Challenges likely to be faced during gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla Trekking is every trekker’s dream come true in African adventure but chances of incurring challenges are possible. To reduce on chances of facing some of these challenges, you need to use an on-ground tour operator like Encounter Africa safaris. We shoulder some of the problems you may incur during the preparations for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.
Most Popular Safaris
- 3 day Uganda gorilla trekking
- 5 days gorillas & chimp safari
- 3 day Uganda gorilla via Kigali
- 5 days gorilla trekking Rwanda
- 5 day Uganda gorillas & wildlife
- 3 day fly in gorilla habituation
- 5 day gorilla habituation and chimps
- 3 day Bwindi double trek via Kigali
- 5 days gorillas & game safari
The Virunga area is forested with volcanic topography that requires you to hike in order to locate the mountain gorillas and other forest dwellers. The mountain gorillas are the main attraction in Virunga area but to get to them you must acquire a gorilla trekking permit from Uganda and Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking has a timeline for all its activities some of which include briefing time that starts as early as 0730 hours, the gorilla permits must be booked in advance at least 6 months prior to the date of trekking. To mention but a few. Some of these tourists must know before traveling to Africa for gorilla trekking or else miss the gorilla trekking adventure.
Where To Do Gorilla Trekking In Uganda and Rwanda
Bwindi Impenetrable National park In Uganda.
Bwindi locally means impenetrable and indeed this double meaning is fit for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This biosphere reserve is home to about 10 species of primates including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, and others.
This forest has survives over years and is belied to have been one of the remnants of the arid conditions of the ice age period. Bwindi forest vegetation is tangled over time draping over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high draughty ridges.
At the moment about 18 gorilla families have been confirmed to be living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park living in various areas. The vast size of this park prompted Uganda Wildlife Authority to divide its gorilla trekking permit booking into per area. The four gorilla trekking areas of Bwindi Impenetrable National park include Buhoma area, Ruhijah area, Rushaga area and Nkuringo area.
Mgahinga National Park
This is the smallest National Park amongst the four-mountain gorilla habitat and hosts only one gorilla trekking family so far called Nyakagezi, this family was initially known to be mobile because it used to cross into Rwanda or D.R.Congo.
Mountain gorillas are free-ranging primates with nothing binding them from seeking new feeding grounds in the wilderness without considering political boundaries.
Mgahinga National Park has some lovely scenery backed by undulating Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabyinyo, and Mountain Gahinga. These form a lovely regional backdrop that separates Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R.Congo. A day’s hike on any of these amazing mountains is possible but you need a ranger guide to escort you.
Volcanoes National Park
This is the home of gorilla trekking in Rwanda covering about 160 square kilometers of land. At the moment about 13 gorilla families have been opened for tourists to view in this park. The general topography of this forest is mountainous with five volcanic ranges making its landscape. These include mountain Bisoke, Mountain Gahinga, Mountain Karisimbi, Mountain Muhabura, and Mountain Sabyinyo.
The gorilla trekking was first promoted by an American naturalist Dian Fossey who started her research in this park in 1967 at Karisoke Research Center. Her work brought the plight of mountain gorillas to the world’s knowledge when she and her group carried out a census only to discover about 250 mountain gorillas alive in the world them.
Many conservation bodies in Rwanda and foreign bodies embarked on mountain gorilla conservation but this work needed funding. Gorilla trekking was one of the ways to support this noble cause to save this endangered primate specie.
In 1985, Dian Fossey was brutally murdered by unknown assassins but her remains lie in Volcanoes National park amongst the mountain gorillas to which she dedicated her life.
Highlight of Challenges faced During Gorilla Trekking include
- Hiking to Locate The Mountain Gorillas
- Breaking the rules of gorilla trekking
- Contracting a communicable disease like Covid-19 during or before gorilla trekking
- Being Under age before gorilla trekking
- Staying far from the gorilla trekking area
- Failing to complete payment for a gorilla permit
- Unknown gorilla locating time
- Failing to Get a gorilla trekking permit
- Not showing up for gorilla trekking
- Missing briefing before gorilla trekking
Hiking to Locate The Mountain Gorillas
The way to locate mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda has a volcanic topography. Sometimes you need to hike in order to locate the mountain gorillas. During the severe rainy seasons, they normally move to the highland areas away from the soft and muddy ground level.
We advise our clients to do some simple exercises in order to stretch their muscles a little more just in case the mountain gorillas are in deeper ends of the forest. You do not need to keep in the gym all the time but do some home exercises that can stretch your muscles a little more.
Carrying the right safari shoes that can withstand slippery slopes and boggy surfaces without causing harm to your feet is an advantage.
Breaking the rules of gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking has rules that govern its operations but you must follow them well in order to succeed. You have to book your gorilla trekking permit in advance to avoid last-minute panic in acquiring one.
Avoid making noise in the forest when with the mountain gorillas because they may go into hiding and rekindling them to allow tourists to view them is futile.
You must follow all the rules of gorilla trekking in order not to be disqualified from gorilla trekking or cause the mountain gorillas to feel agitated.
Contracting a communicable disease like Covid-19 during or before gorilla trekking
No one is allowed to view mountain gorillas with a communicable infection. When you contract it before gorilla trekking, you need to prove that you are free of it with a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before your arrival to do gorilla trekking.
Wearing a mask is compulsory when you meet the gorillas during gorilla trekking since the outbreak of Corona Virus.
Even if you have a cough or flu, you are likely not to be allowed to see the mountain gorillas because they are susceptible to human communicable infections. The extent to which the so far conserved mountain gorillas can be killed by a communicable infection may be massive. This is taking back the conservation efforts so far.
Being Under age before gorilla trekking
In case you book an underage person on your gorilla trekking party, they are not allowed to join the rest of the trekkers. The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and above.
This is because of a number of factors that happen in the forest like the first glance at the mountain gorillas may stimulate some adrenaline which is hard to contain by a child below this age.
The nature of the topography where the mountain gorillas live is volcanic which means you may have to hike some ridges and plateaus. This may be hard for a child below the age of 15 years. It is not easy to break the journey and just return back to the lodge if you have moved that fur into the forest
Staying far from the gorilla trekking area
If you do self-gorilla safari booking, you must know the area where your gorilla permit is booked for Uganda. This is because Bwindi impenetrable National park gorilla permits are booked according to the area.
Accommodation to be booked for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park must be closer to where your gorilla permit is booked. Traveling from one area to another to do gorilla trekking takes a long time and may huddle may hinder you from crossing from one area to another. In case you miss the briefing chances are that you may be disqualified from gorilla trekking.
Failing to complete payment for a gorilla permit
The Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board offer chances of paying in installments for your gorilla trekking permit at least 30% as a commitment fee. This is applicable to those who book gorilla permits at least 90 days from the date of trekking.
You need to fully top up your gorilla permit 90 days from the date of gorilla trekking or lose your deposit because the gorilla permit is released back to the list for others to book.
No gorilla trekking permit is booked in Uganda or Rwanda without payment. This is done to reduce the chances of unserious people who would take up the permits and are not really interested in doing gorilla trekking.
Unknown Mountain Gorilla Locating Time
The time of locating the mountain gorillas is not known because they keep meandering in the forest. The time of locating the mountain gorillas is about 2 hours to about three-quarters of the day. Locating them depends on factors like the proximity of their food, the forest conditions like in case of a fight with another family, the death of a family member, and others.
You need to have some patience if you wish to succeed in seeing the mountain gorillas. Based on the above factors, following the ranger guide’s instructions is the best solution. Even focusing on other attractions in the forest other than the mountain gorillas would keep your mind busy and entertained during gorilla trekking.
Failing to Get a gorilla trekking permit
The number of gorilla permits released per day is 8 permits per family yet the gorilla families are limited with Uganda having only 19 so far and Rwanda only 13 gorilla families. These are open for the entire world to book.
The hassle of going through to reserve a gorilla permit in case you are a DIY. For tour operators chances of finding change in the status of gorilla permits after confirming availability.
Last-minute gorilla permit booking is challenging because you also need to know the area where to book accommodation in Uganda. Getting the gorilla trekking permit on the ground on the day of gorilla trekking is risky because you are not sure if there will be a no-show. With such a mess, you need to reserve your gorilla trekking permits at least 6 months in advance latest 90 days before the date of gorilla trekking.
Not showing up for gorilla trekking
If you forget your gorilla trekking date and do not show up for gorilla trekking, you are compensated. The gorilla trekking permit is only valid up to the date when it is scheduled unless you get a chance of rescheduling it for another date.
When you reserve a certain date for gorilla trekking, all preparation for that day is made including you. So in case you do not show up, expect no refund according to the Authority guidelines.
In case you hope not to do gorilla trekking on a certain date and you report in advance with accompanying evidence, you may be compensated according to the gorilla permit refund terms and conditions.
Missing briefing before gorilla trekking
In case you oversleep and miss a briefing without informing your lodge to give you a wake-up call, you may be disqualified from gorilla trekking even if you have a permit.
The briefing is a very important step before gorilla trekking because it prepares you to meet the mountain gorillas. Even if rules and conditions about gorilla trekking are on brochures and the internet, they are not described in detail.
What To Pack For Gorilla Trekking in Uganda And Rwanda
- Safari boots to wear when in the wilderness. They must be fully covered.
- A camera to record and take photos for memories.
- Safari hat to wear and keep away dripping water off the tree trunks.
- Snacks to munch on when hungry and reenergize.
- Garden gloves for protecting your palms
- Pajamas to wear at the night.
- Foldable water bottle to carry water with in case you wish to quench your thirst.
- Insect repellant to keep away stinging insects in the wilderness.
- First Aid kit
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