need for one to be keen on seasonality of destination a fact that each season comes with its advantages and disadvantages. That said, the wet season in most of the gorilla destinations start from March to May and from October to November. This season is a bit challenging a fact that steep slopes become slippery and hence making it challenging for one to hike through the thick jungles. However, it comes with plenty of food for these creatures to enjoy and this makes them to keep around the park area and hence making it easier for one to track them. On other hand, most trekkers tend to frequent for this life changing experience mostly during the dry season. This season starts from June-September and December-February and in most cases, it is popular as the peak season. What is interesting with this season is that the habitat is kept dry making it easier for one to hike through the dense tropical rain forest and steep slopes. However, given the nature of gorilla habitat, you have to expect rains at anytime of the day and this requires you to be well prepared.
In conclusion, gorilla trekking is remarkably one of the most fascinating adventures that you shouldn’t miss while on safari in Africa.