Reasons why you should trek Gorillas in Uganda
Reasons why you should trek Gorillas in Uganda : Gorilla Trekking takes place in a handful of extensive East and Central Africa jungle locations, adding a layer of exotic adventure that is hard to match any kind of safari in the whole world. The fact that gorillas as a species are on the edge of extinction and trekking them is highly restricted for tourists thus encountering wild mountain gorillas is one-in-a-lifetime safari experience and while watching a family of mountain gorillas relaxing in their lush jungle home is an awe-inspiring privilege and a memory you would take away and remember forever. Across the world, there are only three countries that offer gorilla trekking experience that include; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the most extreme environment that is in the protected areas of small central-eastern Africa border reserves of three countries including Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa in Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga national park and Bwindi Impenetrable national park in southwestern part of Uganda.
Mountain gorillas in all the three countries are all the same experience. Mountain gorillas stand at about 4-6 feet tall and weigh about 136 to 220 Kilograms. The mountain gorillas are one of the two subspecies of the Eastern gorilla and there are about 1,000 individuals occupying the montane and bamboo forest jungles of Central & East Africa’s volcanic mountain slopes at an altitude of over 2,200–4,300 meters high above sea level. For travellers planning a gorilla trekking experience in any of the three countries, Uganda has a greater advantage for Gorilla experience compared to any of the other two destinations of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda has the highest population of mountain gorillas
The global mountain gorilla population count grows up to 1,063 and Uganda has half of the remaining mountain gorilla population in the world while the other population is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, mountain gorilla trekking is done in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park offering.
Mgahinga national park is also located on the Virunga Mountain ranges and bordered by Volcanoes National Park in North western Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga national park has only one gorilla family available for visitors to trek called the Nyakagezi family which has about 7 to 14 individuals for tourists to track. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park offers visitors the very similar experience of gorilla trekking just like someone else trekking in either Volcanoes national park or Virunga national park since they are all on the same Virunga Mountains however, despite that this gorilla family is interesting to visit, fewer visitors get to visit Nyakagezi family because it is only one family and they are very mobile so most tourists are scared of missing them which is no longer the case because the Uganda wildlife Authority for the last 2 years has managed to closely track them, thus making them stable so they no longer cross to either Rwanda or Congo.
On the other hand Bwindi Impenetrable national park which is actually the best gorilla trekking destination of the entire three destinations, offers the highest habituated gorilla groups. Gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi impenetrable national park has been divided into 4 sectors given the location and population of the mountain gorillas and each gorilla trekking sector has more than four gorilla trekking groups. These sectors include; Buhoma sector and Ruhija sectors which are closely located in Kanungu district, Nkuringo sector and Rushaga sector which are closely located in Kisoro district. Bwindi impenetrable national park has about 16 habituated gorilla families in all the 4 sectors and each gorilla family is comprised of about 10 to 40 members varying in ages and led by a silverback gorilla that is the oldest and considered as head of the family.
Therefore, there is a wider opportunity to trek gorillas in Uganda because there is no a lot of traffic as there are 17 different families including the one in Mgahinga national park each with a big number of members accessible to tourists per day which is an advantage over Rwanda and Congo. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is also adventurous especially in Bwindi forest given the forest is dense. A minimum of 8 people per day can access the gorillas in their wide and you get an opportunity to spend an hour with the gorillas while they play feed, what a memorable experience! On a daily, a little over 100 tourists have the opportunity to go for a real trek to search for these mountain gorillas especially in the peak season so you are advised to book your gorilla permits 5 months prior to your visit.
Uganda also offers gorilla habituation experience
Unlike Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda offers visitors gorilla habituation experience besides the gorilla trekking experience. Visitors can also choose gorilla habituation Experience as one of the experiences in Bwindi impenetrable national park as it only happens in Bwindi forest. Gorilla habituation is a process of taming wild gorillas to make them get used to human being when they visit them. The wild gorillas are usually shy and dangerous when disturbed so gorilla habituation process helps to make them familiar with humans. This process is done by the wildlife research program under the Uganda wildlife Authority. Only 4 visitors are allowed to join the researchers for gorilla habituation experience for the whole day while moving around with them from the time they wake up until late in the evening when they go back to their nests. They also get to spend 4 hours in the presence of the semi-habituated gorillas. The purpose of this experience is to help the gorillas get used to human presence and also see their behaviour for example how they care and protect each other in their families. This experience is only offered in Uganda thus making Uganda a pretty unique destination compared to others like Rwanda and Congo.
Gorilla trekking experience is cheaper in Uganda
While it is true that gorilla trekking is the same and offers similar satisfaction in all the countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, Uganda is better gorilla trekking destination in terms of the sale and access of Gorilla permits. A gorilla permit in Uganda is only US$700 per person for foreign non-residents, US$600 for foreign resident and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens compared to compared to Rwanda that has priced its gorilla permits to $1500 per person across all nationalities including the Rwanda citizens and Congo that has prices its gorilla trekking experience in packages although the gorilla permit alone is US$400 per person, so it is as well not a better option than Uganda.
Uganda is a very safe country to travel
Uganda is among the safest and secure countries to travel in Africa with favorable travel restrictions even during the period after the outbreak of the new world pandemic COVID 19 virus. In Uganda, visitors must arrive with a valid Covid 19 test of 72 hours from the country of origin, they do not have to quarantine unless found with the virus and before leaving Uganda, they are also required to take a test for the next destination. Different people travel to Uganda every year for different reasons such as business, tourism among others and during stay and time of leave; they appreciate the amount of safety experienced in Uganda at the end of their stay. Ugandans are also ranked as the friendliest people and very welcoming in their country. They will always help a visitors in any way they best they can as long as you are have hosted by a particular tour company or friends and relatives and the kids will never miss waving as you pass by them.
Unlike Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo has faced a lot of insecurities and unsafety around the Virunga area limiting the numbers of visitors going for gorilla trekking such as rebel attacks and outbreak of Ebola virus. Although Uganda is close to Congo, these case are rarely found in Uganda and if found, situations are managed very well and live goes on as usual in Uganda. Safety is among the key factors to consider when you visit another country especially for tourism and Uganda is the place to go for gorilla trekking and tourism at large.
Mountain gorillas come close to visitors
While it is fun to go out in the jungle for gorilla trekking, it is also an amazing experience to see the mountain gorillas come close to you. This experience is commonly witnessed in Bwindi impenetrable national park in Uganda. Since these mountain gorillas are habituated, they no longer get shy when they see people rather they more closer to visitors as some of them often wondering around while feeding from the bushes especially those in the Eastern side of Bwindi forest, some of them also come up to the accommodations inside the park and you get to see them really very close, this is an opportunity you have to get close to the mountain gorillas while they are out of their comfort zones, the jungle. Even with this amazing close encounter, visitors are always advised to stay calm and relaxed when a gorilla comes to me and most importantly follow the instructions provided to you by your ranger guides.
Access to the gorilla trekking national parks
Although the distance of accessing both Mgahinga national park and Bwindi impenetrable national parks from Entebbe international airport and Kampala capital city of Uganda is quite longer taking about 8-9 hours’ drive even though this drive is very exciting and adventurous with sights of the Uganda Equator and beautiful scenery, there are other several ways to access the park easily. There are cheaper daily scheduled flights from Entebbe airport and Kajjasi airstrip by Aerolink Uganda limited and Fly Uganda that operate flights to Bwindi impenetrable national park and Kisoro airstrip. These flights take about 2 hours since they are usually connecting flights and only a daily one can consider either a morning or an afternoon flight.
Also visitors can access Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park via Kigali city of Rwanda. You can fly in from Rwanda and then drive from Kigali airport, cross either Katuna or Cyanika border into Uganda to Bwindi forest located in the south western part of Uganda and enjoy the experience. This takes only 3-4 hours to get to the southern sector of Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park then also return to Kigali and fly out after the adventure.