This should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do. This nature tour is very unique and is not even possible with most wild animals of any significant size due to the danger evolved.
But the well known gorilla safari in the mountainous area bordering Uganda is one in which gorillas can be seen up close and without any protection. This species is known as the mountain gorilla and they are endangered. There are just 1000 mountain gorillas left in the whole world, and half of them live in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The remaining population live in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. A special package can be purchased which allows a person to stay at a hotel and then be transported to a base camp where they are given special instructions on what to do once they come in contact with the gorillas.
A tracker then leads a very small group of tourists up into the mountains to find the gorillas. Once they are located they are observed up close. Tourists are allowed to get withing twenty feet of the gorillas.
Uganda has gained ground as one of the major destinations of travelers or tourists on the African continent. This park is also home to the world’s remaining mountain gorillas which are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park. Like Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekking is one of Uganda’s major tourist attraction and as a fact several tourists come to the pearl of Africa to experience this wonderful natural encounter with this wild life species. Mountain gorillas are covered in black fur with dark brown eyes and a well-grown silverback can weigh over 200 pounds.
These close relatives of humans are never bothered with visitors despite the continuous visits to their home stead. The mountain gorillas keep up with their daily activities such as; feeding, nurturing young ones, playing around and looking for fresh pastures without minding about the on looking tourists as they take their photographs. However these apes are also very sensitive animals that won’t keep their eyes off the visitors.
These close relatives of humans, live in families (gorilla family groups of about 10- 20 members) with each group under a dominant silverback‘s control, as the family head in charge of protecting its group from any intruders or attacks.
To enjoy these apes, they are usually taken in from a distance of about 10+ meters away from these animals for their safety as they are very fragile creatures and can easily get contracted with diseases. From your view, you can be able to view the animals feasting on the leaves, soft plants’ branches and climbing plants in the thick forests of Bwindi impenetrable national park.
In their natural wilderness, the mountain gorillas chew loudly on the edible leaves and shoots while most young gorillas keep playing and pushing each other around widely spreading their legs, laying on their backs staring at the tourists staring and taking their photographs. Young mountain gorillas are very playful and exciting to the on looking tourists forming most of their remarkable experiences. At times, the onlookers are at times tempted to move a bit closer, yet unwelcome for the gorillas who hate intruders that they are forced to protest by hitting their chests using their hands a clear sign of anger and a fight. During this protest, just gently move backward slowly to a required and reasonable distance to avoid winning your self a punch or drag down the muddy trails in the forest.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park can be reached by both road and air transport and it is a 6-7 hours’ drive by road and about 45 minutes by air to your pre-booked lodge and it should be within the nearness to the parks.
On the fateful day of mountain gorilla trekking, you will be picked from your hotel / lodge early in the morning and taken to the starting points where you will be briefed by the tour guides and game rangers on the trekking code of conduct. Here, you are also given your trekking groups (8 individuals per group), 2 armed guards plus 3 porters. The trekking trails will take you through thick vegetation covers following the directions of the gorilla trackers (who first go into the woods before the activity in the morning) and they ease the tracking process as they keep track of the mountain gorilla location. During this adventure, you will also have clear sights of some other wild life like monkeys, birds among others.
It takes about 30 minutes or even 6 hours to locate a gorilla family group depending on their movement rates, but once located/ reached, you will enjoy an hour’s stay with these estranged species ; interacting with them while watching them play, eat and even take photographs , not forgetting the required distance away from the animals. The tour guides and the game rangers give you a clear insight on to these creatures most especially their behavior. Though this hour, flies by so fast.
An encounter with these animals is so wonderful especially after gazing into the dark brown eyes of the mountain gorillas; such a warm experience for any gorilla trekking visitors.
It is yet so interesting how the Ugandan mountain gorillas are so accustomed to their human visitors , who come and take photos and videos without causing any harm, though they (gorillas) make it a point that these visitors don’t exceed their supposedly distance. Just the true, relatives of human beings and well aware of their rights, interesting, huh!
If planning a mountain gorilla trip to Uganda, gorilla trekking permits are available at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and any tour operators under the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO).