Mountain Gorillas

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

Uganda has two places where these mountain gorillas maybe seen, one is Mgahinga  Gorilla, stunning park and component of the virunga, chain of towering volcanoes that extend into Democratic  Republic of Congo and Rwanda, and there in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

WHY BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK?

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is among the most visited National Parks in the country and the Park is popularly known as home of mountain gorillas which are among the endangered species in the world today.  Records show that thousands and thousands of tourists travel from all parts of the world specifically to come and see these internationally endangered forests during the Uganda Gorilla Trekking Tours and besides these, there is a great diversity of other wildlife including small wild animals, primates. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is located in South Western Uganda and is divided into four regions; Buhoma region in the North, Ruhija region in the East, Rushaga and Nkuringo in the South. Each region has given habituated gorillas families for gorilla trekking. If you are to trek gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, then you need to mind about a specific region where you are going as this will affect the Lodge to be booked, gorilla permit as well as your transport. Contact Ssemambo Alex Tours & Travel for details about Bwindi gorilla treks and holidays.

HOW CLOSE ARE GORILLAS RELATED TO MAN?

Gorilla’s hands and feet resemble the human ones more than those of other Apes. Gorillas spend more time on the ground than other Apes; hence their feet are more suited of walking. The genetic material of apes is identical to that of humans to a very large degree. Differences are especially small in nuclear DNA.1.2% between humans and chimpanzees, 1.6% between humans and gorillas.

HOW OFTEN DO MOUNTAIN GORILLAS GIVE BIRTH?

Female gorillas are sexually mature at around 7 to 8 years of age; however, they don’t usually reproduce until they are 10 years old. Males mature later than females and are rarely strong and dominant enough to reproduce before 15 to 20 years of age.

HOW BIG ARE THE GIANT APES?

Gorillas are the largest species of primates and the males are often twice as big as the females. The males grow to around five and half (5.5) feet tall and weigh around 400 pounds. The females grow to (4.5) feet tall and around 200 pounds. Gorillas have long arms, even longer than their legs and they use their long arms to walk. This is where they use the knuckles on their hands to walk on all fours. They are mostly covered with brown hair; gorillas from different areas may have different colored hair. Like the Western gorilla has the darkest and the western low land gorilla can also have the greyish color and red colored forehead. When male gorillas get old, their hair turns white on their back. Those older males are called silver back gorillas.

 FUN FACTS ABOUT GORILLAS

  • Gorillas have hands and feet like humans including opposable thumbs and big toes.
  • Some gorillas in captivity have learned to use sign language to communicate with humans.
  • Gorillas live in small groups called troops or bands.
  • Gorillas live around 35 years.
  • They sleep in nests.

WHAT DO THEY EAT?

Gorillas are herbivores and they feed on plants i.e leaves, steam pith, fruits and bamboo.

WHAT IS GORILLA TREKKING?

Gorilla trekking is an activity where tourists/people go searching for gorillas in the wild and Gorilla trekking is currently available in three African countries; Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. The process of seeing gorillas involves hiking or trekking in search for the rare mountain gorillas, and one needs to acquire a gorilla permit to be able to see these mountain gorillas. The process of gorilla trekking normally starts with an early morning briefing at respective park headquarters, then a hike or walk into the forest following the trail used by mountain gorillas and once found, you spend only one hour with the mountain gorillas. You will then return back and be offered a certificate. The trek itself may take up to 30 minutes or three quarters of the day but once you find gorillas, you are allowed to spend only one hour with them.

WHAT IS THE AGE LIMIT FOR GORILLA TREKKING?

Age limit for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is 15 years and above. The authorities are very strict on this, so kindly make sure all clients and children are 15 or older in order to avoid any sad incidents like guest(s) kids being refused to track!

The age limit for trekking chimpanzees in Uganda is 12 years old and children 10 years above are allowed to trek golden monkeys in Rwanda as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

HOW MANY PEOPLE PER GORILLA FAMILY?

Only a maximum of 8 people are allowed to trek or visit a given gorilla family in Bwindi, Mgahinga and Volcanoes National Park. Bwindi has about 14 habituated gorilla families and thus each family is allowed only 8 people per day per hour and when it comes to gorilla habituation, its only 4 people that are around to spend four hours with mountain gorillas under habituation.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF SEEING MOUNTAIN GORILLAS?

We can gladly confirm that chances of seeing gorillas either in Bwindi National Park or Volcanoes is 98% and the good news is that; gorilla trekking in Bwindi, Mgahinga and Volcanoes in Rwanda is so organized in a way that there is an advanced team of trackers who wake up every morning to find where these gorillas are and once they find them, they will then communicate to the park headquarters and your ranger guide of the day will let you know of the whereabouts of these gorillas. You will then start your trek from where the gorillas would have slept the previous night up to when you find them. The advanced team will keep communicating with your guide to make sure you don’t get lost. If the gorilla family in question keeps moving very fast, communication will be made. Please contact us for more details.

WHAT SHOULD I PACK FOR GORILLA TREKKING?

Gorilla trekking clothes are the same for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park as well as Volcanoes National Park. You need to prepare very well for your gorilla trek, we advise trousers, long sleeved shirts or blouses, long socks to enable you tack in your trousers, garden gloves, a hat, sun glasses, hiking boots, Rain jacket , Cameras and extra batteries, insect repellents and some energy giving foods. 

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TREK GORILLAS?

Mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda can be trekked throughout the whole year but not most especially done in the drier months. Uganda being crossed by the equator has a modified equatorial climate with two rainy seasons and because of this people tend to associate these rainy seasons with the best times to trek gorillas. When it is raining, it becomes hard to hike and trek in the impenetrable forest because of the heavy rains which makes the trails too slippery. Besides that, vegetation tends to grow something that reduces chances of proper visibility and photography. All the above combined, the best time to visit the gorillas is to avoid the most rain seasons in Uganda. Thus the best time is in June, July, August, early September and part of October then December up-to February but because of global warming it is even becoming very hard to predict when it is going to rain or not. During high season gorilla permits to visit gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi National Park is at $1500.00 and $700.00 per person respectively and because these primates are highly endangered, clients pay highly to view or trek them.

WHAT IS THE PRICE OF A GORILLA TOUR IN UGANDA?

When looking at the price of a gorilla tour in Uganda, you need to consider the three main components i.e gorilla permit, accommodation and transport to and from the park. A gorilla permit price in Uganda currently costs $700. Accommodation rates range from $50 for budget to up to $500 and more for Luxury lodges per person sharing. You may choose to drive or fly to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

WHEN DO I NEED TO BOOK A GORILLA PERMIT?

Gorilla permits tend to sell out quickly so it is always advised to book your gorilla permit in advance. At Ssemambo Alex Tours & Travel, we advise that you book your gorilla permit 3-4 months in advance to avoid short notice disappointments. Gorilla permits tend to run out during high seasons of June, July, August, September, December, January, and February each year. Please contact Ssemambo Alex Tours & Travel for details about availability and cost of securing gorilla permits.

HOW MUCH IS A GORILLA PERMIT IN UGANDA OR RWANDA?

Gorilla tracking takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park and one requires permission in order to watch or view mountain gorillas. This therefore means that you will have to purchase a gorilla permit to allow you see mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda. A gorilla permit is an electronic document/card that is obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority head office in Kampala and it is this card that you will take to Bwindi Impenetrable National park headquarters on the day of gorilla trekking and once it is checked and found valid, you will then be allowed to trek gorillas. Therefore, in Rwanda a gorilla permit costs $1500.00 (Non-residents) and Uganda gorilla permits to visit mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga cost $600.00 per permit, Foreign residents with a valid working permit pay $500.00 and East African citizens of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania pay Uganda Shillings 250,000 only (which is about $100). Once this is established, details will be entered into their system and a gorilla permit card issued out.

 WHEN SHOULD I BOOK MY GORILLA PERMIT?

You are advised to book your gorilla permit at least three months in advance especially during high season. Please contact us with the date when you intend to trek and we will advise availability of permits on that day.

HOW SHOULD I BOOK A GORILLA PERMIT?

Uganda Wildlife Authority is the only body mandated to sell or issue out gorilla permits. This is because they are the ones in charge of all National Parks in Uganda including Bwindi Impenetrable National Partk and Mgahinga National Park. Before you book a gorilla permit, you have to first identify the year, month and date when you intend to trek gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Once you have that in mind, then contact us and we will check availability for you and we will let you know if the date you are interested in is possible. Booking a gorilla permit must be done with cash and thereafter, we will invoice you for full payment. Once you have made payment, you will have to provide us with your passport details as they are required by Uganda Wildlife Authority for two reasons;

  1. Uganda Wildlife Authority would like to know if indeed you are eligible or have the right age allowed to trek mountain gorillas. Age limit for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is 15 years and above.
  2. The next reason is to establish if you are foreign resident or none resident or even East African since this will affect the price of a gorilla permit.

Due to the fact that we book gorilla permits in the absence of our clients who mostly book in advance, we have to scan and send them a copy but original copies handed to you at your arrival at the Airport since they will be required on the very trekking day. We do not charge anything for booking a gorilla permit if client books an all-inclusive tour with us.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A GORILLA PERMIT?

A gorilla permit allows you one hour with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga or Volcanoes National Park. Included in the cost are park entry fees for the respective parks, services of National Park guides/rangers who will escort you to the forest.

HOW LONG IS GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA OR RWANDA?

Mountain gorilla trekking exercise can take from twenty minutes to three quarters of the day so one needs to prepare for both. This depends on several factors that include;

  • Mountain gorilla movements, where the gorillas stayed the previous night and the mood of the gorillas.
  • It may also depend on the people in your group since the guides/rangers move following the slowest person in the group.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO TREK UGANDA GORILLAS VIA KIGALI?

It is now possible to trek Uganda or Bwindi gorillas through Rwanda by flying through Kigali International airport. By flying through Kigali International Airport, one is able to reduce the drive time to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to 5-6 hours compared to if one uses Entebbe International Airport where the drive time is 8-9 and sometimes 10 hours from Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With the introduction of the East African tourist visa, one can now visit both Uganda and Rwanda. East African tourist visa costs USD100.00 and allows you to visit three east African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Please contact Ssemambo Alex Tours & Travel for details about Bwindi gorilla safaris through Kigali Airport.

WHAT IS GORILLA HABITUATION EXPERIENCE?

Gorilla habituation experience is an activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where tourists are allowed to stay four hours with mountain gorillas after paying USD1500.00 for a gorilla habituation permit and this was introduced in 2014 to cater for tourists that have less time but want to spend more hours with mountain gorillas. Tourists are able to see gorillas while participating in activities geared to making these wild mountain gorillas get used to human beings Gorilla habituation safaris are currently taking place only in Rushaga located in South. Only four people are allowed to see these gorillas in Bwindi National Park and we do organize gorilla habituation experience safaris at affordable prices.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT GORILLAS?

Please send us an email and we will answer all your questions concerning gorilla trekking to enable you prepare for a memorable experience with us.

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