What to Know When Planning Gorilla Trekking in East Africa

A trip to trek the rare mountain gorillas in Africa entirely involves a lot on planning, effective preparation and research. Today, about 980 individuals of these critically endangered species are left in the entire world and they are only distributed within the jungles of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When it comes to this lifetime adventure, various factors have to come to guide you so that you have the most successful safari in East Africa. To be on safer part, we have listed some of the things that are worth knowing as you plan for your gorilla treks in East Africa.

Where to go for gorilla trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking is only conducted in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, DR Congo is still recovering from insecurities and because of this most trekkers flock to Uganda and Rwanda for these lifetime experiences and in Uganda, trekkers only visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Parkwhich are located in southwestern side of the country while in Rwanda, you can visit the Volcanoes National Park in the northwestern part of this spectacular country. Every destination features its habituated groups where gorilla treks are conducted everyday. In Rwanda the notable groups include the Susa ‘A’, Susa ‘B’, Hirwa, Sabyinyo, Ugenda, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Umubano and others while in Uganda, the prime families include Nkuringo, Bitukura, Busingye, Kahungye, Bweza, Mishaya, Nshongi, Nyakagezi, Habinyanja, Oruzogo, Rushegura and many more.

Book for your gorilla tracking permit early

When you think of mountain gorilla adventures in East Africa, bear in mind that permits is a must to have to guarantee your spot. Booking your gorilla permits at hand offers about 95 percent chances for you to track a group of gorillas. Each gorilla permit is equal to a spot to one habituated family and only eight (8) trekkers are allowed to track one group per day. Trekking permits in Uganda are obtainable at $600 per person for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and shs.250000 for East African residents and they are obtainable from a trust worthy tour operator on ground or through Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). About 12 habituated groups can be tracked in Uganda and they translate into 96 permits for visitors to purchase. In Rwanda, you can purchase a permit at $1500 and this cost cuts across all visitors on gorilla safari in Rwanda. Permits in Rwanda can be booked through ground tour operators or Rwanda Development Board. Only 80 permits are available for visitors to purchase in Rwanda. You are advised to book for your trekking permit in advance at least 3 to 4 hours to avoid any kind of disappointment.

The best season for gorilla trekking

If you are planning to travel to East Africa for gorilla tracking, it is important that you know the ideal time for you to perfectly enjoy your primate adventures in Uganda and Rwanda. Usually, most travelers visit East Africa during the dry spell to catch a glimpse at the rare mountain gorillas while they are in their natural habitat. This season starts from June to August and this is regarded as the longest dry season, and from December to February which is also famous as the peak season in all protected areas. However, this doesn’t mean that trekkers shouldn’t come for this breathtaking adventure. It is also possible for you to track a group of gorillas during the rainy season. During this season, it can rain at any time just like it is a case during the dry season though the amount differs and the sun can come out after sometime and normal treks can continue. The disadvantage with this season is that, the ground can be muddy and slippery making it a big challenge for trekkers to walk through the thick vegetation cover as they search for a group of these rare apes in the wild.

The magical hour with the gorillas

Both destinations allow visitors to spend only an hour with a group of habituated gorillas in the wild while exploring their general behavior. The treks entirely involve hiking through the thick vegetation and steep slopes to look out a group of these dramatic creatures. The experience takes about 30 minutes to 8 hours but this depends on various factors some of which include visitors’ hiking speed, nature of the habitat and location of the habituated gorilla groups that will be assigned to you to track in the course of the day. Once you encounter your group, make sure that you maximize every hour and explore more about these unique species, take as many photos as you can.

Your physical wellness matters a lot

Gorilla tracking involves walking via a thick tropical rainforest, bamboo that thrive within the Volcanoes National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. The adventure takes visitors for about one to eight hours based on your physical fitness and location of the group that will be assigned to you to track. Gorilla treks are conducted at moderate altitude and you are advised to be physically well.

Gorilla trekking precautions

Before you set off for the actual trek, you will be briefed by one of the park official who will take you through the dos and don’ts to be followed while you are with gorillas in the wild. Some of the rules and regulations to be observed while on your trek include, only eight trekkers are assigned to track only one habituated group per day, you will be required to clean your hands prior embarking on the actual trek, your voice should be low at all times but where necessary, ask as many questions as you can, a distance of 7 meters should be kept at all times, keep wastes till you return to the visitor center where there are dust bins for you to dispose them off, do not drink, eat or smoke in the forest, only persons above 15 years are allowed to go for this lifetime adventure, if you don’t feel well, you won’t be allowed to go for gorilla trekking and many others.

What to wear

Interested trekkers are encouraged to come along with long trousers, long sleeved shirts/T-shirts, waterproof hiking boots, insect repellents, enough drinking water and energy giving snacks, sun screen, hat, rain jacket, first aid kit, day pack and others.

The other things that are worth knowing for trekkers on gorilla safari to Africa include paying attention to your guide while in the gorilla habitat; carry enough money to take you throughout the vacation, hire a porter to help you with heavy luggage and others.

In conclusion, if you are planning to travel to East Africa for mountain gorilla trekking, you need to be physically well to be able to hike through the thick jungles and the steep slopes to see a group of these unique creatures in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is generally a breathtaking adventure that comes once in a lifetime.

Source: Luxury Travel Magazine

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