What are the steps taken to see gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda?
Unlike their lowland gorillas counterparts, mountain gorillas can only be seen in their natural habitat. Uganda has half the population of the world’s remaining gorillas, with gorilla trekking carried out in only two places: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park and Volcanoes National Park located in Rwanda.
Most Popular Safaris
Many tourists are interested in seeing Mountain gorillas but do not know the easiest way. The most important and general steps that need to be taken to be able to go on gorilla trekking safaris include:
Conduct extensive research: Research the best gorilla trekking destination between Uganda and Rwanda and find the one that fits your budget and needs. Both countries are preferred destinations for gorilla trekking, but make sure you find out what you need before choosing your destination.
Selection of the gorilla trek destination: when choosing a destination, consider factors such as cost, safety, and accessibility. Each country has several rules and regulations to ensure that the gorillas and their natural habitat are conserved, the steps taken to purchase the permit and select one that fits your budget and preferences.
Research about tour operators: Several local tour companies operate in different countries, and one of the most important aspects of having an enjoyable trek is choosing the best. Conduct extensive research about the company, read positive and negative reviews about the operator, and ensure the governing boards fully register the company.
Gorilla permit purchase: Gorilla permits are needed to access the gorillas, which are always in high demand, especially during the peak season. These can be purchased directly through the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda or the Rwanda Development Board in Rwanda, although you can still purchase through a tour operator.
If you plan on getting a gorilla trekking permit, we advise you to book at least 6 months before your trek date to avoid last-minute panicking and missing out on the exercise.
Plan the trip: the next step after purchasing the gorilla permit and making payments is to start packing and planning your trip. Most tourists plan a 3-day gorilla trekking safari. You need to find out the days you can spend depending on your budget, the type of accommodation, and any other safari activities you wish to engage in. Relay all this information to your tour operators so that they can plan your trip accordingly.
Packing list for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is one of those activities you need to be comfortable with to enjoy the excursion. You need to know what to pack and wear because of the nature of the jungle, and below is a list of the few essential things you need to pack for gorilla trekking.
- Long-sleeved shirts and trousers protect your skin. Avoid jeans because it becomes hard to trek when they soak through.
- Ensure you wear neutral-colored clothes and avoid camouflage since they are connected to the army. Avoid black and blue because blue attracts tsetse flies.
- Wet wipes and biodegrade tissue.
- Waterproof, strong hiking boots
- Gaiters, gardening gloves to protect your hands, and thick socks that trousers can be tucked in.
- Binoculars and camera with extra batteries.
- Water bottle, sunhat, sunscreen, rain jacket, and insect repellent.
- Day backpack.
Getting a gorilla permit
Gorilla permits in Rwanda are issued by the Rwanda Development Board and Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda, both government bodies that help conserve wildlife. Local tour operators, through their governing bodies, always get their gorilla permits and usually include the overall cost of a gorilla safari airing quotation. There are a few things that you need to know about a gorilla permit, and these include the following:
Cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda and Rwanda: The cost of a gorilla permit in Uganda is $70 for East African Citizens (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Suda,n and Burundi), $700 for foreign non-residents, and $600 for foreign residents. On the other hand, Rwanda is more expensive than Uganda, and the gorilla permit cost is $1500 for foreign non-residents and $200 for East African citizens.
Why you need a gorilla permit: Gorilla permits are official documents that grant you access to the gorillas, and without them, no one can get access to the endangered primates. A gorilla permit can only be purchased through RDB and UWA or a local tour company registered and recognized by the board. Avoid purchasing permits from third parties who sell them cheaply because you will be scammed.
Note that a gorilla permit does not cover any other expenses besides entry into the national park to gain access to the gorillas and security during the trekking.
Follow all the rules and requirements of gorilla trekking.
Mountain gorilla trekking is an exciting activity that requires all the participants to be prepared both physically and emotionally, and one way to be prepared is to follow all the rules to protect the endangered gorillas and the trekkers. Note that this is a crucial step in seeing the gorillas because failure to do so means you might not be allowed to trek the primates. We have compiled a list of rules that all tourists should follow if they intend to participate in gorilla trekking because you are conserving their natural habitat by following these rules.
- A maximum of 8 people is allowed to visit a gorilla group per session, and this is to lower the risk of endangering the gorillas and disturbing their daily behavioral patterns.
- All tourists are to keep a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas when observing them. Ensure you only come close to the gorillas if they come close to you. The main reason the distance kept is a must is to ensure that you do not disrupt the relaxed nature of the gorillas by spooking them.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the presence of the Mountain gorillas. Gorillas might be attracted to whatever you are eating, and this is an easy spread of diseases to the already endangered Mountain gorilla species.
- Flash cameras are not allowed when taking photos of the gorillas because the flashlight might scare them off, and make sure that you move as slowly and carefully as possible when taking the photos.
- In cases where a gorilla charges at you (which is rare), make sure that you follow all the guidelines given to you by the tour guides, avoid looking the gorillas straight in the eye, do not run because it will chase you and crouch down slowly to show submission.
- When you get the urge to ease yourself or go poop, get a secluded place in the forest, dig a hole about 30cm deep, use biodegradable tissue or wet wipes, and cover the hole after you are done.
- All 8 groups of tourists get to spend only an hour with the gorillas; however, note that the session can end early if the guides feel that the gorillas are disturbed. And if you are going for the gorilla habituation, you spend four hours with the gorillas.
- If you are sick or feel sick, make sure that you inform the guides and volunteer to stay back and not go for the trek. No one is allowed to participate in gorilla trekking when sick because if one gorilla falls sick, it might wipe out the entire gorilla family.
- Bright colors attract the attention of gorillas, and blue attracts tsetse flies. Avoid camouflage clothes because they are associated with the army, but get some neutral-colored clothes to fit in with the surroundings easily.
What is the age limit for gorilla trekking?
The minimum age limit for gorilla trekking is 12 years, and there is usually no maximum for as long as someone is still fit to trek the gorillas. The age limit was set up to limit the number of people who trek the gorillas per session and also to protect the gorillas because, at the age of 12, someone can follow all the rules set up to conserve the endangered species.
Best time for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking is an all-year-round activity that can be carried out in two different seasons, which are the wet and dry seasons. The best time, however, is during the dry/peak season experienced from June to September and December to February. The gorillas can easily be trekked and spotted during the dry season. After all, the trek routes are easy, unlike the wet season, when they are wet, slippery, and muddy.
Gorilla trekking destinations in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla trekking in Uganda is carried out in two national parks, which are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which has half the world’s gorilla population, and Mgahinga National Park, both located in the southwestern part of Uganda. Uganda has 17 habituated families, 16 in Bwindi and one in Mgahinga.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is only carried out in the Volcanoes National Park, which is found in the Virunga region. If you are looking at VIP and luxury gorilla trekking, Rwanda is the perfect place. A gorilla permit in Rwanda is $1500, and there are several other activities that you can carry out while in the Volcanoes National Park, but make sure that you do not miss out on the Kwita Izina Ceremony, where baby gorillas are officially named with the president of Rwanda in attendance.
How long does gorilla trekking take?
Gorilla trekking takes between one to six hours, depending on how far the gorilla you have been assigned to is on the day of the trek. The time indicated includes the time spent tracking the gorillas. Although some gorilla families can easily be located, others keep moving up and down, making it hard to trace them.
The number of days spent on a gorilla trek are usually 3 days however depending on your budget, you can go for gorilla trekking for more than 3 days.
When booking for a gorilla safari, you are given the option of porters to help you carry the heavy luggage so that you stay energized while trekking and enjoy the activity. The tourists tip porters, and that is how they earn to support their families. There is also an option of Sedan chairs for those who cannot trek, and this comes at an extra cost. You will also have the support of trekking poles to make the trek easier.
How to prepare for a gorilla trek in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla trekking is carried out in a tropical rainforest, and you need more preparation for the hike. The first thing you should consider is being open to everything and not having high expectations because that is the only way to be surprised and enjoy the trek. However, some things you can do to prepare include being in great physical shape, being prepared for any emergencies that might crop up, like falling sick, and many more. Having the right equipment before the start of the Knowing your limit is just in case you get tired. Be bold and talk to your guide about it, and listen to all the rules the guides tell you before the start of the trek.
To know more about the steps and if you are not sure what to do, feel free to contact us so that we can take you through what to do and let us book a gorilla trekking safari in your desired destination.