Guide to Planning a Gorilla Trip for first time travelers to Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda
Travelling for gorilla safaris in Uganda is one of the best tourist experiences one can ever get in a tourist destination mostly the pearl of Africa. A visit to these apes in the jungles of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gives people a lifetime memorable experience. The mountain gorillas are endangered species that can only be found in Bwindi im[enetrable Forest National park of Uganda and the Virunga conservation arae which comprise of Rwabda;s Volcanoes national park, Virunga national park in DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda.
All tourists interested in visiting these rare apes should therefore make early preparations so that they do not miss out on the experience. Below are some of the important things tourists going for gorilla safaris should put into consideration
Choosing A Gorilla Trekking Destination
The pearl of Africa Uganda has two major gorilla destinations that are Bwindi forest national park and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. All these parks are located in southwestern Uganda and can be accessed by both road and air transport. The two national parks are about 530 kilometers from Kampala city that is approximately a 5-6 hours drive. Tourists who alternatively decide to use air transport, charter flights from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield fly to Kisoro airfield and Kihihi airstrip.
Bwindi impenetrable national park has 11 habituated gorilla groups and Mgahinga Gorilla Park has 1 habituated gorilla group. These gorilla groups can be trekked at any time of the year depending on tourists’ preference.
Buying The Gorilla Permit
Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda can be got at Uganda wildlife authority offices in Kampala or bought from a trusted tour operator especially those registered under the Association of Uganda Tour Operator (AUTO)
Gorilla Safari Rules And Regulations
Tourists must listen and follow the guide’s instructions
Only eight tourists a day visit a gorilla group in order to minimize impact. On finding the gorilla group, tourists are given one hour to take photos and observe the gorillas in their natural setting
Flash photography is strictly not allowed when taking photos because it might scare away the gorillas.
A reasonable distance is recommended and must be keep not to make the gorillas feel that they are being intruded.
Choosing A Gorilla Trekking Group
All the gorilla groups in Uganda have their own characteristics that should be considered by tourists before going the tracking safaris. Some groups are very mobile and keep moving from one place to another meaning that tourists going to trek them should be prepared to walk long distances, some have newly born babies, some are very hard to trek because they are shy and therefore keep hiding while others can be accessed just few meters from the park headquarters.
A tourist is therefore free to choose a preferred gorilla group depending on his/her interests, physical abilities and capabilities.
Mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable national park are in four major sectors that include the Buhoma sector in the north of the park with three gorilla groups that include the Rushegura group, Mubare group and Habinyanja group. The Ruhija sector east of the park has the Bitukura group, Oruzogo group and Kyaguriro group. The Rushaga sector in the south has Kahungye group, Nshongi group, Busingye group, Mishaya group and Bweza group and lastly the Nkuringo sector with the Nkuringo group.
Mgahinga national park has one group called Nyakagezi. All tourists therefore have many options they can go for on their gorilla tour to Uganda with no limitation. All those interested in simple and easy tracking gorilla groups should choose the Buhoma and Ruhija groups because other groups maybe difficult to track.
Important to note is that a gorilla trekking group determines where one will have accommodation. Most sectors in the national parks have well-developed standard accommodation facilities.
What To Pack And Wear
The mountain gorillas inhabit in the thick rain forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga parks that have thick and thorny vegetation some of which itch a lot after getting into contact with the human skin therefore tourists on preparing your uganda gorilla safari should include long pants and long sleeved shirts or blouses. Raincoats and trousers are also highly recommended because rainfall in the area is highly unpredicted meaning that it can rain at any time of the day.
Also highly recommended are sunglasses and a good camera to capture the moment.
Tourists who feel they are weak can hire porters to help them carry their baggage and help them while in some steep and muddy areas.
The Gorilla Trekking Process
On this day, all trekkers are expected to wake up very early, have breakfast and then head to the park head quarters for briefing and allocation of gorilla groups. Each gorilla group has several tracking starting points therefore, your guide will lead you to the starting point of the gorilla group you are tracking. You then head to the forests looking for your gorilla group. If you are lucky you can find it even after 20 or 30 minutes while others may take 5 hours of trekking before finding their gorilla groups. This means that you should at least pack some snacks to eat incase the trek takes long. After finding the gorilla groups you are given one hour to interact with the gorillas and then you return to the headquarters where you are given certificates of participation and recognition.
Best Times For Gorilla Safaris In Uganda
Gorillas in Uganda can be tracked at any time of the year however dry seasons are better during the months of June, July, August and September. This is because in the dry season there are less chances of rainfall and the grounds are not always slippery making it easy to move through the steep and hilly areas.
In the wet seasons around April, May and November tracking is also possible and during this time permits are sold at half price that is $3500.