If you are looking for an exclusive idea for your vacation, consider gorilla trekking. That way, you can kill two birds with one stone. You’ll get to visit primates that can’t be found anywhere outside of some countries in Africa. And you’ll also be contributing to the essential task of preserving the mountain gorilla population.
Why Is This a Unique Experience?
Numbers are the best way to answer this question. After all, sometimes it may seem that animals in the wild have always been, always are, and always will be. But if you look at the number of animals that remain in the moment, the situation is much sadder. For example, scientists say there are about 400,000 elephants, about 40,000 lions, and under 5,000 rhinos in the World. And the number of mountain gorillas barely reaches 1,000 individuals.
Mountain gorillas live mainly in the Virunga Mountains’ forests in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. Their numbers are so small that rangers literally know every individual by name. The experience of meeting gorillas is exclusive because this animal has no chance to survive in captivity. That is not the kind of animal that you can see in a zoo cage. To see this rare primate, you will have to travel to the heart of Africa and hike through the mountain forest for a one-hour interaction with a gorilla family. And believe me, it’s worth it!
How the Hike to the Gorillas Happens
It always starts in the morning and can take a couple of hours or an entire day. Before you go to the gorillas, the ranger will give you a briefing. At the time of the briefing ranger already knows the approximate location of the gorilla family to which you will go. Still, this is nature, and nobody can guarantee anything 100%.
After you meet the gorillas, you are given exactly one hour to observe or photograph them. Each gorilla family meets only once a day with one group. The group includes a maximum of 8 people. So, you have only one hour to meet the gorillas to minimize human impact on the primate’s natural habitat. But it will probably be the most valuable hour of your trip. You will watch in fascination as these animals interact with each other, pick up on some of our similarities, and of course, marvel at the beauty of the silverbacks against the bright green rainforest.
You should not worry too much about the difficulty of this hike. Yes, on the one hand, you should understand that you will have to gain altitude and descend while trekking. That can be accompanied by slippery roads, especially during the rainy season. But rangers will not take you on the longest route if they understand that you are not ready for it. They will offer you a shorter route. But no matter which route you take, ensure your shoes and clothing are as comfortable and waterproof as possible.
Gorilla Trekking Uganda vs. Rwanda
Of course, both of these countries are worth seeing, especially if you plan to visit other attractions in the country besides gorillas. But, as for the hike itself, I will give the key features of each country to make it easier for you to understand the difference.
Trekking in Rwanda
Rwanda has long been considered a country with a high level of service and safety. A sort of “African Switzerland.”
- Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is only a three-hour drive on a good paved road from Kigali.
- The infrastructure is more developed.
- The terrain during the hike tends to be more open, providing good visibility.
- Hiking itineraries can be rather easy.
- Gorilla permits are more expensive than in Uganda. But, if you want to save your money, you can drive from Kigali to Bwindi National Park.
Trekking in Uganda
Uganda will appeal to adventurers and lovers of longer, more challenging trails.
- Bwindi National Park is far from Uganda’s capital, Entebbe. You will need a domestic flight.
- Trails in Uganda tend to be more challenging in dense forests.
- The infrastructure is less developed.
- The cost of a permit is half of what it is in Rwanda.
- Uganda has 2 national parks: Bwindi & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Frequently Asked Questions about Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is an unusual activity, so there are a lot of different questions before the trip. I will share with you the most popular of them.
When is the best season to go to the gorillas?
Hiking to the gorillas is allowed throughout the year. On the one hand, the best time to visit is in the dry season (all months except November, April, and May). On the other hand, the dry season does not exclude rain completely. The weather can be changeable in the rain forests, not per day but an hour. The advantage of the low season is that the cost of permissions is reduced by about 30%.
Will I see gorillas guaranteed?
As with anything in the wild, an encounter with gorillas cannot be 100% guaranteed. But, during a hike, the rangers do not take the guesswork. They get information on where the gorillas are from particular people who track them. Although gorillas are in their natural habitat and are more agile than hikers, the chance of seeing gorillas remains very high.
Can I touch gorillas?
The gorillas are used to being visited daily by a small number of tourists. Although the primates behave calmly upon meeting, it is strictly forbidden to touch them. When you get to the gorilla family, you will be just a couple of meters away from them, and the instinct to reach out and pet them may kick in. But you cannot do this because the animal is shy, and its reaction is difficult to guess. During the encounter, the ranger will tell you the safe distance you can go to take pictures.
What things do I need to have with me for the gorilla trekking?
You will need a backpack where you can put your camera, rain gear, repellent, etc. You can take trekking poles if they make it easier for you to move. Clothing should cover your arms and legs, so you do not hurt yourself on the branches. It is good if the clothes are dark or neutral colors. It can be warm during the hike. So choose clothes made of lightweight, breathable materials.
Also for gorilla trekking, you can usually receive special gaiters in the lodge. But we recommend that you have high socks and your own gaiters, just in case.
Take Advantage of This Unique Opportunity
Wherever you go, Uganda or Rwanda, it will be worth every dollar spent. Take the opportunity to go on a trip where you will be something more than a tourist. In addition to discovering a new country, you will fulfill a noble mission to support the conservation of rare primates.
I suggest you take a look at our tours to Rwanda and Uganda. In which country would you like to go on a gorilla trek? Write to us, we will be happy to answer all your questions and help with travel arrangements.