MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING, THE ONLY 3 COUNTRIES TO VISIT IN AFRICA.
You have ever had those imaginative thoughts of being in a typical natural forest, amidst thick vegetation growth, a canopy above that lets in a few drops of sun light, hearing only jungle sounds and a breath of the freshest air! You will then be with MOUNTAIN GORILLAS right in the forests that have lived for more than 25,000 years. These forests are home to the only surviving Mountain Gorillas in the world. Perhaps you have seen Gorillas in the Zoos or elsewhere like in West Africa, those are lowland Gorillas, please be informed. Mountain Gorillas can not survive outside their natural habitats. The only chance to see these remaining Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat is when one visits the mountainous forests in the three African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo or Congo.
There are many reasons to consider Uganda as your number one destination when planning a visit to Africa and most outstanding will be the fact that you will be visiting The Pearl of Africa, a country which is home to half of the world’s population of the only remaining Mountain Gorillas. These Gentle Giants, as they are commonly referred to, are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park with Bwindi having the highest number of them. With the high population of Gorillas in Uganda, there are 98% chances of finding them on a single visit.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park has 16 habituated families which are available for tracking while Mgahinga Gorillas Park has only one. Each Gorilla family can only be visited by a maximum of 8 people per day. Bwindi is divided into four sectors; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. These and others are some of the conservation efforts by the Uganda wildlife authority geared at limiting habitat degradation and averting any risk of diseases to the Gorillas.
Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorillas Parks can as well be accessed from Rwanda. When planning flights, consider flying into either Kigali airport, Rwanda or Entebbe airport, Uganda.
In Rwanda, Gorillas are found in Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes National Park is part of the greater Virunga Volcano Conservation area that comprises of all the regions that share the Virunga Mountain ranges; Virunga National Park in Congo, Volcano National Park of Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorillas Park of Uganda.
Volcanoes National Park is an expanse of mountainous forest cover of 160sqkm sheltering not only Gorillas but also Golden Monkeys and other wildlife. It takes up 5 of the 8 volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains. The park has 10 habituated families of Gorillas available for tracking by a maximum of 8 visitors per day per family.
An aggressive marketing strategy by the Government of Rwanda has seen Rwanda shine as the most preferred Gorilla tracking destination among the three countries. It is the high cost of the Gorilla permit for Rwanda compared to the rest that has led to a boom in Gorilla tourism business for Uganda and Congo too, for the past 3 or so years. A Gorilla permit in Rwanda is at US$1500, US$700 for Uganda and US$400 in Congo. Despite the lower costs for a permit in Congo, tourism activities are on the low scale due to insecurities resulting from political and natural factors.
CONGO – Democratic Republic of Congo.
Visit Virunga National Park in Congo for not only the Mountain Gorillas but also the Chimpanzees, Lowland Gorillas and other wildlife inhabited by the 7800sqkm of land. Other than the flora and fauna diversity, Virunga National Park prides itself in harbouring the only active volcano with the largest lava lake in the world and that is Mt.Nyiragongo. Virunga Park just like Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla Park, is part of the Virunga Conservation area. It has eight habituated Mountain Gorilla families available for tracking by the visitors.
Virunga in Congo, Volcanoes in Rwanda and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Parks were declared as UNESCO world heritage sites due to their richness in biodiversity and above all being homes to these greatly endangered apes, the Mountain Gorillas.
The four Gorilla national parks are 48KM away from each other. To an international traveller planning to visit all the four parks, Kigali International airport will serve as the hub for shorter connectivity to all of them. However still you can make a road trip starting from Entebbe International airport of Uganda and navigate through all the parks at ease.
Choosing the park from where to track the Gorillas entirely depends on the tracker. One can choose a destination with a cheaper permit, high numbers of Gorillas, proximity to other adventures after the Gorilla trek, among others. Considering all these and more, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park stands out. However remain informed that the experience remains the same; trekking mountain Gorillas uphill the forests.
Gorilla trekking is an all year round activity though trackers are encouraged to visit mostly in the drier months when the treks are relatively passable (not muddy). Plan to visit in the months of December to February and June to September.
Gorilla permits are on a very high demand so they tend to sell out early. You are required to secure a permit way much inadvance and through a reliable tour company. Feel free to contact us for recommendations and further guidance.
Gorilla trekking starts in the morning with no other sessions in the day. Plan to reach the park a day before your tracking date. Secure accommodation that is close to the trek starting point, as might be indicated on your permit. Get this information from your tour agent.
The weather in the forest is never predictable, being a tropical forest, it can rain any time so endeavour to carry some rain gear. The evenings and mornings tend to get so cold, you are advised to carry more of the warm than light clothes. Where as you can hire trekking shoes (boots) at the respective park offices at a fee, you are highly encouraged to come along with your own.
To conquer those hilly treks, one has to be at a fair level of physical fitness. However this shouldn’t turn you away from realising your dream of coming face to face with these apes, there are porters who can assist at a small fee. Also be informed that the trek is easier than any mountain hike you can think of or have ever engaged in.
There are guidelines to follow when in the forest and with the Gorillas, please adhere to them. You will have contributed to the sustainability of the Gorillas’ habitat and hence their longevity. These guidelines are passed on to the trackers every morning before starting the trek.
Last and more important to know is that Gorilla trekking is restricted to any person of below 15 years.