Tracing the history of gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla trekking safaris started as a proposal after the 1980s Dian Fossey’s Mountain gorilla population census report about where about 250 mountain gorillas were believed to be living in the world. The mountain gorillas were on the list of the most highly endangered primates in the world.
Gorilla trekking was adopted to collect funds to support mountain gorilla conservation and reduce the animosity between humans and mountain gorillas.
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During the 1980s, several African countries, including Uganda and Rwanda, were under political turmoil, so nothing was done to promote gorilla trekking then.
What Is The History of gorilla trekking In Uganda?
Gorilla habituation in Uganda started in the 1990s in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla habituation is the process of getting a wild gorilla family used to the presence of humans without altering their nature. The time taken to get a wild gorilla family used to human presence is still being determined as it depends on how long the gorillas adapt to this process. Gorilla habituation may take 2 years to more.
The time is taken to do gorilla habituation.
In 1993, the Mubare gorilla family was opened for public tourism. This gorilla family has 10 members with one Dominant silver back then. The dominant silverback is the leader of the gorilla family. His work is defending the family, seeing new feeding areas, and is entitled to all females.
More gorilla families were opened for trekking, like the Habinyanja Group in 1998 and the Rushegura Group in 2002. The rest is history.
Currently, Uganda has 19 gorilla families open to public booking and living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park.
Gorilla habituation experience is also in Uganda in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The gorilla habituation experience is an adventure where you follow a semi-habituated gorilla family in the company of a team of researchers to help them get used to the presence of humans without altering their nature.
Two gorilla habituation families are currently open for booking in Uganda, with a maximum of 4 tourists allowed to accompany a team of researchers and habituators.
What is The History Of Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park, the home of gorilla trekking, was gazette in 1925 and extended deep into Rwanda in 1929 to form the Albertine National Park run by Belgian Colonial Authorities.
In 1967, American Primatologist, Dian Fossey, staged her research about mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She set up the Karisoke Research Center, where she defended the mountain gorillas from humans who killed the gorillas, set snares to catch forest dwellers, and so much more.
After carrying out a census in the 1980s with her team, about 250 mountain gorillas were discovered to be living in the Virunga area. This brought the plight of mountain gorillas to be acknowledged by the world as some of the highly endangered primates.
By 1985, Dian Fossey was murdered in cold blood by unknown assassins at her home.
The progress of the Civil unrest escalated in Rwanda in 1994 when the Rwanda Genocide happened. A number of Rwandese died during the 100 days of ignorance. Most of the conservation work for the mountain gorillas was put to a standstill as Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield.
Gorilla trekking resumed in 1999 when Volcanoes National Park was re-opened for tourist visits.
Rwanda currently has 12 gorilla families open for gorilla trekking
What is gorilla trekking?
Gorilla trekking is an adventure where you follow a fully habituated gorilla family in the wilderness and stay with them for just one hour, for which they are habituated in the presence of humans.
It would be best if you had a gorilla trekking permit to be part of this adventure, but only a maximum of 8 persons are allowed to do gorilla trekking per trek per day.
Where to do gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes national park is the only home for mountain gorillas in Rwanda. This park currently hosts about 12 gorilla families open for tourist viewing. The park has 5 volcanoes that form its topography: mountain Gahinga, Mountain Muhabura, Mountain Karisimbi, Mountain Bisoke, Mountain Sabyinyo, and Mountain Gahinga.
The forest hosts other primates like Golden monkeys, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and blue monkeys.
Many birds live in this forested National Park, including Albertine endemics.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is one of ten refugia forests believed to have survived the ice age era that hit Africa. This biosphere is believed to have over 25000 years. It hosts a wide range of fauna and flora, including about 10 primates, including mountain gorillas, L’ Holst’s, Pottos monkeys, blue monkeys, chimpanzees, olive baboons, black and white colobus, and others.
Several birds live in this park, with over 350 species recorded, including 7 on the red list of IUCN. The birds also include some Albertine endemics that roam this area.
Mgahinga National Park
This is the smallest gorilla trekking habitat covering about 33.7 square kilometers of land. Only one gorilla family, Nyakagezi, is currently open for tourism in this park.
There are other primates in this park, like golden monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus, and others.
The park has great sceneries you can watch when you hike any of the three distinctive volcanoes that form its topography, including Mountain Gahinga, Mountain Muhavura, and Mountain Gahinga.
What Is the Best Country For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda And Rwanda?
Gorilla trekking as an activity is a lifetime experience where you get to meet some of the only leftover mountain gorillas in the world. No matter which country you go gorilla trekking, Uganda or Rwanda, that feeling of standing before the mythical mountain gorillas is unmatched.
The difference of which country is best for gorilla trekking between Uganda and Rwanda can be identified with:
Cost of gorilla trekking Permit
The time driven from The Airport to the gorilla trekking destinations
The drive time from Kigali Airport to Volcanoes National Park is about 3 hours, while the drive from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is about 8 hours to 9 hours
The number of gorilla trekking families open
Uganda has 19 gorilla trekking families and 2 gorilla habituation families open for tourism, while Rwanda has 12 gorilla families open for tourism public booking.
Optional activities to combine with gorilla trekking
Uganda has more optional safari activities to connect with gorilla trekking, while Rwanda has limited safari options to communicate with gorilla trekking.
When is the best time to book a Gorilla Trekking permit in Uganda or Rwanda?
Gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda is open all year, but you tourists prefer the dry seasons, normally June, July, August, September, December, and January.
This period also serves as the peak tourism season, so securing your gorilla permit at least six months or a year in advance is safe. Service providers have more options, like accommodation facilities, to use during gorilla trekking during this period.
The gorilla safari packages of this high season are high because there is competition from even other safari activities for professional driver guides, vehicle hire, and others.
You can use the low season if you have a limited budget but wish to do gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda. There is little competition for gorilla permits, and chances of discounted services are open too.
The chances of going gorilla trekking with a limited number of trekkers or solo are high during the low season.
Is Gorilla Trekking Dangerous?
Gorilla trekking is safe because mountain gorillas are shy animals that rarely fight humans. In the history of gorilla trekking, no tourists have been reported to have been attacked by mountain gorillas.
You have to follow the gorilla trekking rules given during the briefing and information provided by the ranger on the way to locate the mountain gorillas.
Try never to provoke the mountain gorillas even if they are habituated to human presence. They are still wild animals that bare natural traits. Even feeding the mountain gorillas is forbidden because wild animals must seek their food but do not depend on human provision.
Mountain gorillas are sensitive to intruders in their vicinity, so they operate a spy network that acts as informers of the Dominant Silverback.
How Long Is Gorilla Trekking Safari?
The time of locating the mountain gorillas is still being determined because they are wild animals that live freely in the wilderness. You may locate the mountain gorilla in two hours or more. The time of locating the mountain gorillas depends on factors like
The proximity of their food
In case of a fight with another gorilla family
When the dominant silverback is adventurous
The weather condition for the day is the wet season. The trails are slippery and impassable at times.
The number ace of the rest of the trekkers.
What Are the Rules for a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda or Rwanda?
- The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and above because of the nature of this adventure, where you may need to hike to get to the mountain gorillas.
- Try not to move anyhow when you tress the mountain gorillas. Surrounding the mountain gorillas when you meet them is forbidden because it makes them feel ambushed by their visitors. When they get agitated, they may go into hiding.
- Wearing a clean mask before meeting the mountain gorillas is a must. It would be best to sanitize your shoes before stepping into the forest. Avoid touching vegetation with bare hands that may pass an infection to the mountain gorillas.
- Suppose you catch a communicable infection like flu, Covid 19, or cough. In that case, you may need to volunteer and stay behind so as not to pass this infection to the highly susceptible mountain gorillas.
- Eating or smoking 200 meters from the gorillas is forbidden because the effect of the smoke may cause the gorillas illness as time goes on, or even the gorillas grab what you are eating and start depending on humans. They are wild animals that must search for their food.
- When you meet the mountain gorillas, only 1 hour is allowed to be with them because they are habituated to be in the presence of humans for just that time. Later you have to leave them alone to go about their daily activities.
- Littering in the forest is forbidden so that it is left to thrive in its natural setting. The mountain gorillas feed on foliage throughout their lives. Throwing plastic wraps, soda cans, and others that do not decompose may alter the nature of the forest with time.
- Please do not use flash photography when taking photos because it may scare the mountain gorillas, which are usually scared of new occurrences in their vicinity. The camera must be soundproof, too, to not cause tension within the gorilla family.
- Ask the ranger guide to dig a hole for you in about 30 centimeters and cover well afterward to avoid chances of the forest dwellers exhuming anything. The mountain gorillas are sometimes curious, so try to protect them from getting germs from you.
- Spitting on the vegetation contaminates it, possibly infecting the mountain gorillas with human infections. It is also unhygienic.
- Provoking the mountain gorilla when you find them may agitate them and push the family into hiding. Mountain gorillas are very sensitive primates that are very conscious of their surrounding.
- 8 meters from the gorillas is the distance permitted to be apart from them. This is to reduce the chances of passing an infection. If they approach you, slowly retreat without them recognizing your moves.
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