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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - Gorilla Trekking
Your gorilla trek is sure to be the highlight of your trip. Waking early, you need to be at the Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger station by 07.45am. You will then be allocated guides before heading into the forest. Here you will be offered a walking stick - take it is very useful in the slippery conditions. Also available at the ranger stations are porters. For around $20 they will pull and push you up the mountainside. This can be particularly helpful during rainy season. You have paid $500 to see the gorilla the $20 goes to a local man living near the forest. Gorilla tracking permits are available from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. While the permit may seem steep, 20% of the receipts go to communities living around the park while the rest is required to finance the Uganda Wildlife Authority's efforts to provide adequate protection of the gorilla families in this area of Uganda. This is one of the primary reasons the gorillas have survived and continued to remain in this area of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Habituation of a gorilla group takes a minimum of two years, with daily visits to allow the gorilla group to tolerate human presence. It is only when the gorillas are completely comfortable with human presence that tourists are allowed to share the daily hour of contact with them. Only eight people are able to track each habituated group. The walk to find the gorillas may be as short as two hours, but it will generally take 2-4 hours to find them as their territory can range up to 40km. Initial trackers go in to the forest first while you are being briefed, they locate the night nest of the gorillas from the day before. They then track the gorilla to their new position. Once the family of gorillas is found, the trackers make radio contact with your guide and will direct him to your meeting place. The park rangers and guides will clear the way and assist you through the forest. You will need good fitness to make this walk and the going can be slippery and tough at times. Once the gorilla group is located you will spend an hour with them as they feed, rest and play.
Sitting with the mountain gorilla is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences you will ever have. A dominant male silverback can weigh over 200 kilos and is the largest living primate. He will control your meeting as well as deciding when his group will eat, sleep and move on. His females care for their young with affection and playfulness but also with discipline. They are very curious, and are capable of making over 25 different vocalisations, including chuckling and purring. Communication also includes posturing, chest beating and if all else fails - the charge! The privilege of spending an hour with this family group is an experience that will never leave you. After your hour is up, you wind your way slowly out of the forest and back to the camp to swap stories about your amazing experience.
- At least two litres of water
- A packed lunch: if you don't eat it you can share it with the guides and porters.
- Some money in case you want a t-shirt, carved gorilla or other souvenirs.
- A passport and gorilla permit, which they ask for at check in
- You need to wear long pants whilst walking in the bush due to stinging nettles
- Walking boots, or waterproof trainers. Hiking socks are recommended, as you will be tucking your trousers into the socks to prevent ant-bite.
- Layers are best, as conditions in the tropical rain forest can change from hot to wet and cold in an instant. Start with a long sleeved t-shirt, add a fleece and rainproof jacket and you should be right for all conditions. At some of the trailheads they have rain jackets for hire but this is not guaranteed. Bwindi and Volcanoes National Park where the gorillas reside is a high altitude rainforest so come prepared for all conditions.
- Anti-histamine cream is useful if you get too close to any stinging nettles; the gorillas are immune to these, so often choose this stinging nettles as a place to rest.
- Thin, impermeable gloves are handy to prevent irritation from stinging nettles and thorns.
At the end of the track you will be presented with a tracking certificate. there is one more thing you need to remember and its hard dont spend all your time looking at these amazing animals through a camera lens.
Size of Habituated gorilla groups in Uganda 2010
Mubare Group 5 gorilla
Habinyanja Group 18 gorilla
Rusegura Group 19
Nkuringo Group 19
Bitakura Group 13
Nshongi Group 36
Kyaguriro Group 16
Size of habituated Gorilla Groups in Rwanda June 2010
Suza group 28
Karisimbi group 15