Role of gorilla trackers and advance team during gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla Trackers is the advanced team that follows the mountain gorillas in the wilderness before trekkers can start this adventure. They are composed of trackers and ranger guides who rise earlier than others to patrol where the mountain gorillas may have spent the night or their possible hang-out point for the day.
The gorilla trackers do this daily because gorilla trekking is daily all year round. They report to park authorities about their findings in the forest every day. Sometimes, this is not always accurate information but just a clue that can change depending on the conditions prevailing in the forest, like in the case of a fight between the gorilla trekking family and a wild group and others.
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In Uganda, gorilla trekking is done from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Rwanda has Volcanoes National Park as its gorilla trekking destination. D.R.Congo has Virunga National Park as its gorilla trekking destination. This trio gorilla trekking destination is home to the only living mountain gorillas in the world, and apparently, approximately 1000 mountain gorillas are residents.
Since the Virunga area is vast, with jagged remains of volcanic work draped with tangled vegetation and huge natural trees, some clues about the wayabouts of the mountain gorillas need to be provided upfront, or else tourists may spend the entire day searching.
What do gorilla trackers do during gorilla trekking?
Locate mountain gorilla families.
When the gorilla trackers wake up early, they have to trace where the mountain gorilla families may have spent the night and the possible direction they may be heading. The gorilla trackers follow the direction where the mountain gorillas may have been seen the previous day.
They forward a report about the mountain gorilla families to park management and disseminate it to ranger guides appointed to lead a group of tourists. Each gorilla trekking family is allocated a maximum of 8 tourists per day per trek to minimize the chances of trampling on the grass on which mountain gorillas feed.
The ranger guides use the trailhead towards where the mountain gorillas may be expected to spend the day or lounging.
Patrol the gorilla habitats.
To establish the security conditions prevailing in the forest, the gorilla trackers help to monitor how safe the gorilla habitat could be. In case they notice something odd, they offset snares and offer a report to the team at the ranger station.
Although security conditions may change, they try to be as keen as possible because the safety of the mountain gorillas and tourists is paramount.
Gorilla Trackers Keep in constant communication with the ranger guides during gorilla trekking.
As the rangers escort tourists to start following the mountain gorillas, they keep communicating with the advance team on radio calls. This helps trekkers, and ranger guides only to move aimlessly once they hit a dead end. Through this communication, the gorilla trackers advise on the possible shortcuts tourists can use to find the mountain gorillas.
The time of finding the mountain gorillas is quite hard to estimate because mountain gorillas are mobile primates living freely in the wilderness.
Sometimes, you may locate the mountain gorillas within two hours after starting the trek, while others may spend about three-quarters of the day searching. The mountain gorillas move according to prevailing conditions in the wilderness in case of a fight, death of a family member, proximity of feeding area, and others.
Some patience is necessary to find mountain gorillas. Still, you can also have an open mind and focus on other exciting features in the forest, like other primates, birds, highlands, and others.
Keep Mountain Gorilla Used To Human Presence
Sometimes, during the low season, some gorilla families may take some time without being visited by tourists. But when this happens, the gorilla trackers must keep visiting the mountain gorillas to get them used to human presence. Mountain gorillas may return to their old wild behavior when humans do not visit them.
The rehabilitation of the mountain gorillas is time-wasting and may require a lot more money. To prevent this, gorilla trackers must regularly visit the fully habituated mountain gorillas.
Who Are Porters During Gorilla Trekking?
A porter is a person who helps you with the gorilla trekking gear while you trek to find the mountain gorillas. Sometimes, the way is tedious for one to have baggage, yet you need to hike as the mountain gorillas sometimes spend part of their day on the slopes of ridges or plateaus or deep in the valley.
After the briefing, hire a porter to help you with the gorilla trekking gear. These are normally local people affiliated to the park management. You hire porters at an affordable fee. Hiring a porter during a gorilla trekking safari is one of the best ways to give back to the local community.
These porters use some funds to support their families with health care, school fees, dressing, and other personal items.
Even when you hire a sedan chair, porters may be part of the package, or you can hire your own to carry you into the wilderness to do gorilla trekking.
Where Can I Book A Gorilla Trekking Permit?
The Uganda Wildlife Authority is the gorilla permit-selling and regulating body in Uganda. Rwanda Development Board is the Rwanda gorilla permit selling and regulating body.
You can go through an accredited tour operator like Encounter Africa Safari to book the gorilla permit on your behalf for both Rwanda and Uganda. With your input, we can also tailor an itinerary to suit your needs and budget. We have over 10 years of organizing safaris to Uganda and Rwanda. This experience has fetched us great reviews on forums like Trip Advisor, Safari Bookings, and others.
When Is The Best Time To Book A Gorilla Permit?
Booking a gorilla permit is best for at least 6 months to a year upfront; however, you can also try a three-month trekking date. Mountain gorilla permits sell out fast, especially for the peak season in June, July, August, September, December, And January.
Each day, only a maximum of 8 gorilla permits are allowed to be booked for each gorilla family. This is because crowds overwhelm mountain gorillas, and if you surround them, they may feel ambushed, get agitated, and then retreat into hiding.
Chances of finding last-minute gorilla permits are more open in the low seasons when fewer people are booking. The low season runs typically in March, April, May, and November.
During the high season, even getting gorilla permits on resale is rare. For gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you need to note the area where your gorilla permit is booked before securing accommodation to use during gorilla safari.
Can I Purchase The Gorilla Permit In Instalment?
Uganda and Rwanda accept purchasing gorilla permits in installments, but you must purchase the gorilla permit at least 90 days before the trekking date. You must top up the gorilla permit 90 days before the trekking date. Failure to comply may fetch you a penalty.
You can purchase the gorilla permit for Uganda or Rwanda in installments of 30% and 70%, respectively.
Purchasing your gorilla permit in full is the best approach, as the chances of forgetting to top up are high.
Does Uganda Or Rwanda Allow Gorilla Permit Reschedule?
Anyone who purchases a gorilla permit would like to do gorilla trekking; however, some factors may stop you. You can reschedule the permit if you want to travel for gorilla trekking.
Write to Uganda Wildlife Authority management requesting to reschedule your gorilla permit. State the date to which you wish to move the gorilla permit. Attach evidence with the reason why you cannot travel for gorilla trekking on the pre-booked date if you have any.
Once approved, your gorilla permit is booked per your request based on the prevailing availability status.
Rwanda Development Board charges in case your gorilla permit is to be rescheduled.
Uganda Wildlife Authority offers two free chances to reschedule the same gorilla permit. The executive director is the only one to approve the third time.
Which is the best gorilla trekking destination of Uganda and Rwanda?
No matter where you go, gorilla trekking, the moment when you stand before the mountain gorillas is unmatched. Some tourists say you tend to forget all you might have gone through as you prepare to go gorilla trekking.
The factors you may consider to identify the best gorilla trekking destinations may include:
The cost of gorilla permit
The current cost of a Rwanda gorilla permit is $1500 per person per trek, while the Uganda gorilla permit currently costs $700 per person per trek.
The Time Taken From The Airport Or Capital City To Gorilla Trekking Destinations
It takes about 3 hours from Kigali airport to the Volcanoes National Park. The drive time from Kampala or Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park is about 8 to 9 hours. You can also do Uganda gorilla trekking through Rwanda, a drive that takes about 5 hours to 6 hours.
Number of gorilla families to book
Rwanda currently has 12 gorilla families, and there are 96 gorilla permits per day open for public booking. Uganda presently has 19 gorilla trekking families with 152 gorilla permits open for public booking. In addition, two gorilla families are available for gorilla habituation experience in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Additional activities to combine with gorilla trekking
Uganda has a number of additional activities to connect with gorilla trekking, such as visiting the river Nile, a variety of game parks, white water rafting, and chimpanzee trekking, to mention but a few.
Rwanda, on the other hand, is limited in the choice of what to do with gorilla trekking. Rwanda safari activities include golden monkey trekking, chimpanzee trekking, and genocide memorials, to mention but a few.
Least Number Of Days On Gorilla Safari
The least number of days on Rwanda gorilla safari is two days, while 3 days of gorilla trekking is the least number of days on Uganda safari.
What Are The Rules Of Gorilla Trekking Safari
- No shouting while you trek to find the mountain gorillas because you may scare other forest dwellers that may be interesting to watch or take photos of.
- No feeding the mountain gorillas; if you are eating, do it at least 200 meters from them. This is to prevent any chances of them grabbing it from you, yet they are wild animals that must search for their food.
- Sneezing or coughing before the mountain gorillas may spread infection, so do it away from them.
- Keep a distance of about 8 meters from the mountain gorillas when you locate them to prevent the chances of spreading infectious germs to them.
- Use a clean mask when you are with the mountain gorillas to prevent the coronavirus’s spread to these precious primates.
- Only children aged 15 years and above can do gorilla trekking because of the nature of the entire experience. Hiking to locate the mountain gorillas is challenging at times, which may be challenging for children below this age. Even the time of locating the mountain gorillas is still being determined, which requires patience. A child below this age may not withstand this.
- Dumping in the forest is forbidden, which may alter the nature of the forest where the mountain gorillas live.
- Only enter the forest with an escorting ranger guide because there are other unhabituated forest inhabitants that you may encounter, and they hurt you.
- Only one hour is allowed with the mountain gorillas when you locate them. They have been habituated to be in the presence of humans for just that time.
- Surrounding the mountain gorillas is forbidden because it makes them feel ambushed.
Contact us for more information if you are interested in gorilla trekking.