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Frequently asked questions about gorilla trekking

Gorilla Trekking FAQs Part 4

More gorilla Trekking FAQs

Frequently asked questions (FAQS) about Gorilla Trekking

Below are some Gorilla Trekking FAQs submitted by Green World Safaris

What time of the year should I travel to see the gorillas?

The gorillas can be visited any time of the year. Be aware that it can rain any day of the year due to the rain forest climate in which the gorillas are located. May and April are the rainiest months, so most people avoid travel during those months.

Do I need to be fit to trek or find the gorillas?

A certain level of fitness is needed, as well as the willingness to hike up the muddy slopes and through the varied vegetation and uneven terrain. The gorillas live in the montane forests, which are at a higher elevation, so the treks to view them are at a higher altitude. Being at higher elevation requires more exertion and fitness than lower level treks.

Am I guaranteed to view the gorillas when I set out?

The gorillas live in their natural habitat and there is no guarantee that you will see them. That said, we have never heard any of the travelers regretting their treks. To help ensure visitors will see the gorillas, trackers set off at dawn to locate the gorilla group. The trackers then radio their GPS coordinates to the park headquarters. This means that when you set off on your trek with the guide, you are headed to where the gorillas are located. The trackers stay with the gorillas, even though they are not moving, until the group arrives. 

What type of clothes should I wear?

A water proof jacket is important because mud and rain can be expected. Long trousers are recommended, as well as a T-shirt underneath a long sleeved shirt. These will protect your arms and legs against nettles and other things you might encounter on the trail. It’s also a good idea to bring a water proof day pack to protect your camera and to carry water bottles and snacks. For at a small fee, the porters can be helpful in carrying your items up the steep slopes.

Is there a minimum or maximum age of guests visiting the gorillas?

The minimum age to trek the gorillas is 6 years and older. This rule is the same for both Rwanda and Uganda and is enforced by the national parks. There is no upper age limit.

Do I need a gorilla permit?

You must obtain a gorilla permit in order to visit the gorillas and this must be obtained 4 months prior to your visit. The permits currently cost $600 in Uganda, $1500 in Rwanda and $ 450 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That price is per person. The money for the permits goes directly towards conservation of the gorillas, anti-poaching efforts and education of the local communities. Permits are limited to 8 visitors per group per day, so be sure you plan in advance.

Will this be covered by my travel insurance?

You may need to pay an additional premium to cover your gorilla trekking. Please check with your travel insurance.

Can you track the gorillas when feeling unwell?

This is a big no, the gorilla are vulnerable to human diseases and something that is small to us can be dangerous to them. You need to take care of yourself before the safari and avoid getting sick. You also need to warn your guide if you aren’t feeling well.

How big are gorilla tracking groups?

There is a maximum of 8 people per group in Uganda or Rwanda.

How far is my lodge to the park headquarters?

You will be located within easy access to the park headquarters, but the distance will depend on which accommodation you chose. Check with your lodge to find out exactly how far it is from park headquarters. The distance to the headquarters is usually within a 1-60 minute walk.

How much time can I spend with the gorillas?

Once you have sighted the gorillas, you will be given one hour to spend with them. We recommend that you track them at least twice. This means that the second time you track them, you can ignore taking photos and concentrate on enjoying the experience.

If you have more questions, please contact Green World Safaris at info@greenworldsafaris.com.

This is part 4 in a series about mountain gorilla trekking. See part 1 about mountain gorilla trekking, part 2 about mountain gorilla safari, and Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Permits Part 3.

This series of blogs was submitted by Green World Safaris. They arrange mountain gorilla tours in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They are based out of Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Permits

Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Permits Part 3

Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Permits

Reasons for trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking regulations and permits in Uganda.  The “Pearl of Africa” is a very scenic country with lush landscapes, flowing rivers, and lots of wildlife. The lakes and mountains of Uganda are covered with dense rain forest. Friendly people and a safe country to travel in make Uganda another good choice. Uganda also has the best game viewing, chimpanzee trekking, cultural and heritage exchange, and of course, mountain gorilla trekking. Uganda’s main tourist attraction is the mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National park. This African country is also home to many chimpanzees. The chimps are found in Kibale National park, which makes it a great tourist destination as well.

Tourists have been gorilla trekking in Uganda since early 90’s and is well established. The gorilla population is stable and growing  because of the effective management of Bwindi Forest National Park and the conservation efforts. The National Park provides walking trails, beautiful views, bird watching and waterfalls. Tourists can also visit the local villages, like Buhoma, in order to get a taste of life in rural areas of Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Permits

Regulations for mountain gorilla trekking

Mountain gorilla trekking regulations are in place to ensure the well being of the endangered mountain gorillas. Regulations are in place to limit the number of people allowed in daily, the amount of time tourists can spend with the gorillas, and the maximum group size. Mountain gorillas are vulnerable to many human diseases and the regulations help with this as well.

Tourists can visit with the mountain gorillas are from 8:00 am to 7:00pm.

A maximum of eight people per day are allowed to visit the mountain gorillas. This reduces the exposure of the primates to disturbances and diseases caused by humans.

Tourists are only allowed to spend 1 hour with the primates.

Tourists must be at least 15 or 16 years old to be able to visit the gorillas.

Rules of gorilla trekking for the protection of the mountain gorillas

Any person who is sick, not feeling well or has an infectious disease will be advised to stay at the lodge so that the gorillas are not exposed.`

If anyone has to cough or sneeze when they are near the gorillas, they need to cover their nose and mouth and turn their head away from the gorillas. This minimizes the chances of the mountain gorillas being exposed to human viruses or bacteria.

Tourists must stay 5-7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. Again, this minimizes the exposure to human illness. If people keep their distance, the gorilla group will be more relaxed.

Visitors must keep their voices low up to a distance of 200 meters from the gorillas and not point or use a flash when using a camera.

Smoking, eating or drinking is not allowed near the mountain gorillas.

Visitors are asked to wash their hands before going on the trek. Again, helping keep the gorillas from exposure to diseases.

People are not allowed to touch the gorillas, even when they come close.

Visitors must carry all trash out. Trash can harbor diseases or other contaminators.

Tips for mountain gorilla trekking

Trekkers are advised to wear long pants, socks, long sleeved shirts, and gloves. These clothing items will keep people safe from bugs, as well as stinging nettle and thorny branches.

Being physically fit is a must because the hike goes through rough terrain and therefore is challenging and tiring.

Hikers should remember to bring enough water, water proof bags for cameras, insect repellent, sun screen and a hat.

People are advised to book an organized trip through a reputable tour company. Tour companies can get permits to visit the mountain gorillas before visitors arrive.

Tourists should try to avoid trekking in the rainy season when the hiking is difficult.

How to buy the gorilla trekking permits

Mountain gorilla trekking permits should be purchased at least 5 months before the planned trek, preferably through a tour operator.  This is especially true during the high season of June to September and December to February, when many travelers want permits. There are a limited number of permits available.

 The price of gorilla permits in Uganda

The gorilla permit price varies between the high season and the low season. High season permits cost $600. Low season permits, in April, May, and November are $450.

How and where to get gorilla trekking permits if not going through a tour company

Visitors can purchase permits for mountain gorilla trekking with cash or traveler checks at Uganda Wildlife Authority. Tourists can go to their central offices in Kampala or purchase permits from abroad. During high season advanced booking is recommended. During low season, visitors can get permits on the spot at Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters.

Buying mountain gorilla permits online

People wishing to trek can purchase permits online  using EEF (a form of money transfer). Credit cards do not work. Permits can be purchased 2 years in advance by depositing 30% and paying the balance 91 days before the gorilla encounter. Local operators are given priority with 80% of the permits, leaving only 20% for people to buy directly. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is in charge of the permits but authorized tour companies are the easiest way to get a permit. Reputable tour companies do not mark up the price of the permits, so there’s no reason not to go directly to them.

Mountain gorilla permits in Rwanda

Visitors can obtain mountain gorilla permits through the Tourism Board offices in Kigali or Ruhengeri, near Volcanoes National Park. Tourists can also contact the Tourism Board via telephone or email. The permit costs $1,500 and is easiest to obtain from a tour operator. Trekkers are advised to book early. During peak tourist season, from June to October, it is advised that permits be purchased at least 4 months prior to the planned trip.

Gorilla permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Anyone planning to trek in the DRC is advised to book with a tour company. The DRC is more stable now, but the tour companies will help insure your safety. Permits cost $400.

When to go mountain gorilla trekking

Trekkers can go gorilla tracking at any time of the year, but during the rainy season the paths are much harder to navigate. The rainy season goes from March to May and October to November. Permits in Uganda during the rainy season only cost $450. The dry season, December to late February and June to late September, makes for easier hiking but more tourists.

This is part 3 in a series about mountain gorilla trekking. See part 1 about mountain gorilla trekking, see part 2 about mountain gorilla safari.

This series of blogs was submitted by Green World Safaris. They arrange mountain gorilla tours in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They are based out of Uganda.

 

Mountain Gorilla Safari

Mountain Gorilla Safari in Africa’s Rain Forests Part 2

Mountain gorilla safari in Africa part 2

Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Which is the best destination for gorilla trekking?

Mountain gorilla safari in Africa can be difficult because the exact location of the mountain gorillas keeps shifting. The primates keep moving between the forests of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. Tour operators select which tour based on the location of the gorilla population at the time of the safari. Tourists may find themselves trekking gorillas in either Uganda or Rwanda. Tour operators make the choice.

Primates keep moving within the parks. This causes mountain gorilla trekking to be a little tricky.

Mountain Gorilla Safari Family Group

Mountain Gorilla Safari Family Group

Price differences in mountain gorilla safari

The disadvantage of choosing Rwanda is that its gorilla permit costs $1500 per person. Uganda only charges $600 for the permit. And in terms of costs, different tours in Rwanda and Uganda can be competitive. So one can find deals in either of the countries. Even though tourists may be able to get a better deal in Uganda on gorilla permits, they may find a less expensive operator out of Rwanda. One advantage of trekking in Rwanda is that the park is located near the Airport.

The gorilla permits in Uganda and options of seeing other wildlife

The main advantage of trekking in Uganda is the cheaper gorilla permit and the ability to mix gorilla trekking with other wildlife tours. Tourists can combine a gorilla trekking safari with other options. Such as Lake Bunyonyi, which is also close to Bwindi Park game viewing in Queen Elizabeth. As well as Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National park, or bird viewing in Semliki. Included is mountain hiking on the Rwenzori Mountains and wildlife viewing in Murchison falls National Park.

The Distance in Driving and accessing the mountain gorillas

Travelers will find that Bwindi Forest National Park is not close to Entebbe International Airport, and this adds more expenses while traveling to the National Park in Uganda. Though the drive is long, it’s also scenic and gives good insights into the rural areas. The short drive in Rwanda is not as scenic as that of Uganda. For tourists who find the drive too long, then flying from Entebbe to Bwindi, and landing in the nearby towns of Kihihi and Kisoro is the best way to go. Aero link has the most affordable rates for domestic flights.

How to get to the mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas are found deep within the forest in Uganda. The gorillas live in groups of about 10 to 20 individuals, with one silverback. Tourists trekking in Bwindi Park will find it more challenging as the mountain gorillas are not close to the entrance to the Park. Trekkers have to hike up a steep slope out of the forests to get back to their lodges or hotels. Eco tourists will find Rwanda‘s gorillas are close to the park entrance, which means shorter hikes. However, in Rwanda, trekkers can’t request a certain gorilla group to track, plus the group might shift inside the forest.

The political considerations as to which country to go to

Political stability is vital when deciding where to go gorilla trekking. This includes the local political conditions in the three countries and the availability of the gorilla permits.

Uganda is a stable and safe country after rebuilding itself after many years of conflict and unrest, especially in northern Uganda. Also traveling in southern part of the country is safe. Uganda as a whole is a peaceful country.

Rwanda is also politically stable, after recovering from the genocide that took place in the early 1990s. The Volcanoes National park is safe and well managed by Rwanda Development Board. Its gorilla permits are functional and effective.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the civil wars and conflicts are still a problem. Tourists need to check safety conditions before visiting this country. Militant groups and the army are still fighting in the Virunga area, where the mountain gorillas are located. Poachers are also a big threat to the gorilla population, as well as the poverty of the people near the National park. This all leads to habitat destruction. Many advisory organizations consider this area too volatile for travelers and therefore recommend tourists avoid touring the DRC. Tourists need to check traveler’s warnings or check with local tour companies, who will have a good idea how safe it is. The DRC is considered safer than it has been in a long time, but caution is still needed.

How does a typical gorilla safari work

Finding and getting to the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is not easy as people think, nor are the trekkers guaranteed to see them. The trek looking for mountain gorillas will take trekkers through very dense vegetation, and along the narrow trails with muddy, as well as steep slopes. Searching for the primates can take many hours since the mountain gorillas keep moving around in the thick undergrowth that shifts deep into the forest. Once the gorillas are found, they are wonderful to visitors since they are used to the human presence.

Beginning the gorilla safari

Tracking the mountain gorillas starts early in the morning. First driving to the boundary of the park for the general formalities, then proceeding to the ranger’s station. The safari cars are left behind at the ranger station and tourists walk from there. The group follows instructions of the local ranger through farmland and into the thick vegetation of Bwindi Forest National Park.

What to know about your mountain gorilla safari

A group of gorillas is called a whoop. The rangers will tell visitors about the family of the gorillas they are tracking. Rangers will also give visitors the history as well as in depth the knowledge about the mountain gorillas. The game rangers will trek to the site where the gorillas were seen the night before and then trace their movements from there to try to locate the present location of the gorillas. Gorillas are monitored daily which helps rangers track their location, safety and health. Tourists may spend 45 minutes to 8 hours of challenging search in order to find a family group of gorillas in the forest. When travelers finally get close to them, it is advised they remain silent as they observe these gentle giants. Guests will have a clear viewing platform and are invited to use cameras while with the gorillas.

The real gorilla encounter

The magical moments when a tourist is up to 7 meters (7 1/2 yards) close to these gentle apes lasts around an hour. Tourists will see primates as they feed, play, groom, parent and interact with each other. The similarities between the ways the gorillas behave, as well as relate to each other, is amazingly similar to how humans behave and interact. Seeing it up close brings the point home for most tourists.

After the gorilla encounter

Tourists will trek back to the ranger station after the hour spent with the gorillas. Travelers going back to the ranger station will get a chance to stop for the packed lunch and water. Upon reaching the ranger headquarters, the guide will drive tourists back to their lodging.

Differences in each gorilla safari

Gorilla tracking varies with each safari. The adventure might vary depending on local conditions like the weather, as well as movement of the mountain gorillas. Politics and other unexpected situations can also affect a safari.The mountain gorillas are wild animals and even though they are habituated to humans, their behavior can be erratic. The gorillas also have the freedom to move away from the human group, further into the bush. The movements of the mountain gorilla is not restricted, and if they move away, the ranger can’t do anything about it. Visitors should expect the unexpected while knowing that tour guides and rangers are very experienced and know how to handle each situation.

Submitted by Green World Safaris. Contact them to book a tour to go on a mountain gorilla safari. They are based out of Uganda but cover Rwanda as well as the DRC.

See Part 1 here: Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Africa

See Green World Safaris listing on this site here: Wildlife Safari