When Booking Gorilla Habituation Safaris and Permits, Avoid These Common Mistakes
The gorilla habituation safari activity of walking a few meters from a wild mountain gorillas is one of the few exclusive experiences you can have in Africa, and it’s exclusive to Uganda. When fortunate, one book a permit to join the controlled number of trekkers on a day excursion into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda and spend four breathtaking hours with a semi-habituated gorilla family. Not everyone can navigate the logistical process, but everyone can join the activity if they manage to book a habituation permit.
However, booking gorilla habituation safaris and permits shouldn’t be a hustle for any traveler if they avoid the common mistakes we explain in this post.
Don’t wait until the last minute to book your gorilla habituation permits.
Gorilla habituation is exceptionally exclusive, not like other safari experiences which you can join by impulse. Only four people can join each excursion group, and only two groups are available in one of the four sectors around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Availability can be a hustle for even local tour operators.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are the only one interested in the activity. Hundreds are eyeing the experience, especially during the peak season when Uganda receives the highest number of travelers.
Many travelers book months in advance to avoid the permit stampede of the high season. Book yours at least four to six, or even a year in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Don’t book with a random tour operator.
Booking with a random tour operator is a common mistake with first-time visitors to Uganda that leads to uninvited frustration when the operator doesn’t deliver. Fortunately, you are reading this post and won’t make the same mistake.
Uganda Wildlife Authority allows anyone to walk into their office in Kampala and purchase a gorilla habituation permit or book the permit through a licensed local operator. If you can book it yourself, verify the operator with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) before you send a random company your money.
We wrote a great post about how you can find the right tour operator for your safari in Uganda; we recommend you read it. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we are fully licensed and highly recommended to book gorilla habituation permits on your behalf.
The Gorilla habituation experience is not like gorilla trekking.
The gorilla habituation experience differs from the typical gorilla trekking in many distinctive ways that you shouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating the challenge.
Firstly, you will be trekking a group of wild mountain gorillas somehow not used to human guests. That means they will be trying to avoid your presence, and they will be very watchful of whatever you do. Any unusual behavior from you could tick them off, so your vigilance during the experience is highly expected. During the typical trek, the gorilla family is calmer and welcoming to your presence.
Secondly, the habituation rangers allow you to spend more time (4 hours) with the gorillas. That could be because habituation involves many inconveniences like keeping up with the primates’ movements. The typical trekking experience allows only one hour with the fully habituated gorilla group.
Thirdly, the habituation experience is utterly strenuous and not for the faint-hearted. You’ll navigate steep and uneven slopes, thick vegetations, and sometimes, under downpours to get to gorillas in the early misty morning hours. Given, it’s somehow a similar experience to get to the fully habituated gorilla family. However, you don’t have to move around so much with the typical gorilla trek.
So, don’t over estimate your physical ability to join the gorilla habituation experience because you managed to pull off the gorilla trekking activity. Prepare your body by exercising just after you book your gorilla habituation safari and before you come to avoid this common mistake.
If traveling by air, don’t book the wrong flight.
The mistake of booking the wrong domestic flight is common with self-planners, and it isn’t comforting to reverse at the last minute. Avoid the common error by booking with a tour operator that understands domestic flights.
There are two airports outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and one is near the northern sector of Bwindi, Kihihi Airport. Using this one, you will have to endure almost seven hours of driving on unpaved roads to reach the Rushaga Sector in the south. The most recommended one is Kisoro Airport, about a 2-hour drive to Rushaga; use that one.
If you don’t fly between Entebbe and Bwindi, you have to drive the 10-hour distance, which is quite a road trip experience for many travelers. Southwestern Uganda’s landscape views are an unraveled site to behold.
The road drive could take two routes: the direct route from Entebbe through Mbarara to Kabale, and before you get to Kisoro, turn to Rushaga on a dirt road. The other way is when you visit Kibale for the chimps and Queen Elizabeth National Park for the tree-climbing lions and connect to Bwindi for the gorilla habituation experience. Your tour operator should advise you accordingly.
Don’t book a safari lodge far from the trekking activity.
Booking a safari lodge far from the gorilla habituation activity will definitely break your entire journey; don’t make that common mistake. The activity starts at 6:00 am, and if you don’t make it in time for the briefing, you forfeit your chance. The 1500-dollar permit is non-refundable, and imagine losing all that cash to a stupid mistake.
There are three places where you can book your accommodation for the experience and be there on time for the briefing; Nkuringo Sector, about an hour’s drive away from the starting point; Lake Mutanda, also an hour’s drive away, and the closest is around Rushaga.
Nkuringo has the more luxurious accommodation options, Lake Mutanda has the middle-range options, and you’ll find the budget options around Rushaga near the starting point.
Don’t book other safari activities before you book the habituation permit.
Due to the exclusivity of the gorilla habituation safaris, the availability of permits may prove challenging when planning your trip. So don’t book optional activities to include on your journey before you book the permits to avoid replanning the entire holiday dates.
Ask your operator to give you verifiable proof of permit reservation (which may require full payment), and then plan your other activities and flights.
Forgetting to ask for the gorilla habituation rules is not an excuse for mistakes.
Mistakes made because of not knowing the general rules and regulations of gorilla habituation can lead to unwelcome and dangerous outcomes. Mountain gorillas wild beasts and you will be visiting them in their natural habitat, where they are free to behave like wild animals. There are regulations to avoid any conflict between man and beast; ensure you have them at your fingertips before you accept the challenge.
Your tour operator can help you with the rules before you come for the safari, but you can also get the regulations during the early morning briefing at the starting point.
In summary, don’t come too near the gorillas; stay at least 32 feet away when you find them. Follow the dedicated guidance from your expert guide, and if you don’t know what you should do, ask them anything. Travel light and dress for trekking in harsh, wet, and wild environments. Don’t shove your camera into the gorilla’s face; turn off flash photography. Keep your voices very low; don’t eat or shit near the gorillas and wear your facemask and hand gloves during the experience.
Don’t go without a porter and walking sticks.
Going without a local porter is a colossal mistake most travelers think can pull off. As we mentioned earlier, the gorilla habituation experience is hugely tasking, and the terrain does not make it any simpler. The local porter will carry your backpack and your jacket when you get a hot water bottle and give you a push or pull when you encounter a steep climb.
Take a local porter for this experience and save yourself the hard trouble. Besides, the $20 you pay for a porter supports an entire family for a month; it’s an excellent way to support the local communities around gorillas.
Book your gorilla habituation safari and permit with us
We share this information because we care so much about you having an incredible journey in Africa that you can live to share with other generations. For that, we think we’re your best pick for booking gorilla habituation safaris and permits in Uganda.
Encounter Africa Safaris Ltd is licensed by AUTO and recognized by UWA to operate safaris in Uganda. Please send us an email at email@example.com for a free quotation from our safari consultants in the shortest time.