What Tourists Are Told During Gorilla Trekking Briefing In Uganda And Rwanda? Dos And Don’ts
Gorilla trekking may be open to anyone above 15 and beyond, but the gorilla trekking rules bind it. Ranger guides advise tourists at a briefing that the conservation of the mountain gorillas takes precedence in any activity in the Virunga area.
In Uganda, gorilla trekking safaris are held in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Both gorilla safari parks lie in the southwestern part of Uganda. Rwanda gorilla safaris only happen in Volcanoes National Park, located in the country’s northwestern part.
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Briefing before gorilla trekking, whether in Uganda or Rwanda, is a must-attend; failure to attend a briefing for whichever reason without pre-advice may cause you to be disqualified from taking part in gorilla trekking. A lot about mountain gorillas is communicated other than the general information about gorilla trekking you read on different platforms
In Uganda, gorilla briefing happens at the ranger station for each area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, As Mgahinga National Park briefing happens at the Ntebeko visitor center. Gorilla trekking in Uganda starts at 0730 per day.
Briefing before gorilla trekking in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park is at ORTPN. Each day, the gorilla trekking experience may start at 0700 hours.
Tourists are randomly allocated gorilla families later, but the criteria used are based on physical fitness level, age bracket, physical capability, and others.
Brief History About The Birth Of Gorilla Trekking
In the 1980s, the mountain gorilla census carried out by American primatologist Dian Fossey indicated that just 250 mountain gorillas were living in the world. This gave birth to the film “Gorillas in the Mist.” This information brought the plight of the mountain gorillas to the concern of many international and internal conservation bodies.
Gorilla trekking was introduced to reduce animosity between the mountain gorillas and humans. It was also a way to collect funds for supporting mountain gorilla conservation.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda started in the 1990s when gorilla families like Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja, and Nkuringo were opened to public booking. Currently, Uganda has 19 gorilla trekking families and 2 open for gorilla habituation experience.
Rwanda gorilla trekking was withheld by internal conflicts in the country that were crowned with the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which claimed a number of mountain gorillas and their habitat. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park resumed in 2009 and is slowly growing as currently, the country is celebrating 12 gorilla families open for gorilla trekking.
Note that every trekker must adhere to the gorilla trekking rules to locate the mountain gorillas.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
- No entering the forest with a communicable infection like flu, cough, diarrhea, coronavirus, cholera, and others.
Mountain gorillas are highly susceptible to human infections because they have DNA of about 96% to that of humans. The conservation of mountain gorillas has taken a lot of effort and funding that need not be shattered down now. Sustainable mountain gorilla existence in their habitat is the goal of the conservation team.
- Wearing a clean mask is a must before meeting the mountain gorillas.
The Covid-19 pandemic also altered the way mountain gorillas have to be protected. Although protecting them from catching human infections, as a rule, was already present, the need to keep them safe from the coronavirus arose. Every trekkers must wear a clean before getting face to face with the mountain gorillas.
You have to sanitize your shoes before stepping into the forest to reduce the chances of transferring the coronavirus that claimed the lives of many humans to the vulnerable mountain gorillas.
- Never surround the mountain gorillas when you locate them.
Mountain gorillas are very sensitive primates, especially with intruders in their vicinity. Although they may seem not to care about your presence because they keep munching on figs, they operate a spy team.
While with the mountain gorillas, try to keep in a close group so that you do not look like you are about to ambush them. Mountain gorillas are easily agitated, which may cause them to retreat into the deep forest.
- Keep a distance of about 8 meters from the mountain gorillas
To reduce the chances of passing an infection to the mountain gorillas, at least a gap of about 8 meters must be kept upon finding the mountain gorillas. This is to avoid spreading any communicable infection to the fragile mountain gorillas. They are wild animals, too, so they can also pass an infection to humans.
Even when they approach, they stealthily retreat to keep the required distance.
- Provoking or mimicking the mountain gorillas is forbidden
Mountain gorillas have mood swings, too, so never try to provoke them. Try not to mimic them because you may not know what you are communicating. Try not to stare into the eyes of the mountain gorillas because they are shy animals, so when you stare at them, they may dash for the forest, yet you have limited time with them.
- No flash photography during gorilla trekking
Mountain gorillas are easily frightened by unfamiliar occurrences in their environment, and so is flash lighting. Flashlights may overwhelm them and then push the mountain gorillas into hiding.
- When with the mountain gorillas, do not eat or smoke in their presence
Mountain gorillas are wild animals that must fend for their food, so they may be enticed to grab what you are eating. The mountain gorillas are wild, so the forest must be their sole provider and not become human dependent.
- In case you wish to sneeze or cough, do it away from the mountain gorillas in a handkerchief or elbow
To prevent spreading any communicable infection to the mountain gorillas, coughing or sneezing may be inevitable, too; however, you must do it with concern about the mountain gorillas.
- Bury fecal material at least 30 centimeters deep and beyond recognition
If you wish to have a long call, ask the ranger guide to dig a hole for you at least 30 centimeters deep and bury it well beyond recognition. Do not leave any trace that can cause forest dwellers to desire to exhume anything.
- Never litter the forest and all you find on the way. Be kind to remove it from the park.
The forest is the sole provider of the mountain gorillas. They are generally wild animals that depend on the forest to survive. When you dump garbage in the forest, especially indecomposable materials, the nature of the forest where mountain gorillas live is altered over time.
- Spitting in the soil or vegetation during gorilla trekking is forbidden
While trekking to find the mountain gorillas, do not spit on the vegetation or the ground, as this is the hang-out point for the mountain gorillas and other forest dwellers. You may pass infectious germs to the mountain gorillas or other forest dwellers through what you spit on the ground.
This is unhygienic, too, as regular visitors may see it as disgusting to look at.
- Only persons aged 15 and beyond are allowed to do gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is an adventurous encounter where you must walk into the thick forest. A child below this age may not be in a position to withstand the long journey to find the mountain gorillas. Even a glance at the mountain gorillas may cause a child to shout, yet this is forbidden.
- Keep voices low or quiet while searching for the mountain gorillas
The forest where mountain gorillas live is filled with amazing wild animals and birds that you may get to see when you talk at a low tone. Even mountain gorillas are suspicious of intruders in their vicinity, so try to keep your voice low to have the best experience and cause no alarm that can prompt them to go into hiding.
No sudden movements, too, so as not to look suspicious before the mountain gorillas with which you have limited time.
- Only one hour is allowed with the mountain gorillas.
Upon locating the mountain gorillas, you are allowed only one hour in their presence, then leave them to go about their day-to-day activities. For conservation plans, mountain gorillas are habituated to be in human presence for just one hour. They must look for their food in the wild to support their huge bodies through day and night.
An adult male mountain gorilla weights about 200 kilograms (450 lb), while a female mountain gorilla may weigh about half
- Always follow the instructions from the ranger guide
During and departure after gorilla trekking, observe the instructions from your ranger guide. Some of the traits you may see during gorilla trekking may have yet to be talked about during briefing or where on gorilla information sources, but with the rangers in place, they tell you how to go about it. Be very attentive.
How long is gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Locating and returning from gorilla trekking is unpredictable, as finding the mountain gorillas depends on factors prevailing in the forest. Some tourists have located the mountain gorillas in two hours while others have taken more time.
Finding the mountain gorillas may depend on factors like the proximity of their food, the weather conditions prevailing in the forest, the case of a fight with another gorilla group or family members, the pace of the trekkers, and so much more.
Which is the best country for gorilla trekking, Uganda or Rwanda?
The moment you are face to face with the mountain gorillas may make you forget all you might have gone through while searching for these adorable primates. Gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and so the limited differences of where to experience gorilla trekking best include:
The cost of gorilla permit
A Uganda gorilla permit costs $ 70 per person per trek, while a Rwanda gorilla permit currently costs $ 1,500 per person per trek.
The time to drive to gorilla trekking destinations
From Kigali airport, it takes 3 hours to Volcanoes National Park, while Entebbe airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park may take about 8 to 9 hours drive. You can break the journey from Entebbe airport to the gorilla trekking destinations with breaks to do chimpanzee trekking, game drives, birding, visiting the source of the River Nile, and much more.
You can do gorilla trekking in Uganda through Rwanda by using one visa called the East African visa. This is at least two countries in the East African Community. The time you take driving from Kigali through the Cyanika or Gatuna border is about 5 hours to 6 hours into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park.
Number of optional activities to combine with gorilla trekking
Uganda offers a huge number of optional activities to combine with gorilla trekking, including visiting the source of the River Nile, white water rafting, chimpanzee trekking, visiting the River Nile, visiting Ssese island, cultural experience, and much more.
Rwanda is limited to other activities to combine with gorilla trekking, like game drives, chimpanzee trekking, genocide memorial visits, etc.
Number Of Gorilla Families To Book
Uganda has 19 gorilla families, with 152 gorilla permits, while Rwanda has 12 gorilla families, with 96 gorilla permits per day.
Uganda also offers a gorilla habituation experience where you get extra time of 4 hours with the habituated mountain gorillas. Two gorilla families are currently open for this adventure, located in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Accommodation To Book For Gorilla Trekking
Uganda has a number of accommodations to book during gorilla trekking adventures categorized into luxury, mid-range, and budget. Rwanda’s accommodation facilities are still limited since the country is still recovering from the ashes of the 1994 genocide.
While in Bwindi, an impenetrable national park, you must book accommodation according to the area where your permit is booked. This is to avoid having to drive early in the morning to catch up with a briefing in another area.
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