Tracking the Mountain Gorillas

Tracking the endangered Mountain Gorilla is one of  the Most strenuous yet rewarding safari experiences one can ever have. Though this gentle giant ape is highly venerated, coming in close contact with it is not a picnic but rather a real voyage through the jungle with steep slippery hills and mist covered rain forests.

The mountain Gorilla (Gorilla berengei berengei) is an endangered ape whose population in the world has been estimated to be less than 800 individuals all living in Uganda, Rwanda and D R Congo. They often rotate with in the big chant of forest vegetation that cuts across the boarders of the mentioned 3 countries. From Bwindi and Mgahinga parks to Virunga and then Volcanoes, the last remaining Mountain Gorilla population finds its home.

where to track the Mountain Gorillas from

As mentioned earlier, this man’s evolutionary cousin can be tracked from the 3 countries although most commonly is Uganda and Rwanda since D R Congo is marred by insecurity and several rebel activities that may put the lives of tourist at risk.

A gorilla permit in Rwanda costs 750USD while in Uganda is at 600USD but some times goes down to 350USD in the low season (March-May). Tracking in either of the countries may give more less the same experience and the procedure and rules are the same.

In Rwanda, access to the Volcanoes national park is much easier with a shorter distance unlike the one in Uganda where Bwindi national park has a longer distance from the capital Kampala (about 6-8 hours drive).

Tracking the Gorillas

Accessing the Gorilla permits can be either from a tour operator/ travel agent or directly from the Wild life authority. However the later may be inconveniencing since you need to secure one in advance because the demand is very high and only about 9 groups of 8 individuals are allowed to see the Gorillas per day in Uganda with each group tracking one Gorilla family. This means that you need to secure your permit a month before the date of tracking in order to be on a safer side.

You should come along with tracking gear that may include gum boots, raincoats, jackets, long sleeved shirts/ blouses, and drinking water. Walking sticks are available for purchase as well as porters to help you carry your luggage. Rain may be expected at any time of the day since the area is a typical rainforest.

Tracking the gorillas requires a relatively good  degree of fitness since it involves walking up hills amidst dense shrubs  and cold conditions. Children below 12 years are not eligible for tracking the gorillas and any one with a communicable disease like flu or diarrhea is forbidden from tracking since it posses a threat to the life of a mountain Gorilla.

Tracking starts at 8am after the 7 o’clock briefing by the Senior park officials where you are given rules to follow during tracking and allocated a gorilla family to track . The time one spends on this expeditious activity is not certain since it is dependent on where the gorillas will have spent the previous night. It is normally estimated to be between 2 and 8 hours.

All your struggles and hustles will certainly be soon forgotten when you finally meet face to face with the Mountain Gorillas. You are guaranteed a full hour with them at a distance not closer than 5meters as you observe their feeding habits, grooming the young ones, mating and playing. You are allowed to take photos but with no flash lights.

After tracking, you may take a community tour to the neighboring communities to explore their culture and daily life style. Taste their local dishes, participate in bear brewing and traditional dances which will consummate your safari experience. The encounter with the Mountain Gorilla ranks among the absolute highlights of an African Safari.

Conservation Projects.

An American zoologist Diana Fossey who entered Rwanda in the 1960s studied the Mountain Gorilla life for 18 years and began one of the most remarkable and venerated efforts of saving the life of a mountain Gorilla which she discovered was on verge of extinction. She worked hard to fight poaching of these apes amidst sharp resistance from the illegal traders and poachers who eventually took her life.

At the time of her death in 1985, the world had heard her humanitarian call and began to respond positively by funding conservation projects that later saw the gazetting of the Gorilla national parks in Rwanda and Uganda.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority works hand in hand with the neighboring communities to enhance that the few individuals of this endangered species may survive and recover from the plight of endangerment in the near future. Its upon this basis that the money you pay for the Permit, part of it is used to facilitate conservation efforts and part is given to the communities that were affected in gazetting parks that shelter these apes.

Your gorilla tour in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo is not only a life memorable adventure but also a step towards Mountain Gorilla protection from extinction. Be part of the epic story to save your evolutionary cousin-the Mountain Gorilla.