Gorilla trekking in Africa takes place deep in Africa’s dense forested jungles of the Virunga mountain Volcanic chain covering 3 countries of Rwanda having Volcanoes national park, Democratic Republic of Congo with Virunga national park and Mgahinga National park belonging to the Uganda side. It’s within this Virunga massif region that Dian Fossey the American primatologist lived and dedicated her life to the protection and preservation of the lives of the critically endangered mountain gorillas which were under threat of extinction due to uncontrolled poaching and human encroachment on forested regions which were home to the endangered species.
Its due to her work and legacy that today, gorilla trekking in Rwanda Uganda and Congo is possible and has become the highest foreign exchange earner in the respective countries.
Today, the number of mountain gorillas is raising with and increase in mountain gorilla protection and general awareness to communities neighboring the gorilla forests.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is another place where mountain gorillas can be seen in their natural habitat. The forest is said to have half of the world’s remaining gorillas population of over 450 mountain gorillas. The park comprise of 12 habituated gorilla groups ready for visiting.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN UGANDA RWANDA & CONGO
How many mountain Gorilla are there?
The total gorilla population According to the international Gorillas Conservation Programme of 2012 totals is 880 gorillas with Bwindi national park comprising of half the gorilla population with 400 gorillas in 12 habituated gorilla families.
Within the Virunga mountain chain, its estimated to have about 480 mountain gorillas with the Rwanda side of Volcanoes national park having the highest number of about 300 gorillas with 10 habituated gorilla groups which are ready for visitors to watch gorillas in Volcanoes NP, the rest of the gorillas are in Virunga national park with six habituated gorilla groups and Mgahinga with just one gorilla family.
NB: Mountain gorillas numbers increase each year as evident in the annually celebrated gorilla naming ceremony that takes place in the Volcanoes national park, and in each park are new born each year. The figures we have are not accurate as the gorilla census last happened in 2012
Gorillas are Wild animals and Move freely, How do you trace a given gorilla group ?
Gorilla parks have a team of tracker guides who go into the forest as early as 9 PM in the night and trace the movement of the gorillas to the actual location. So as clients enter the forest trekking for the gorillas, the guiding park rangers keep communicating with the trackers who are earlier in for the exact gorilla positions.
How big is a gorilla family
A gorilla group can have from 12 to 25 members consisting of gorillas friends and families including Juveniles, mothers, infants. A gorilla group has a leader silverback gorilla – mature male who oversees the entire group. A silverback are big, about 2 meters long and over 130 KG
Is it safe to watch gorillas at such a close range?
Tourists tracking gorillas have to keep a distance of 7meters away from gorillas to protect both the endangered species and also visitors. The gorilla groups visited are habituated which means, they are used to seeing human being which means its very safe to watch them closely.
How can you tell your are about to see your group ?
Your ranger guide will obviously be telling you that you are about to approach them! but there are some signal that can tell you, you are about to see them. You can see their foot steps and the vegetation can show. You can also hear them breaking tree branches and you can smell them. They smell since bathing depending to a rain shower.
Can you tell these gorilla apart?
Gorillas are totally different from one another, from their fore heads and marks on their noses and shapes of their noses just like human beings. Twins can resemble or not resemble just like how it is with human beings. In recent years, gorillas are given names right from birth and keep their names to maturity.
Bwindi Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience is the most popular attraction in Bwindi impenetrable national park with 11 gorilla families and 2 other families isolated for gorilla habituation experience. Mountain Gorillas are intelligent, gentle, majestic giant animals that share over 90% with humans their genetic material. The rangers at Bwindi Impenetrable national park know all the habituated gorillas individually. These gorillas have been given names as a way of identifying them.
When to trek gorillas
Gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year although the drier seasons are most preferred by most tourists during the months of December – Early March and June-October and these are what we call peak seasons however the low season – wet seasons of April – May and November are generally less visited and hence introduction of discounted gorilla permits so as to encourage visitors to come see gorillas even during the wet seasons.The advantage of trekking for gorillas during the wet season is that gorillas are generally near and easier to hike as the forest is all green and they don’t have to climb uphill to look for food.
What you need to trek gorillas
First you will need to book and get a gorilla permit that will enable you have access to Bwindi Impenetrable National park to trek the gorillas. Note that permits are cheaper in the low season. This can be done through a number of tour companies available. Although it is possible to get a permit by yourself, it becomes easier when you use a tour company to run around on your behalf. This will also help you book good accommodation facilities that are good.
Bwindi has several incredible accommodations where you will be able to stay while you trek the gorillas. Choosing where to stay will entirely depend on your budget. The luxury lodges include Clouds lodge, Buhoma lodge, Gorilla Forest camp and Mahogany springs where as for the budget travellers you could opt for Nshongi Gorilla resort among others.
What to pack when preparing for a gorilla trek.
Choosing your clothing for a gorilla trek is very important lest you harm your body in the wilderness. You will need good quality boots as you are going to hike or say climb as you trek the gorillas, warm layers of clothes for those cold days as well as clothing for wet weather. Don’t forget to pack some light clothing in case it gets hot. A water bottle is as well important as you will need to carry water along with you as you trek the gorillas. The people you left home will need to share these beautiful memories with you, therefore you will need a very good camera that will capture every moment, from the gorilla mothers feeding their young ones, young gorillas playing with each other to male silverbacks exercising their authority as they protect their territory.
What a typical trek day is like.
On the day of trekking gorillas, you will be required to wake up very early. You will be treated with an early breakfast to prepare you for the strenuous but interesting encounter in the wild. After breakfast, you will head to the park headquarters and here you will be addressed by the chief ranger. You will be briefed about what precautions to take, how to behave in front of the animals, what to expect so that you are not taken by surprise.
Gorillas live in families and each family can accommodate only a maximum of 8 visitors therefore you will be assigned to a group and also given a guide to accompany you. The energetic people are usually assigned gorilla families that are far away and the less energetic people are given gorilla families that are nearer. In case you have luggage, a porter can be arranged for you at a cost to carry it for you. Please remember to carry some water and a few bites to eat along the way to replenish your energy.
After finishing your trek, you will go back to your hotel where you will freshen up, be treated to a delicious meal and then take a rest. You could also opt for other activities like swimming, sightseeing or even a community walk if you are not so tired.