Are you planning a gorilla tour to Uganda, Rwanda or Congo? An encounter with mountain gorillas is an amazing, awesome, magical, unforgettable, humbling, and eye-opening experience every travel should add on his/her travel bucket list. The experience is surely everything that past travelers have adored as wonderful, moving, spell binding and moving bringing you close to these beautiful creatures in their rapidly retreating habitat. Though it’s quite an adventure to bush walk through the jungle while stepping around the tracks of forest elephants a face-to-face encounter with the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas is undeniably an experience of its own kind. Regardless of the strenuous and un predictable hours of wondering in the jungle, the outcome of seeing these magnificent animals make you forget about how difficult it was to get to them. There are no words that can describe fully how it feels like being the gorillas but the experience is an immersive wildlife encounter. Upon the confirmation of your gorilla safaris, the actual day of meeting gorillas finally comes for you to enjoy a glimpse of being so close to the splendid gentle giants in their natural habitats. Gorilla safaris are only done in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park in Uganda and the Virunga Massif, which comprise of Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Virunga national park in DRC and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda.
Briefing and allocation of gorilla families
At the start of each trekking day, travelers transfer to the national park headquarters to join others for a briefing about trekking rules and regulations. The briefing id all about safety precautions by the travelers aimed to keeping mountain gorillas health for sustainable tourism. This is done as early as 7:00am to catch up with hiking it before set sets in. Travelers are then divided into groups of eight each of which is allocated to one gorilla family and there the hiking begins.
Hire porters and carry walking stick
Hiking starts right away after the briefing and porters are very invaluable in the hiking session. The porters (former poachers) help in carrying knapsack, provide guidance, support by holding travelers hands in the slippery slopes, which make trekking quite easy for travelers. The terrain comprises of hills, holes and thick vines, small creek and rock bed that make hiking quite difficult hence a need for a porter. Also hiring a porter is an indirect support for the local communities who formerly depended on the forest for a livelihood.
The actual trekking and meeting the gorillas
This entails hiking up and down in search of mountain gorillas and the length of trekking can be as short as 30 minutes to a full day depending on the location of the allocated gorilla family and the speed of their movements. Hiking is very enjoyable and travelers make it easier making sure that all travelers move at the same pace and speed. Rangers are helpful and ensure trekking is done in bits where at some point the “slowest” person leads the whole group and all others travelers move at his/her pace. On reaching the gorillas, travelers keep following the gorillas as they eat, swing from trees, fart and poop requiring them to move at the same pace so as to observe and enjoy all their activities.
How long to be with the gorillas
Though hiking may take several hours, a face-to-face encounter with mountain gorillas lasts for an hour. Travelers should therefore keep keen, calm and steady to utilize this one-hour. This is the time to observe carefully gorillas human like characters such as silverbacks defending family members while female adults nurse the young ones. Remember to remove the flash light form the camera and take as many photographs as possible future reference. Enjoy the company of a 650-pound Silverback escorting his family of wives and babies as gently as possible.
Carry your Gorilla permits
The permit is expensive but absolutely worth it to protect these brilliant animals and support the local communities. All travelers must have gorilla permits as a pass to see the majestic giants in the jungle. Also travelers are reminded to book for the permits as early as six months before trekking the date for easy planning. The cost of a gorilla permit vary in each country where Rwanda offers the most expensive permits at 1500usd, Uganda at 600usd and DRC at 450usd. Any travel without a permit is not allowed to see the gorillas. A permit allow travelers to spend an hour with the gorillas after which the trekking is declared done.
Follow the rules and regulations
To ensure a successful and peaceful gorilla trekking experience, all travelers are reminded to follow the rules and regulations taught during briefing. These include keeping a distance of seven meters distance a way from the gorillas, keeping low tone, keeping within their groups, and not to litter anything in the forest. Looking direct into the eyes of mountain gorillas is discouraged since it puts them on tension and can therefore behave wild to defend them selves. The reason for the seven-meter distance is to avoid the spread of human wildlife communicable disease, which are harmful to the endangered gorillas and the travelers.
Best time to trek mountain gorillas
Though gorilla trekking can be done all year round, the experience is most enjoyable in the dry season. This is in the months of June, July, August, September, October, December, January and February. During this season the grounds hiking through the dense forest is quite easy with less sliding and muddy grounds unlike in the rainy season where the grounds become extremely muddy and slippery making it hard to hike.
Conclusively therefore, gorilla trekking is a spiritual experience you should not miss, book a gorilla safari now and enjoy a lifetime experience you will live to remember.