For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to Bwindi national and Mgahinga national Parks in Uganda for gorilla trekking is a big highlight for any visitor to Africa.
A gorilla safari in Uganda is one of the best wildlife experiences in the pearl of Africa. A visit to these apes in the jungles of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga offers a lifetime memorable experience. The mountain gorillas are endangered species that can only be found in Bwindi impenetrable Forest National park and the Virunga Conservation Area which comprises of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park in DR Congo 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 Bwindi impenetrable and the Mgahinga Forest National Parks are part of the Virunga Conservation Area in the south-western Uganda characterised by spectacular volcanic peaks that comprise of Muhabura, Sabinyo and Gahinga.
– 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 are permitted to visit a gorilla family per day. 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 kept 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 a 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 unpredictable. Also highly recommended are sunglasses and a good camera to capture the moment. Feeble and exhausted tourists are free to hire porters to help them carry their baggage and support 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 headquarters for briefing and allocation of gorilla groups. Your guide will transfer your to the starting point of the gorilla group you intend to track. The park rangers henceforth take care of you as you you walk into the jungle in search of these rare primates. If you are lucky enough you can encounter them in 20 to 30 minutes. However if unlucky you may take 5 hours or more to meet them. It is advisable for one to have packed snacks and drinking water incase the trek takes long. Guests are allowed a duration of an hour in the presence of the gorillas.
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 there are chances of price reduction on gorilla permits .
Uganda is endowed with a variety of wildlife. Wildlife safaris in the rest of parks including Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo national parks offer a satisfactory wildlife experience.