WHY SHOULD I VISIT GORILLAS IN UGANDA? BENEFITS OF GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA, RWANDA, CONGO AFRICA
Uganda is possibly the most iconic place for gorilla trekking in world, any visitor on Uganda safari shouldn't miss out trekking gorillas in Uganda because of it's thrilling primate watching experience. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the only 3 countries in the whole world where you can meet the endangered Mountain gorillas. So, if your wondering why you should go for gorilla trekking in Uganda?
One thing is for sure – going for gorilla trekking is not cheap, but it will definitely be one of the most memorable moments of your life. It won’t be easy, either. You must be reasonably fit to trek even for hours through muddy steep terrain, and lush dense forests.
However, once you spot these mysterious apes, you will understand why the legendary American primatologist Dian Fossey spent 18 years of her life in the rugged forests of East Africa saving and protecting them from heartless and cruel poachers who were prepared to wipe them out for profit.
Sadly, Fossey paid for her love for the African gorillas with her life when she was murdered in December 1985. Below are some of the reasons you need to see gorillas in Uganda.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Mountain gorillas in Uganda are among the Earth’s rarest and most majestic creatures
Spotting the very rare mountain gorillas in the dense lush forests of Uganda is a magical moment, that will make you one of the luckiest people in the world.
Mountain gorillas are the largest of the great apes, weighing up to 220 kg. They are also among the most endangered primates in the world with fewer than 1100 in existence. These rare apes can’t survive in captivity, so trekking into their native forests is your only chance to catch a peek.
Mountain Gorillas got their name for a reason. The live high in the steep misty mountain forests, at elevations of up to 13000 feet (3962 meters). At this height, the temperatures can drop below freezing so these gorillas have thicker, longer fur than other gorillas.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda has more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population
Uganda is blessed to be a home of the highest population of the world’s remaining, mountain gorillas. Of the about 1063 mountain gorillas on earth, more than half of them live in Uganda.
The country also has two gorilla trekking destinations: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Bwindi alone is home to over 459 mountain gorillas; almost half of all mountain gorillas in the world.
Uganda also has more habituated gorilla families than any other country in the world. In Bwindi there are over 19 habituated gorilla families and Mgahinga National Park has 1 family of habituated gorillas.
This means that you’re 99% guaranteed to see gorillas during your Uganda gorilla safari.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Gorilla trekking in Uganda is an unforgettable safari experience
Trekking gorillas in Uganda is such a thrilling primate watching experience that any visitor on a Uganda safari shouldn’t miss out. It is a memorable, life-changing safari experience−a unique adventure in the heart of dense spectacular montane forests.
Gorillas are fairly calm by nature and there is nothing quite as exciting as seeing these intelligent great apes on their home ground play, groom each other and engage in other almost human-like behaviors while admiring their immense size and strength.
There is indeed nothing compares with a gorilla encounter. A gigantic silverback stops whatever he is doing—playing with a youngster, munching a succulent bamboo shoot—to thoughtfully look into a visitor’s eyes as if trying to understand him, and the visitor returns the gaze, with feelings described variously as awe, mutual curiosity and an almost mystical sense of connection between two beings that have travelled long related and finally took divergent evolutionary paths.
Climate is unpredictable and variable—almost any visit will include both hot and cool weather, rain and sun. Hiking boots are essential, as are hat, gloves to protect against stinging nettles, long sleeves and pants, and light waterproof jacket.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda? -Visiting Uganda for gorilla trekking offers a rare opportunity to see your cousin primates
Are gorillas our cousins? Gorillas, after chimpanzees and bonobos, are humans' closest relatives, sharing more than 98% of our DNA. Aside from the DNA, it is hard not to find gorillas eerily similar to humans by just staring face to face with them.
There are also several of aspects of gorillas’ lives that are like humans’. They live in family groups and gorilla mothers take very good care of their babies.
Though there may be several adult females, many juveniles, and babies, the head of each gorilla family is a dominant adult male known as “Silverback” for the silvery back patches which signal full adulthood.
Gorillas are also extremely intelligent primates and communicate with each other through vocalizations like grunts and barks. They are capable of feeling emotions like we – did you know they can laugh? Gorillas also use tools to find food and build their nests.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Gorilla trekking in Uganda is a great chance to taste you physical fitness
Uganda’s gorilla trekking destinations have the most challenging terrains. By just looking at the location of Uganda gorilla parks in the southwestern region of the country, it green terraced hills, and rolling volcanic slopes, it’s clear this part of Uganda is not for the faint-hearted.
Adding to the high altitude and challenging terrain, gorilla trekking in Uganda appears to be a lifetime adventure.
It is hard work to reach the gorillas, but doable. The trek to see our giant cousins usually involves navigating uphill and downhill through dense forest with thick tangles of vines, roots, and muddy areas. The appropriately named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Parks are only accessible by foot.
Within these parks, there are no paths, no signs, no directions and more often than not, no clearings; which is why the park rangers guides carry machetes. The good news is that the reward seems that much better after all of the hard work.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda offers affordable gorilla permits compared to Rwanda
On top of offering the most adventurous gorilla trekking experience, Uganda has the most affordable gorilla trekking permit compared to Rwanda.
In Uganda, gorilla trekking permit cost US$700 to spend one hour gorillas after encountering them. In contrast, permits in Rwanda cost US$1500, for a one hour encounter with the gorillas. This makes Uganda a perfect gorilla trekking destination more especially for budget travellers.
Also, with 160 gorilla trekking permits available each day, Uganda has more gorilla permits than Rwanda with 80 gorilla permits available every day. This makes it very easy to get a gorilla permit in Uganda and take part in this life changing experience.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Visiting gorillas in Uganda is a way of supporting conservation effort of the endangered mountain gorillas
The price to see the gorillas for just one hour seems to be expensive. But, it’s important to understand that mountain gorillas are endangered great primates that can’t survive in captivity.
Approximately, about 75% of the revenue from Uganda gorilla tourism goes into conservation initiatives to protect the endangered apes, so that they can still be living in the wild for future generations.
If you purchase a permit for gorilla trekking, you not only buying a once in life time encounter with charismatic apes, you’re providing the economic incentive for the gorillas’ protection. Without gorilla tourism, mountain gorillas might have gone extinct.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- By trekking gorillas in Uganda, you will be helping the local communities
A gorilla trek tour in Uganda is not only an unforgettable wildlife encounter but a donation to rural communities. Gorilla tourism is a source of jobs to local people in the several communities around the parks.
Traditionally, these people more especially Batwa pygmies have used the forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga as their home and source of livelihood before they were gazetted national parks in 1991.
Visitors who come to see gorillas in Uganda are always encouraged to seek out ways to give back to the communities they visit. You can hire a porter, who is always a local resident and occasionally a reformed poacher.
As already noted, the terrain with the park is usually not easy to ease to navigate. Porters can carry you backpack and guide you through river crossings and up steep, muddy inclines.
You can also participate in community-led cultural initiatives. Around Mgahinga, elders of the Batwa tribe lead visitors on a forest tour along the Batwa Trail, explaining how their self-sufficient, forest-dwelling hunter gatherer tribe traditionally used medicinal plants.
If there are no benefits that people from these communities get from the gorilla parks, they can destroy the habitats and even kill the gorillas.
Also, about 20% of money you money from gorilla tourism is given to the local community through;
- Establishing infrastructure like roads, hospitals, and schools
- Provide them with access to clean drinking water and
- Empower them economically so that they realize the benefits of gorilla conservation.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda is the only place to go gorilla habituation experience
Uganda not only offers gorilla trekking, but also offers you a very rare opportunity to take part and witness how wild gorillas are habituated to presence of humans before they are being introduced to trekkers.
Unlike on a standard gorilla visit, where your time with the apes is limited to one hour, you have 4 hours with the gorillas, a great chance to fully absorb this incredible wildlife experience.
Also, up to 8 visitors are permitted to visit each gorilla group in a normal gorilla watching visit, but on a habituation experience, only four visitors are permitted. This provides a more intimate experience.
Gorilla habituation permits cost US$1500 per person. The experience is undoubtedly very expensive, but when you consider that Rwanda charges the same just for a standard 1 hour gorilla encounter, it starts to sound more financially worthwhile.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda has a variety of good affordable accommodation options for visitors on gorilla safaris
When it comes to where to stay, visitors on a Uganda gorilla safari to Bwindi or Mgahinga are assured very comfortable Uganda safari lodges and camps at affordable prices. These range from budget, midrange to luxury safari lodges.
Among the popular accommodation facilities in Bwindi include;
- Mahogany springs lodge
- Ichumbi Lodge
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Chameleon Hill Lodge
- Buhoma Lodge
- Buhoma Community Rest Camp
- Bwindi Gorilla Valley Lodge and others
Lodges in Rwanda on the other hand are very expensive and there are limited options.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda’s Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks has more wildlife species to see
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is rated by IUCN as the richest and most diverse fauna community in East Africa with over;
- 120 species of mammals including 10 species of primates
- 360 bird species
- 220 species of butterflies and
- Over 1,000 flowering plant species, including 163 species of trees, and 104 species of ferns.
Therefore, as trek the mountain gorillas, you will definitely see several other unique creature including baboons, L’Hoest’s monkeys, gray-cheeked mangabeys, and blue monkeys will inevitably cross your path.
Also Mgahinga Gorilla National Park hosts over 184 bird species and more than 76 mammal species including the very golden monkeys and duikers.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- The Scenery of the gorilla parks in Uganda is spectacular
CNN Travel in 2019 named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park one of the 23 most beautiful places on earth. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park with its three spectacular volcanoes also came to the world's 3rd best must photograph travel destinations after Asian cities of Colombo and Yokohama.
Bwindi, which locally means a place full of darkness, is truly an impenetrable forest. Some even say that entering Bwindi can feel like time travelling, that one moment you’re in a landscape dominated by man, the next you’re in a scene from the Mesozoic era.
Bwindi’s rain forest, a labyrinth of ferns and trees, envelops you in green. It is a magnificent verdant swathe across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley. This ancient rainforest is one of the few forests in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age.
It is indeed a spectacular place, full of hidden and overt beauty in every corner− mist-covered with almost mystical Valleys and places of legends and myths. The inner beauty of the park lies in its abundance of life.
The forest habours almost half of the Mountain Gorillas in the World, other Primates such the beautiful black and white colobus, numerous rare bird species, butterflies, flowering plants, and several species of ferns.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda has knowledgeable ranger guides
Gorilla trekking in Uganda started in 1993 in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Since then, the ranger guides of Uganda at the Bwindi have accumulated lot knowledge about the gorilla facts and are very experienced in conducting gorilla trekking encounter.
The guides also take good care of you in the forest, helping with your pack and getting you up and down the slopes. Be sure to ask them about the gorillas and other wildlife. They know each gorilla family intimately and can tell you the names and personalities of each individual gorilla.
The ranger guides in Uganda are also good at speaking English, the most commonly used language by the traveller to Uganda. This allows easy communication during your Uganda gorilla tour.
Other Uganda’s service provider such as worker at lodges and driver guides also speak fluent English unlike Rwandese.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- It is safe to visit gorillas in Uganda
Visitor who wishes to see gorilla in Uganda always wonder, how safe is Uganda for gorilla trekking. We gladly assure all travelers coming to visit Uganda gorillas that the country is very safe for gorilla trekking and all other safari activities.
For past many years, there has been no security incidence in Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. The government has a standby military base within the parks working with armed rangers and the tourism police.
All these armed personnel are well trained, equipped and motivated to keep the park and tourists safe. Uganda gorillas are also well habituated for visitors who can trek and peacefully observe them
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda has more to visit beyond Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks
Besides the two gorilla parks, Uganda has 8 other national parks and a variety of natural wonders which makes it a great choice for Africa safari vacation.
The country hosts more than 5000 chimpanzees; the man’s closest relatives sharing almost 99% of their DNA with humans.
Kibale National Park, often referred to as the Primate Capital of East Africa is one of the best place to see chimpanzees in the whole world. Kibale is home to almost 1500 chimpanzees and 12 other primates. You can also track chimpanzees in Budongo forest and Kyambura Gorge.
Uganda is also home to all the Big Five (Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinos). Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park are the country’s most spectacular savannah parks.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to the uncommon tree-climbing lions and it is one of the top bird watching destinations in Africa with over 612 bird species. The park’s Kazinga channel has the largest concentration of hippos in one place in the whole world.
Uganda is home to the source of Nile River, the planet’s longest river (about 6,650 kilometers long) and Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical fresh water lake (with a surface area of approximately 59,947 square kilometers).
The source of the Nile in Jinja is one of the greatest adventure destinations in Africa offering world class water rafting on grade five rapids and other adrenaline activities.
Why should i visit gorillas in Uganda?- Uganda easily accessible from Rwanda
It takes about 3-4 hours to drive from Kigali International Airport (KGL) in Rwanda to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the home of mountain gorillas in Uganda.
Visitors can therefore easily connect from Rwanda to Uganda and enjoy gorilla trekking, which has solved the problem of long distances from Kampala to Bwindi.
Those who have limited time can do a 1-day gorilla trek in Uganda through Kigali by setting off from Kigali at 3:30am and drove for four hours to reach Bwindi at 7:00am and attend a pre trekking briefing concerning the trekking rules and regulations.
The nearness of Bwindi to Kigali international airport has saved travelers of whole day driving save travelers from a whole day driving from Entebbe to Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla national parks in south western Uganda.