What to Expect from a Gorilla Safari
Traveling to view mountain gorillas has irrefutably become a dream for most if not all the tourists to Africa. Many different people have written and narrated about how gorilla trekking is an amazing experience which brings you close to the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. The most interesting stories and the unforgettable adventures keep the potential gorilla trekkers wondering how the entire safari can be from the start to the end. Mountain gorillas are among Africa’s largest apes, which were at the verge of extinction in the 1980s when conservation was not a priority. We bring you detailed information of what you should expect on a gorilla safari in order to ensure you are well prepared to enjoy the once in life experience.
To start with, the gorilla safaris calls for the tropical rain forests of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC the only habitats for the endangered mountain gorillas in the whole world. There are only four national parks, which you will visit in case you are to see and interact with the gentle giants. With the 880 mountain gorillas surviving in the world, 480 mountain gorillas reside in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national both in southwestern Uganda. In Rwanda, the endangered species live volcanoes national park while Virunga National
In Rwanda, the endangered species live in volcanoes national park while Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo shelters the remaining population of mountain gorillas. The experience in each country is unique in its own way and different from the other.
Carry your gorilla permit; all the trekkers must carry their valid gorilla permit and other related documents for the clarification which is a pass to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda, Rwanda Development Board and the Congolese Institute for Nature conservation in DRC are responsible government bodies to issue these permits. The permits prices vary from country to country with Rwanda selling most expensive permits at $1500 , Rwanda at USD 600 and DRC 450USD. Every traveler who will not carry the permit will be denied an opportunity of trekking. In Uganda, the permit must bear the name of the sector to clarify that a traveler booked a gorilla family in that specific sector.
Wake up early and always attend the briefing; on the day of trekking, all the travelers must leave their lodges /hotels as early as 6:30 am to attend the short briefing at the park headquarters. This briefing is mainly aimed at introducing trekkers to the gorilla trekking rules and regulations for safety of both gorillas and the trekkers. Win in Uganda, the trekkers gather at different headquarters in Bwindi depending on which section of the park they are to trek. It’s in this briefing that travelers are divided into groups of eight who are allocated a gorilla family. The gorilla families are allocated depending on the capacity of the traveler to hike high since gorillas are on continuous move and go up to the higher altitudes. This also means that the weak, elderly and less fit travelers are given near gorilla families to ease and shorten their hiking time.
Hiking in the park; after having the briefing, the travelers start off the actual hike into the jungle in search of the gorillas. Each group of travelers is led an armed ranger and a park guide hiking up and down in search of the allocated gorilla family. It’s not an easy adventure but rather active hiking via slippery muddy grounds with thorny bushes and cold weather inside the dense forests. The hiking time might vary from 30monuites to hours depending on the movement and location of the gorillas but with 99% guarantee to meet the gorillas. Hiking is a chance to encounter other animals such as monkeys, baboons and many bird species, which together make the experience more memorable. All the travelers are reminded to always keep in their groups and follow the rangers since separating from the group can make one get lost in the jungle something dangerous to one’s life.
Hire porters and the hiking sticks; the porters and hiking sticks are not compulsory but are among the key factors for an enjoyable and successful trek. The porters help in carrying traveler’s baggage and provide support were needed in the process of hiking. The hiking sticks will enable easy movement in the steep slopes where hiking becomes hard. The porters and walking sticks are hired from the park headquarters at a fair cost, which is an indirect support of the local communities near the park. The money earned here help in supporting local families and community projects hence am improved standards of living.
Coming face to face with the mountain gorillas; after hiking for which ever length, you will finally meet the gentle giants, relaxed in their families the clock will start ticking in an hour. This is where all the fatigue, panting and sweating due to the hike will disappear into excitement and joy as look into the eyes of a dominant silverback guarding the entire family. The travelers are reminded to take hear, keep calm and see carefully the unique human like characters of each gorilla in the family. The silverback is the head of the family just like a dad in a human home, while adult females nurse their young ones while the juveniles entertain the family keeping it live and enjoyable. A distance of seven meters must be kept away from the gorillas to avoid the spreads of communicable diseases to these critically endangered mountain gorillas. Stand at a distance away from the crowd and take as many photos as you can but in a calm way. The juveniles entertain the family as they climb trees, swing over tree branches and wrestle as they communicate with each other. Incase gorillas’ charge or behave wildly, travelers are reminded to imitate their behaviors by moving on their knees and not running away. Non-flash light cameras are the only ones allowed for photography.
Always dress right for the trek; dressing appropriately for the jungle is essential for a successful gorilla trekking experience. This is not in suits but rather in good light hiking boots for the easy movement in slippery muddy grounds, gardening gloves to grab the buses for support and the rain gear for the unpredictable forest weather. More so the long socks tacked into trousers, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, insect repellent, hat, sun glasses and the water proof bags are very helpful. The traveler with the jungle, interact with them and get to enjoy a memorable gorilla trekking adventure in Africa.