Planning a gorilla tour.
Planning a gorilla trek to Bwindi impenetrable national Park, Mgahinga national Park, Volcanoes national Park or Virunga national park is not an easy task but one need to follow different guidelines, below are some of the guide lines that will help you in planning your gorilla tour.
Always planning your gorilla tour trek in advance; Gorilla tracking tour in Uganda is known to be one of the best tourist activities in Africa and you need to plan it in advance. You need to start planning at least six months in advance; this is because there are many things you need to consider if you want to have a successful gorilla tour in Africa;
You decide on which country to make a planning for Gorilla tour trek; Uganda or Rwanda
You require making a decision on which country to visit. Mountain gorillas can be viewed in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. Unluckily, there is some insecurity in the DRC and as such we don’t recommend tourists to trek gorillas in Congo until further notes. The mountain gorillas in Uganda are in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park while those in Rwanda are found in Volcanoes national Park. One gorilla family is found in Mgahinga National park which is also part of the Virunga ranges shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo; this group keeps migrating to and from Uganda to Rwanda.
Bwindi impenetrable national park has got 12 gorilla families that are located in different regions of the forest and this means that you need to be careful when buying the permits. You can as well choose to visit both countries and compare the two experiences or trek in one country. When you make your decision about where to trek the mountain gorillas from, always contact a tour operator to book for you a permit.
Buying your gorilla tour permit; you will automatically need a gorilla permit for a given day in a known national park in either Uganda or Rwanda for you to be able to trek the mountain gorillas. You can as well contact your tour operator in Uganda to get you a gorilla permit. You also need to contact a tour operator who is a member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO). The will check and advise you on availability got the gorilla permits leaving you to make a decision on your own.
Once you buy the gorilla tour permits, you are well to go. With in Uganda, the gorilla permits are issued out by Uganda wildlife Authority through the registered tour operators on a first come first serve basis. In order to keep away from shortage of gorilla permits, organize this in advance. There is a likelihood of booking a gorilla permit by you however its better using a tour operator since Uganda wildlife Authority is so slow at returning calls as well as responding to emails.
More so, the gorilla permit you are holding will determine the accommodation to be booked for you among many other factors. You need to create your interest first and in case you need a simple trek, then it’s better to book permits for either Ruhija or Buhoma. In case you need a more challenging trek, you can go for Rushaga region or Nkuringo. With the problem in altitude, then you should avoid the southern sector of Bwindi forest since it has the highest altitudinal point. For more information, contact your operator before you make any decisions.
Which of bwindi region are trekking? Gorillas permit allocation in Uganda is based on regions. These regions with gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national Park are alienated by long distances. Buhoma region is situated in the north of Bwindi and this is home to three gorilla families’ namely; Mubare, Rushegura and Habinyanja. Ruhija region is located in the east of Bwindi with three gorilla families like Bitukura, Oruzongo and Kyaguriro. Rushaga sector located in the south is home to five gorilla families including Kahungwe, Mishaya, Nshongi, Bweza and Busingye while Nkuringo region located in the south has Nkuringo gorilla family.
About Transport and accommodation; so when you have finally decided on which side of Bwindi to trek. It’s better to seek advice from the operator as they know better which sides will suite your interest. Now it’s time to book your accommodation as well as transport. Let your tour operator know the level of accommodation and type of vehicle you would like to use. There are many accommodation options in all regions of the bank so it’s up to you to choose budget, moderate or high end. This also applies to transport. You might choose to travel in a safari vans, land cruisers or land rovers depending on your budget. With in Uganda, there are daily scheduled flights to Bwindi so in case you prefer flying to save on time then, you will need to contact your tour operator to book you on these scheduled flights to Bwindi.
Knowing about the gorilla trekking rules and regulations; these are endangered species and according to 2013 census, only 800 individuals are remaining in the world. Your visit to these primates should not reduce their numbers but should instead increase on it. Always ask your tour operator to send you gorilla trekking rules and regulations and how to conduct yourself while you are with these great apes. The basic things you need to know are; each of the gorilla family is visited by a maximum of eight people per day for one hour. You are also supposed to leave at least seven (7m) between you and the gorillas. Avoid eye contact with the mountain gorillas and always turn off your flash while taking photos. Always try to listen and follow what your guide will tell you while trekking.
What to pack for your gorilla trek; the mountain gorillas in Bwindi live in thick forests and in an area that is dominated by steep hills and because of this thickness and terrain in the forest, you need to prepare what to wear. Below are some of the need wear for the trek; hiking boots, long sleeved trousers and shirts. You need garden gloves since some shrubs and climbing plants can itch you. Long socks, insect repellent, camera, a hut, sun glasses are highly recommended plus energy giving food.
Best time to trek gorillas; when planning a gorilla safari, you must know the best time to trek the gorillas in Uganda. While gorillas in Uganda can be trekked throughout the whole year, drier months of June, July, August and September are always preferred. Throughout these months, there is less rain and chances are that the trek will be easy since the trails will be less slippery as well. The months of April, May and November are the wettest months and clients avoid them.
The porters and walking sticks; these are the best companies you can ever have on your gorilla trek. You will need a walking stick to help you trek those steep hills. The walking sticks are offered by most lodges and if the lodge can’t provide, then the porters can provide them at a cost of $10-$15. In case you have a less fit client, we advise that you take a porter with you who will give you a push or a pull when the going gets tough. He/she will carry your back pack and stay with you throughout the trek.
How is gorilla trekking like? This whole process starts with you waking up to prepare yourself. Get to dress accordingly and then go to the restaurant for an early breakfast and pick up your packed lunch as well as the walking sticks. Make sure you have all that you will need to have your gorilla trek. After breakfast and mostly depending on the facility where you spent a night from, you might drive or walk to the pack head quarters for registration and allocation of gorilla families depending on your well being and bodily fitness. Some of the lodges are closer to the park head quarters while others are not so always take care of this before making decision.
You will be divided into groups of eight people per gorilla family and after briefing; each group is given a guide, a ranger and a tourism police officer who has to ensure that you are safe while trekking the mountain gorillas. You need to know that bwindi is home to un habituated chimps, forest buffaloes and elephants among other wild animals. The police men and the rangers are in place to scare away any of these animals in case they come closer. You will walk or drive to the starting point as each gorilla family has many starting points depending on its movements within its territory.
Also note that mountain gorillas are not defensive but they tend to stay in a given dimensional area. From the starting point, you will start your trek which might take 30 minutes to 6 hours and once you glance these gorillas, you will then be given one hour to spend with them as take photos before returning back to the park head quarters. At the head quarters, each of you will be given a certificate of recognition of your contribution to the conservation of the gorillas.
Combining gorilla tracking and other excursions; Uganda as well as Rwanda has got a lot to offer apart from gorillas, you might choose to visit the source of the Nile, do chimpanzee trekking, visit Queen Elizabeth National park, enjoy adventurous tourism like white water rafting and bungee jumping etc. Rwanda has got a visit to Dian fossey tomb, do golden monkey trekking, visit the genocide memorial site, and many more. It’s always advisable to combine a gorilla safari with any of the above activities to have the best experience in both Uganda and Rwanda.