Mountain Gorillas And Eco Tourism
Mountain gorillas are some of the remaining survivors of the ice age period living in the Virunga area. They are residents of Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park, in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park and D.R.Congo in Virunga National Park. They live in natural forests that have survived for more than 25000 years creating a wide space for the mountain gorillas to walk through tangled vegetation. This vegetation has accumulated a lengthy list of species overtime.
The mountain gorillas were at the verge of extinction by 1980s totaling to about 250 mountain gorillas in the world as per the census conducted then and research done by the Dian Fossey team. There dwindling numbers were attributed to attacks from humans and amongst themselves.
To save the mountain gorillas, humans had to be brought closer in order to create harmony between humans and the mountain gorillas. Through habituation, the animosity of the gorillas and human has slowly reduced. A number of gorilla families have got familiarized with the presence of humans without altering there natural behavior. The gorilla habituation process has given birth to a number of families opened for gorilla trekking.
In Rwanda, so far 13 gorilla families are open for tourism. Some of them include Group 13, Hirwa family, Amahoro family, Susa family, Sabyinyo family, Kwitonda family, Karisimbi, Umbano family and many more.
Uganda as of today has about 19 gorilla families open for tourists viewing that is Bweza family, Habinyanja family, Mubare Family, Nkuringo Family, Orizogo Family, Busingye family, Nyakagezi family to mention but a few.
D.R.Congo so far has 6 opened gorilla trekking families that is Kabirizi gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, Munyaga gorilla family, Humba gorilla family, Mapuwa gorilla family and Lulengo gorilla family. The political insurgency of this area of D.R.congo makes it is hard to expand the number of gorilla families ready for gorilla trekking.
The ecosystems of this Virunga area make it a favorite destination in Africa for nature lovers. Its environment attracts a number of species ranging from plants, animals and birds that find safe haven daily in this forest area. This forest has the full meaning of nature balance.
Where To Find Mountain gorillas In Africa
In Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable National park
This thick forested park lies in Southwestern uganda. The world Bwindi locally means impenetrable and indeed this is enough explanation for the forest. Bwindi Impenetrable National park was first gazette in 1942 then promoted to national Part status in 1992 later recognized as world heritage site in 1994.
Bwindi forest is habitat to great numbers of fauna and flora inclusive of about10 primate species including mountain gorillas, over 200 natural tree species, 51 reptile species, close to 110 other mammals, 310 butterfly species and more than 350 bird species.
In Uganda Mgahinga National park
Mgahinga National park is located in the fur South Western corner of Uganda. It is one of the virgin smallest national Parks in the country but a great destination for authentic nature lovers.
This scenic national Park has three spectacular Virunga ranges where mountain gorillas spend most of the time. These include Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabyinyo and Mountin Gahinga. The slopes of the highlands in the park are covered in bands of altitudinal vegetation providing home to variety of fauna and flora. In this park only one gorilla family has so far been habituated for gorilla trekking that is Nyakagezi family.
More attractions in this Mgahinga National Park include about 115 bird species so far recorded. Although the park has attracted little a tension from ornithologists, it boots a great array of birds too including those on the red list of IUCN. The park is a habitat to 39 mammal species like elephants, leopards, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, warthogs and others.
In Rwanda Volcanoes National park
This park is located the North western part of Rwanda occupying an area of about 160 square km. In Rwanda the park cuts across 4 districts that is Burera, Musaze, Rubavu and Nyabihu. It is one of the oldest gazette parks in Africa and it was recognized as a conservation area in 1925 .
When civil wars broke out in Rwanda especially the genocide of 1994, the activities in the park were put to a standstill until 1999 when gorilla trekking resume.
Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, a plethora of birds, black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons and others. Check Details About Volcanoes National Park
In D.R.Congo Virunga National park
The Virunga National Park lies on the eastern side of D.R.Congo. it covers an area od approximately 7800 square kilometers. In 1925, this park was gazette by King Albert of Belgium in order to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas.
So far only 6 gorilla families have been habituated for gorilla trekking. This is because of the unpredictable political unrest in this area since 2013.
It is home to a number of other primates like Chimpanzees, golden monkeys, Dent’s Mona monkeys, Hanlyn’s monkeys, De Brazaa’s monkeys, olive baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey, African red colobus and others.
Other wild animals in the Virunga national Park include blue duikers, yellow-backed duikers, aardwolf, elephants, buffaloes, okapi, giant forest hogs and much more.
How To Buy Gorilla Trekking permits
Every tourist must have a gorilla trekking permit from the bodies responsible for selling them. the Uganda gorilla trekking permits are sold at Uganda Wildlife Authority at a current cost of $700 per person per trek. In Rwanda Rwanda Development Board (RDB) sells the gorilla trekking permits at a current price of 1500 per person per trek. D.R.Congo gorilla trekking permits are sold by Institute Congolais Pour La conservation at accost of$450 per person per trek
Checking availability per the date you preferred to do gorilla trekking is the first step to preparing for gorilla trekking. In case it’s a positive response, you need to purchase the permit in advance because they are sold off very fast. They are reserved on first come first served basis.
Securing a gorilla permit is the only way to show commitment to taking part in this activity in Africa. When you buy a gorilla permit, you contribute to the conservation fund for the mountain gorillas. The gorilla permit cost includes park entrance fees, part of ranger guide fee, gorilla fund support and more.
In Uganda the gorilla permits for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are sold per area because of its vast size. In the person, the permits were sold per family and tourists would select one sector the northern part of Bwindi impenetrable national Park. This left other families less visited by tourists which would turn them back to there wild behavior.
It is very taxing re-habituating a gorilla family because more funding is required and time.
When Is The best Time To Book A gorilla Trekking safari In Africa
All year round gorilla trekking is open. You just need to select a date when you prefer doing gorilla trekking and secure a gorilla permit as commitment to your safari.
Although gorilla trekking safari is an all year round activity, the dryer season is most preferred that is June to September and December to January when less rains are expected in this area. The rivers flow according to there course unlike the wet season when water from the rivers over flows creating a soggy ground in the forest.
The wet seasons are normally March to May and November. You just need to pack the right gorilla trekking gears like raincoat, long trousers and shirt, a light waterproof bag and others.
Which country is Best For gorilla Trekking of Uganda and Rwanda
It is the outcome of gorilla trekking that may determine which country is best. Some tourists wish to drive short distances to the national Park.
In Rwanda, the drive from the airport Kigali to Volcanoes National Park is about 3 hours. Even driving from Kigali city to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is about 6 hours. The drive from Entebbe or Kampala city is about 8 to 9 hours on the road to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The cost of gorilla permits for Uganda per person is $700 per day whereas the cost of a Rwanda gorilla permit is $1500 per person per trek.
Rwanda has about 13 gorilla families open for tourist viewing while about 19 gorilla families have been habituated in Uganda.
Despite those differences, the moment when you meet the mountain gorillas takes away all the reasons you have for selecting which country is best for gorilla trekking.
How Difficult Is Gorilla Trekking
The Virunga area is generally mountainous so expect to hike at one point depending on the area where the gorillas are feeding. The area is made-up of ridges, plateaus and others landforms where the gorillas feed especially during severe wet seasons when the ground is water logged.
You may be required to hike to find the mountain gorillas yet the ground may be slippery and covered by dense creepers. The ranger guide uses a machete to create a path for you to find the gorillas where they are.
Which is The age limit For Gorilla Trekking
The age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and above because of the nature of mountain gorillas that look scaring at times at first glance. It is hard for a child below this age to withstand the long hours of trekking to find the mountain gorillas. Even the first glance at the mountain gorillas is sometimes scaring which may force the child to shout.
Mountain gorillas are always frightened by unfamiliar noise in there vicinity which may push them into hiding. Everyone on the gorilla trekking group pays there money to watch the gorillas but if they are scared off by that noise, this may cause bad blood amongst the group members.
The topography of the Virunga area is generally mountainous which may be hard to withstand by a child below this age. Hiking the slopes gets tiring and slippery at times yet the gorillas may be feeding from there. You need to trace them but it may be a challenging attempt to a child below this age.
How Dangerous Is Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is not a dangerous African adventure but you need to pack the right gears to protect you from the jungle conditions. Wearing tracking boots saves you from sharp surfaces like broken sharp wooden pieces. Long trousers and shirt protect you from stinging nettles and insects, safari hat to protect your hair from dripping water off the tree leaves.
Keeping a little fitness before gorilla trekking is one of the advantages you can use to save yourself from muscle pool after a long trek in the jungle. You do not need to be full time in the gym but train your muscles for the gorilla trekking experience. In case you are physically impared, you can hire a stretcher with porters to carry you or hire a sedan chair. These must be arranged in advance.
The mountain gorillas may physically look scaring but are very serene creatures in nature. They have a dark black hairy body with deep brown eyes that are shy when you stare into them.
Being serene primates does not mean provoke the mountain gorillas during gorilla trekking because they have feelings too though have not registered any case of violence on humans. Try to follow the instructions from the ranger guides because he has more information about the gorilla behavior than you do read about. Provoking the mountain gorillas may push them into hiding denying the entire group that precious full hour paid for.
When gorillas rage, they normally hoot, pull plants around, walk on one foot, thump there chests and so much more. The dominant silverback may command the entire family to walk to a different location where you may not be in position to locate them.
As you depart from the gorillas after one hour of watching, do it in silence and respectfully. The mountain gorillas are very sensitive to there surroundings and as a family allow no intruders to just come in so some have spy network of strong black backs.
Contact us for more information about gorillas and eco tourism.