Gorilla Trekking Guide

This activity involves long walks though muddy trails in search for gorillas. Humans share 97% of their genes with these gentle giants. When you meet these primates, you are allowed to spend an hour around them for the normal gorilla trekking experience or four hours for a gorilla habituation experience. 

Gorilla habituation experience comprises of a maximum of 4 people who are allowed to track a particular of only two groups available for tracking apparently. Habituation is the process where the Gorillas are taught to be tolerant of people & their presence. This is very important as Wild Gorillas can be violent even to Humans!

Gorilla habituation trips have to be booked at least 6 months in advance. This will enable your tours and travel operator to plan everything smoothly. Usually eight people are permitted per group per day to Track these great Uganda Gorillas and a total of twenty four (24) people is taken in Bwindi, while eight (8) people are allowed for Mgahinga. 

Gorilla tracking time is currently limited from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and you will be expected back at the campground by 7:00 p.m.

Your chances of seeing a gorilla of seeing a gorilla are 99%. The 1% is due to uncertainties that may arise during your trek. These include sickness, last minute injuries or any other situations. 

After spending time around these endangered great ape species, you will then return to your starting point, receive your respective gorilla tracking certificates then return to your lodge to relax and proceed with other tour and travel activities within or beyond the region. 

Mountain Gorilla tracking sites: You can find habituated Uganda Gorillas in four Sites within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, including: 

  • Mubare,
  • Ruhija,
  • Rushaga
  • Rushegura & 
  • Nkuringo 

You can also get a good view of these habituated Uganda Gorillas at Nyakagezi, which is the only Gorilla site within Mgahinga National Park.

Gorilla permits: There are only 80 gorilla permits available to tourists on a daily basis in Uganda. A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda currently costs $600, $1400 each in Rwanda and $400 each in Congo respectively. If you are visiting all the three national parks in Rwanda, you will get your permit at a discounted rate of $1050. Booking your safari 4 or 6 months before is recommended especially for the most competitive months (June, July and December) or if trekking in Buhoma – the best and most competitive sector of gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  

Gorilla permits to view these endangered species are given out by Uganda Wildlife authority (UWA) and incase a client misses out on getting a permit, AUTO as an association takes the responsibility to always avail its members with important information about the availability of gorilla permits on specific dates. Uganda offers both luxury and budget gorilla trekking because of the permit prices. Rwanda is a luxury gorilla trekking destination. 

The minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15 years. Children of this age are considered to be strong enough to hike through the trails and adhere to various rules and regulations in place. For parents with children between the ages of 13 to 14.4 years old, you are required to write a letter to Uganda Wildlife Authority requesting them to allow your child to track. There is no guarantee that your request will be accepted but in some scenarios they under some conditions. Gorillas are very aggressive apes that should not be offended. Some acts like looking straight into their eyes mean you are requesting to challenge them and can break out a fight. Your child should be old enough to understand this and live to it whilst in the forest. 

How many people per group: A maximum of eight people are allowed to trek particular mountain gorilla families. Uganda apparently has close to 20 mountain gorilla families distributed in various sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Rwanda has close to 15 whereas Congo has close to 10. In Rwanda, you have a chance of booking an entire gorilla family of your own for a whopping $15000. This will let you trek the family alone or with your partners. So if you wish to propose or organize a small event around the gorillas, you should consider this. 

Mountain Gorilla families are assigned randomly to clients during their gorilla trekking meeting whilst considering various factors that age, physique and more. The elderly, disabled or tourists that fall under the special needs category are assigned easier groups to track and vice versa. If you have more than one gorilla safari encounter in the same sector, you ought to communicate to the rangers / warden in advance so that they assign you to a different gorilla family. 

Best time to see gorillas: Trekking gorillas involves hiking through muddy paths hence, the weather has to be dry for your trek to go on smoothly. Trekking in Rain or rather through muddy paths can be quite challenging but still doable. The best months for gorilla trekking are June through out to September and December to February. These months have little or no rainfall. The weather is usually dry and favors gorilla trekking. And if it rains, Chances are high the sun will come out, dry the soaked up soil and life moves on. You are only advised to travel in some months to reduce chances of trekking in the rain but not to completely discourage you from travelling in those particular months. 

Total cost of gorilla trekking: To get the total cost of gorilla trekking, add the amount of permits you are going to pay, price of accommodation, transportation (4×4 safari vehicle, guide and fuel), lunches along the way, border fees and professional fees charged by the gorilla trekking company to organize your trip. The company, accommodation, vehicle you choose will determine the price range of your trip. Choosing a small company will excellent reviews, moderate or basic accommodation and a 4×4 safari van will save you lots of money. Luxury experiences feature high-end lodges, 4×4 safari land cruisers, scheduled or chartered flights and more. Booking a cheap permit in Uganda will also help you save money. 

Where to arrive from (Kigali or Entebbe?): If you are tracking in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or Virunga National Park in Congo, arrive through Kigali, Rwanda. For clients trekking gorillas in Bwindi, arriving through Kigali will keep you on road for only 4 hours compared to the normal 8 – 10 hours from Kampala. This is slightly expensive and calls for you to have an East African Tourist Visa. 

A checklist of what to take

  • Solid walking shoes or boots
  • Rain gear and hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Drinks and Snacks
  • Binoculars
  • Camera

 

Laba Africa Excibitions (3)
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Amazing Facts about Mountain Gorillas

In this post, you’ll learn all about Uganda mountain gorillas, including their diet, habitat, silverbacks and more. You’ll also learn specific facts about male, female and baby gorillas.

Because Uganda is one of only three places where you can find the mountain gorilla species, many people like visiting the “Pearl of Africa” to join trekking tours where they can view these amazing mammals. They are special creatures, and before you go to Uganda, you should research and learn as much as you can about them.

  1. The name Gorilla is derived from a Greek word Gorillai meaning hairy women.
  2. Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered species. More than half of this population is found in Uganda in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, with the latter containing the largest mountain gorilla concentration. They are among the IUCN’s critically endangered list because of civil war in Africa, illegal charcoal harvesting, poachers attempting to illegally sell baby gorillas as pets and some of the gorillas have been shot by land developers competing for the territory that gorillas need to thrive.
  3. Gorillas are the largest living primates.
  4. Like humans, mountain gorillas have individual finger prints.
  5. The DNA of gorillas is 98%-99% identical to that of humans, and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after the two chimpanzee species.
  6. Man is gorilla’s only enemy.
  7. Life span: The lifespan of a mountain gorilla is approximately 40 to 50 years old. Male gorillas are considered mature when they begin to breed around the age of 15. During this time, they are called black-backs. As they age, the black hair on their backs turns silver, giving them the name “silverback.” A few silverback gorilla facts include the silverback male often being the father and protector of his family. Silverback gorillas also maintain order in the family and determine times when the troop travels, rests and eats. As the more aged males, a silverback is usually larger and stronger than other males. A silverback can lift ten times the weight of his body and even hang from one arm supporting 400 pounds.
  • Infant- 0 to 3 years
  • Juvenile- 3 to 5 years
  • Sub-adult- 5 to 9 years
  • Adult female- 9+ years depending on when she starts her menses.
  • Black back- 9 to 12 years
  • Silverback- 12+ years, depending on when the male develops a spray of silver on his back marking him as mature enough to head a family.
  1. They are Gentle Giants: Safari tourists to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often ask if Uganda gorillas are aggressive or dangerous. While their immense size and strength may appear intimidating, these creatures tend to be more shy and gentle than violent. However, if they feel threatened, these gorillas can become aggressive, beating their chests while grunting and roaring. Also, a mother gorilla will fight to the death if she feels her baby is threatened.
  2. You won’t find them in a Zoo: Mountain gorillas do not survive in captivity. The gorillas you’ve encountered in zoos are most likely from the lowlands of western Africa. The mountain gorilla subspecies can only be found in the high, forested mountains of the African countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  3. They Cry, Laugh and Play like Us: Just like you and me, the mountain gorilla has emotions and can cry when he or she is injured or feels sad. A mountain gorilla will even laugh when tickled. Young gorillas will play together like human children and even behave mischievously.
  4. They are Family-Oriented: Uganda gorillas live and travel in groups of 5 to 30 individuals. These family groups are called troops and are made up of an alpha male with several females and their infants or juvenile offspring. 

When a male reaches the age of breeding (usually age 15), he will strike out on his own, taking some females with him to begin his own family. Many gorilla family groups are commanded by a single silverback.

  1. They Aren’t Exactly Like Other Gorillas: While they may look similar, mountain gorillas and other gorillas are not exactly alike. Not only is it larger than other primates, but the mountain gorilla subspecies also features more physical characteristics differing from other gorillas. For example, because it lives in high altitudes and a cold climate, the mountain gorilla has longer, thicker and darker fur than its lowland relatives. Also, the mountain gorilla’s arms are shorter, but its nose, teeth and jaw are larger than that of other gorillas. While all gorillas can climb trees, the mountain gorilla tends to stick more to the ground.
  2. They Communicate in Their Own Way: The mountain gorilla is not physically able to make vocal sounds like humans, but it does possess several vocal sounds and gestures that are used to communicate with others. Grunts, barks, hoots and hand gestures are often used during social interaction. Chest beating screams and roars may be used to signify alarms. Belching is a sign that a gorilla is content.
  3. Female Mountain Gorillas: Female gorillas become sexually mature much earlier than the males. Many females will give birth at the age of ten. They usually give birth to single babies but can occasionally produce twins. Because a baby is often nursed and reared for up to six years, most female gorillas will produce about four to six offspring throughout their entire reproductive lives.
  4. They Have Their Own Doctors: Since they are an endangered species, the mountain gorilla groups in Uganda are monitored by physicians who often check for parasites and sickness as well as administer vaccinations to prevent diseases. As they share 98% DNA with humans, the mountain gorilla species can contract colds, flu and other causes of sickness from close contact with humans.  This is one of the reasons why only a certain number of visitors are allowed each day to track the gorillas in Uganda national parks.
  5. They Use Tools: The mountain gorilla is intelligent and learns quickly how to make his life easier. They will use sticks and branches to extract insects from the ground or hollow trees. They can also use branches to rescue youngsters who have gotten themselves tangled up in vines. Some gorillas have even used logs to cross creeks and streams. They also use leaves, twigs and vines to make beds for their babies and themselves when they sleep. Typical habitat of the Mountain Gorilla in Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park 
  6. They are Mostly Vegetarians: While they sometimes eat insects, the mountain gorilla species primarily eats fruits and plants such as bamboo, thistle and wild celery. They can eat up to five hours each day and as much as 40 to 50 pounds of bulky plants per day. Because their plant diet contains moisture, the gorillas drink little or no water. 
  7. They Are Wandering Nomads: The mountain gorilla groups do not live in one spot. Like nomads, they travel a few kilometers every day searching for food. This is why you need to track a mountain gorilla group when you join a safari. Mountain gorilla groups also build nests, or beds, from branches and leaves to use for their naps in the afternoon and to sleep at night as they journey from one spot to another.
  8. Facts about Baby Mountain Gorillas: Since there is no specific mating season among the mountain gorilla species, babies are born anytime throughout the year. At birth, they typically weigh around 1.8 kg (4 lb.), less than a human baby. However, they develop at a much faster rate than humans and can sit upright at the age of three months. Their first four years are spent nursing, weaning and hanging from the backs of their mothers. Playing with other infant gorillas teaches them how to interact within the family group.
  9. They Keep a Daily Routine: Mountain gorillas like routine. They typically rise in the mornings around 6 a.m. unless the weather is really cold and dreary, and then they may sleep in a bit. Once they are up, they spend their time foraging for large quantities of plants to eat. They like taking naps around midday, and then they will search for food again before turning in for the night around 6 p.m.
  10. They Have Unique Nose Prints: Just like humans, the gorillas have unique fingerprints, but they also have unique nose prints that each differ from all other individuals.

This feature comes in handy for helping wildlife authorities, doctors and researchers to monitor and report injuries, sickness, odd behavior and noted incidents as well as keep track of births, deaths and migration. This data not only helps to protect the mountain gorillas and their population growth, but it also offers a better understanding and more enjoyable trekking experience for tourists.

The Tallest and Heaviest Mountain Gorillas: The male mountain gorilla can weigh up to 500 pounds and reach six feet in height. The tallest silverback recorded measured 6ft 4in. The heaviest gorilla recorded weighed in at 585 lbs. currently, the world’s largest silverback mountain gorilla is an individual named Guhonda. He is the dominant male of the Sabinyo troop in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and weighs around 225 kg (496 lbs.)

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