Minimum age for gorilla trekking in Uganda
The minimum age for gorilla trekking in Uganda is 12 years instead of 15 years. This will be effective in 2024 when new UWA tariffs are out. The good news for everyone planning a gorilla trip to Uganda is that the age limit for gorilla trekking in the country is 12 years, as announced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Following a consultative meeting between the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda tourism stakeholders in Kampala, UWA said that the minimum age or age limit for gorilla trekking in Uganda is 12 years instead of 15 years. This will be incorporated in the 2024 Uganda wildlife tariffs.
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One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to gorilla trekking is, ‘Can I trek with my son or daughter below 15 years of age?’ The answer to this question depends on how old your child is because the age limit for gorilla trekking was set up to protect both the gorillas and trekkers. Suppose you are planning a gorilla trekking safari to Bwindi and Mgahinga. In that case, you should know that the age limit now is 12 years, and everyone below 12 will not be allowed to make a special request or participate in gorilla trekking. The Uganda Wildlife Authority changed the age limit from 15 years to 12 years so that they could include children in the excursion.
Reasons for the minimum age limit in Uganda
The age limit for gorilla trekking was set up for various reasons, but the most important one is to protect the gorillas, which are endangered species. The reasons include the following:
Gorillas are usually calm primates that only become aggressive when provoked, and as we all know, children are unpredictable, which makes it hard for them to be controlled. Children tend to scream, run around, cry, and become aggressive when they do not get their way, and all this can disrupt the gorillas, causing them to become aggressive. The only way to avoid aggressive behavior is by acting in a submissive nature, which children cannot do, and that is why they are restricted.
The other reason children are restricted is that they need to be more mentally and physically prepared for the trek, which might take 1 to 6 hours, depending on how easy the gorillas are to find. Young children need to be physically fit enough to hike due to difficult terrain, which could slow down the trekking process. And since they have yet to learn what they are getting into, they might get too tired to enjoy the presence of gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are easily prone to diseases, and due to the change in weather, children can easily get sick, infecting the gorillas, which might lead to deadly results like wiping out an entire gorilla family.
Adult tourists follow the rules and guidelines to the dot, unlike young children, who are hard to control. The gorilla trekking rules are many, which makes it hard for children to follow all of them, and therefore, to avoid any negative results, the age limit was set.
Because of the above reasons, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, under researchers’ guidance, enforced the age limit in both Mgahinga and Bwindi to protect the primates.
What activities to do if you are below the gorilla trekking minimum age of 12
There are other interesting activities that children below the age of 12 can engage in while the adults engage in gorilla trekking, so do not leave your children behind. You can travel with them and let them enjoy activities organized to fit their age as you enjoy the hike. Some of these activities include cultural visits to the neighboring villages, birding around the hotel, and nature walks, or you can leave them with the hotel staff, who will engage them in indoor games and movies and keep them entertained. Or if not, you can still wait till they are of age and come with them.
Is there a maximum age for gorilla trekking in Uganda?
Although there is a minimum age limit for gorilla trekking, there is no maximum limit for as long as you are fit to participate. There are several options for the elderly who would wish to participate in the trek, and these include using porters to help carry the heavy luggage; porters also help give a hand during trekking, and there is another option, the Sedan chairs, 300 USD each and these are used to carry elders around the national park. It does not matter whether you are advanced in age for as long as you are fit because there are tourists above 80 who participate in the trek on their own without help. So age shouldn’t be the one thing limiting you from enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This is the process by which the Mountain gorillas are trained to get used to the presence of humans in the jungle. Gorilla habituation is only carried out in Bwindi, making it the only place where you can enjoy the exercise. The process takes about two hours before the group is open to the public for trekking, and although these primates are trained, they are still wild animals and should be treated with care by following all the rules set up to protect the gorillas and the trekkers.
Unlike the one hour spent during gorilla trekking, visitors spend four hours with the gorillas, which does not include the time spent tracking them. You will need a permit to participate in gorilla habituation, and it is a little bit more expensive and goes for $1500 per person. The same rules followed during gorilla trekking are the same ones that should be followed with gorilla habituation.
Gorilla permit purchasing in Uganda
A gorilla permit is a legal document issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and valid for only an hour. The cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda is the same for both Bwindi and Mgahinga, and the different categories of tourists pay different prices. The cost of a gorilla permit is as stated below.
East African Citizens……………………….………….250, 000 UGX
Foreign non-residents………………………………..700 USD
Foreign residents……………………………………….600 USD
Over 156 permits are printed per day for gorilla trekking in Bwindi, 8 permits for gorilla habituation that is only carried out in Bwindi, and 8 gorilla permits for Mgahinga. When booking a gorilla permit, and especially if you are doing it in the peak season, we advise that you book at least 6 months before your preferred trek date to get a gorilla permit early enough before they get done.
Gorilla trekking rules and regulations
Rules for gorilla trekking in both Mgahinga and Bwindi protect the endangered mountain gorillas, and these are to be followed by all tourists planning on gorilla trekking in Uganda. These rules will be re-echoed at the briefing before the start of the trek, and they include the following:
- The minimum age limit for trekking is 12 years, and there is no maximum age limit for all those who are fit to join the trekking.
- Tourists are grouped with a maximum of 8 people, and each of these gets strictly an hour with the gorillas after tracking them.
- Keep a distance of about 7 meters between you and the gorillas to avoid attacks and the easy spread of diseases from humans to the disease-prone gorillas. This might wipe out a gorilla family in case one gets sick.
- If you feel sick, inform your guide so you are exempted from the trek or volunteer not to go. This is to protect the gorillas.
- Turn off your flashlight when taking photos as it scares off the gorillas, and avoid putting on sunglasses because when they see their reflection in the glasses, they will become aggressive.
- Avoid putting on brightly colored clothes, especially blue, that attract tsetse flies. Avoid camouflage clothes, but look for neutral clothes that easily blend in with the surrounding areas.
- You are not allowed to smoke, eat, or drink in the presence of the Mountain gorillas.
- When a gorilla approaches you, you need to go into a submissive posture. Do not look the primate straight in the eye, as this might be seen as a sign of a challenge, especially by the Silverback, and do not attempt to run. Crouch down, keep your head low, and wait for the gorilla to turn back.
- If you need to use the toilet, dig a hole of 30cm, use biodegradable tissue or wet wipes and cover the hole properly before continuing with the trekking.
- Please do not litter the national parks, and in cases where you have rubbish with you, you should keep it with you until you find a rubbish can or take it back to the hotel to be disposed of properly.
Packing for a gorilla trek in Uganda
The right gorilla trekking packing list will make a big difference in whether you enjoy your gorilla safari. You should pack light. However, some of the things that you should not miss out on your list include the following:
Neutral-colored clothes to blend in with the forest. Pack long-sleeved shirts and trousers to protect your body from insect bites and scratches (be sure to avoid jeans).
Gaiters, garden gloves to protect your hands from blisters and scratches, thick socks where you can easily tuck in your trousers, and a warm sweater.
Rain jacket, strong hike waterproof boots, waterproof day backpack, a water bottle, snacks, wet wipes, insect repellent, a sunhat, sunscreen, and toilet paper.
Camera, binoculars, and extra batteries.
Where to see gorillas in Uganda
Gorillas are primarily seen in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in the Southwest of Uganda next to Mgahinga National Park, the other destination for gorilla trekking. Bwindi has half the population of gorillas in the world, making it the best destination for the trek. The National Park is divided into four sections: the Rushaga, Nkuringo, Buhoma, and Ruhija. The chances of seeing gorillas in Bwindi are high, with 16 habituated families open to the public for trekking.
Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s second destination for gorilla trekking and has one habituated gorilla family open for trekking to the public. Sometimes, the family in Mgahinga migrates, although recently, it has settled in the park and can easily be trekked.
When to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda
Uganda has two seasons, wet and dry, and gorilla trekking can be carried out in both Mgahinga and Bwindi. The dry season from June to September and December to February is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda. The wet season experienced from October to November and March to May, with April being the wettest month, is a harder time to trek with the muddy and slippery trek routes. You can still go trekking during this period if you do not mind the weather, and it is the best time to trek gorillas if you are traveling on a budget.
When planning a gorilla trekking safari, you need to consider your budget; the next step is finding the right accommodation after purchasing the permit. There are three categories of accommodation: budget-friendly, mid-range, and luxury. These can be found within the national parks or around, and your tour operator will help you choose your budget and preference.
Uganda is considered the best gorilla trekking destination in the world, with the highest number of gorillas. Booking a gorilla safari is stiff competition because of the high demand for gorilla permits. We are here to come and help with the process of procuring a permit for you and organizing your entire trip. All you have to do is get in touch with us, give us your details of your preferred travel dates, and confirm payment. At the same time, we can plan both a gorilla trekking safari and wildlife safaris to other destinations in the country where you can enjoy activities like game viewing, birding, chimpanzee trekking, and watching the big and boat cruises among others.
For more details about the gorilla trekking minimum age and all changes due in 2024, do not hesitate to contact us.