Some things in life are just too good to miss out on and Gorilla Trekking is one of them. Discover just how amazing and how easy it is to have this life-enriching experience.
Gorillas are found in the highlands of East Africa, with the best lodges, national parks and rangers to be found in Uganda and Rwanda. Both countries are worth visiting for different reasons but for now let’s look at the why of Gorilla Trekking. In short, it could quite possibly be one of the most meaningful wildlife experiences you have. Being close to these magnificent animals and their family groups is unforgettable, especially to see the gorillas in such untouched surroundings. These are not tamed or trained, they’re the real deal, wild gorillas in their wild home – you couldn’t ask for more than that.
Perhaps, I have whet your appetite for a close encounter with Mountain Gorillas but you’re worried about the practicalities of such a venture? Well, let me gently diffuse your fears, it’s a whole lot easier to see these creatures than you may think. That’s kind of where we come in here at Destinology. We’ve spent a lot of time building relationships with the people who run the gorilla trekking and, therefore, know pretty much everything about it. We’ve learnt all about the practicalities that come with the territory when adventuring to see the gorillas.
So, firstly, are you a reasonably fit adult? If the answer to that question is yes then you should be fine with the trekking - whatever your age (you must be over 16 years old to go on a trek). However, the hike in some groups can be a little bit tricky. This is not so much down to physical exertion as the need for a degree of care to be taken while navigating certain routes, particularly after rainfall. Muddy slopes can become quite slippery. Also, bear in mind that you’ll be trekking at high altitude through varied terrain and thick undergrowth.
Therefore, although gorilla trekking can be done year-round, it’s best during the dry seasons which in Uganda and Rwanda are in January and February and June to September. Having said all of this, waterproofs and extra layers are always a safe bet. After all, I often need these for Bolton Town Centre so upping your game for the mountains of Uganda and Rwanda would make sense. Here’s a list of some of the provisions you’ll also need for your trek:
• Passport (for registration before trekking)
• Sunglasses, strong sun protection and 2 litres of water
• Hat, gloves, warm jacket, waterproof trousers and boots
• Mosquito repellent
• A tip for the ranger and a possible porter fee (about $15)
Of course, you’ll not be out there stumbling around trying to spot a furry fun-loving gorilla all on your own. After a morning briefing (08.00) at park headquarters, you’ll set off in small groups to the forest with one of the top-notch rangers who’ll guide you to the very spots where the gorillas are. For every trek, you’ll need a permit and they’re in limited supply with only eight available per gorilla group per day so it’s best to book early. They cost $600 per person in Uganda and $750 in Rwanda. For this you’ll get to hang out with them for a whole hour but no more than that because you’d be distracting their behavioural patterns and the whole experience is about the conservation of these wonderful creatures. Speaking of which, the cost of the permit goes towards habitat conservation and local community education and against poaching efforts – so money well spent indeed.
This is far more than an experience. We’re interested, as I’m sure you are, in the long-term welfare of these fantastic creatures. After all, less than 1,000 remain worldwide today with the biggest risks to them coming from deforestation and growing local human populations. One of the problems is that due to the fertile nature and rich biodiversity of the land in which the gorillas live, 85% of the population use it for growing food. We’ve all got to eat but gorilla contact with humans can spread diseases to the animals. However, there is a way to help change this bleak outlook.
Basically, tourism is a major solution. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) works tirelessly with locals to assist gorillas and the community in partnerships with private operators and locals to construct tourism lodges. People come to these, pay to spend a bit of time with the gorillas and this generates money that goes directly into the great big furry pockets of the gorillas…well almost. It goes to the conservationists and others directly responsible for the protection of the gorillas and their habitat. So, your visit to these magnificent creatures protects them and their home and what could be better than that?
In the next article find out exactly where the gorillas hang out in both Uganda and Rwanda and uncover the multiple treasures these national parks offer to make your holiday one you’ll never forget. Also, Uganda and Rwanda will go head to head in a friendly battle to find out which is best for your holiday of a lifetime in Africa – you won’t want to miss it!