Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo
Gorilla Trekking Safaris: Gorilla trekking is an exciting adventure in which you travel into the tropical jungle in search of habituated gorilla families and spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is the most popular sport in three African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When you stare into the eyes of a huge silverback gorilla, he will respond with a thoughtful, intellectual glance, aware that you are another individual. Any fears or concerns you had during your walk will vanish the moment you saw your gorilla family. Gorilla trekking safaris provide a wonderful encounter unlike any other “wildlife” experience we’ve had.
What is gorilla Trekking Like?
In general, gorilla trekking comprises tourists seeking for gorillas in their native habitat. Gorilla trekkers typically hike mountains and through woods, looking for gorilla tracks, fresh dung, and broken plant shoots in order to locate a gorilla group or family.
Gorilla trekking activities normally begin in the early morning with a briefing of gorilla trekkers by the chief rangers in the national parks where gorilla trekking activities are available. The exercise can take 4-8 hours of tracking, with trackers given an hour after the gorillas are discovered.
Gorilla trekking excursions are conducted in groups of no more than eight people per gorilla group/family. To safeguard the safety of both the gorillas and the trekkers, gorilla trekkers are usually accompanied by a professional and competent park guide and an armed ranger.
Where is gorilla trekking done?
East and Central Africa gorilla trekking is possible in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Visitors to Uganda may undertake gorilla trekking in two parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Gorilla trekking is available in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, as well as in Congo’s Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks. From Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo, visitors may follow both mountain and eastern lowland gorillas.
Cost of Gorilla Trekking?
Although gorilla trekking might be costly, the experience is well worth it. A gorilla trekking permit will set you back USD 700 in Uganda, USD 1500 in Rwanda, and USD 400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Securing permits for trekking gorillas, especially during peak seasons, may be difficult on short notice, so prepare ahead of time. We will make all of the necessary preparations for the purchase of your permits.
Is gorilla trekking safe?
It is safe to go gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. Visitors trekking gorillas are always briefed before to tracking, so that people tracking gorillas know how to act in the presence of the gorillas. Furthermore, gorilla trekkers are frequently accompanied by an expert guide and armed park officers to safeguard their safety when tracking gorillas and in the presence of gorillas.
What is the age limit for gorilla trekking?
Any adult above the age of 15 years old can go gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking activities include a variety of strenuous activities such as traveling to high elevations, negotiating dense forest flora, and walking on steep and slippery slopes; hence, the activity is not appropriate for youngsters or persons with serious heart diseases.
What to pack for your gorilla trekking safari?
If you’re wondering what to bring on your gorilla trekking tour, here’s a list of items to consider: a good pair of hiking boots, gaiters, sunscreen, a hat/cap, a rain coat in case it rains, a walking stick (which you can get at the national park), a long sleeve shirt, long trousers, a camera, your packed lunch, mineral water, and your gorilla trekking permit.
How long does gorilla trekking take?
A trek to view gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo can take anywhere from one to eight hours, depending on circumstances such as the fitness of the trekkers, where the gorillas spent the night, food availability, and how far the gorillas migrate in quest of food.
How difficult is gorilla trekking?
Depending on where you choose to hike gorillas in Africa, gorilla trekking can be a time-consuming activity. Trekking gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda can be challenging since gorilla trekking activities in these two nations include ascending mountains and traveling through dense forest flora. The hiking paths used to follow gorillas may be very steep and muddy, so gorilla trekkers will need a lot of physical stamina and endurance when on a gorilla trekking expedition in Uganda or Rwanda.
As a result, tourists hiking mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda must be physically and emotionally prepared for the endeavour, as well as patient, as identifying a gorilla group might take up to 8 hours.
In comparison to Uganda and Rwanda, gorilla trekking in Congo is not as demanding. Trekking gorillas in Congo takes occur on very low terrain regions, thus there aren’t many strenuous trekking activities.
The Mountain Gorilla
Mountain gorillas are the biggest primates, rarest on planet earth and the most intelligent of all mammals. This endangered species of animal can only be found in the 3 highland areas of Africa (Western rim of the Great Rift Valley) in the whole world which include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga gorilla Park in Uganda, Virunga de parc in DRC and Volcanoes in Rwanda making them unique and the gorilla trekking safari so famous.
The Virunga volcanoes that separate the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable forest were first discovered by British explorers in 1861. Later in 1902, the gorillas were discovered. However the mountain gorilla species were made famous through the research of Dian Fossey, and today this species’ survival depends more on the local people of these countries than any other factor.
Mountain gorillas have never survived in the Zoos except the Western and Eastern gorillas basically because of unfavorable conditions since they are naturally bound to live in highland areas with forests having enough space, cool temperatures and good supply of food.
Attempts were made to collect mountain gorillas for zoos in the 1960’s and 70’s but none survived. Since then, all zoos have agreed to halt all further attempts to collect mountain gorillas for captive populations to avoid making the wild population even more vulnerable to extinction.
The western lowland gorillas, and the Eastern lowland gorilla-gorilla beringei graueri are more abundant and can also be found in zoos.
Captive lowland gorillas in zoos are important ambassadors for the conservation of wild populations of gorillas, and both lowland and mountain gorillas benefit from the impact gorilla has on the people that see them in zoos.
The only mountain gorillas which survive in the zoos are the Western and the Eastern gorillas.
There are about 1000 mountain gorillas in the whole world which have to be handled with a lot of care in order for them to increase in number and those that remain, many have been habituated for gorilla trekking safari experience by the authorities.
The size of their remaining habitat is rather small. Bwindi is only 330 kilometers squared composed of both montane and lowland forest located in south-western Uganda.
General characteristics of Mountain gorillas
- The gorilla has a characteristically heavy body shape and shaggy dark coat.
- Mountain gorillas have large jaws, smaller noses and shorter arms than their relatives. They also have longer hair for warmth.
- Although mountain gorillas are slightly larger and have longer fur than lowland gorillas, the differences are relatively slight and most people would have difficulty identifying the difference between them.
- An adult gorilla consumes 20 kgs of vegetation in a day although a silverback can consume as much as 35kgs
- Adult gorillas have 32 teeth-uses their large molars for chewing food and long canine teeth to bite or break thick pieces of vegetation.
- Gorillas’ hands and feet are very similar to ours-gorillas can grasp objects with both their hand and feet.
- Each gorilla’s nose is unique as a human fingerprint. This is one way researchers identify individual gorillas.
- Gorillas use at least 25 recognized vocalizations including grunts, roars and growls.
- They are fascinating, intelligent and highly sociable, playful and gentle creatures
- They can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable NPK in Uganda, Virunga in DRC, and The Volcanoes NPK. Rwanda
- They live in forests high in the mountains at an elevation of 8,000 to 13,000 feet
- Gorillas roam throughout their forest habitat and sometimes cover large distances in a day.
- Gorillas are not strictly territorial but do have home ranges which can be as large as 40 sq km primarily for large amounts of vegetation.
- They move regularly in a constant such for food, thus allowing vegetation to regenerate in their absence
- Gorillas use leaves and other plant materials to build their nests for sleeping at night.
- They have thicker fur and more of it compared to other great apes
- The fur helps them to survive in habitat where temperatures often drop below freezing point
- Generally, the gorillas are peaceful and non aggressive animals
- Young gorillas-play tag, wrestling and tickling as the adult males guard the family
- Gorillas often exhibit various poses that appear comical and sometimes they seem to mimic human behavior. They share many characteristics with humans, including a high degree of intelligence, complex social behavior, and strong emotional bonds with well developed senses-sight, smell, taste and touch.
- Gorillas spend about 30% of their time eating, 40% sleeping and 30% travelling.
- Males mature around the age of 10-12 years, and about that time the hair on their backs begin to turn silver hence the name “silverback”
- Mature males are referred to as silverbacks.
- They are the leaders of the family group.
- Adult male weighs around 160-227 kgs
- It’s dependent upon its mother for about 3 years
- Adult female gorilla
- Adult female gorilla weighs-70-120 kgs
- Female height: up to 1.5 m
- Female weight: 90 kg
- Females are smaller compared to the males
- Females do look after the baby gorillas.
Baby mountain gorillas
A baby gorilla crawls at about 4 months of age and it will begin to ride on its mother’s back clinging to the far.
Baby gorilla will nurse for about 18 months to two and a half years.
A newborn gorilla weighs about 1.4 to 2 kgs and this is half the weight of a human at birth. Young gorillas are very vulnerable and will stay close to their mothers for protection.
Young gorillas are playful and like to climb. As they get older, they spend less time climbing and more time eating.
Diet for gorillas
Gorillas like all primates prepare their food before eating it. The tough and bitter back or leaves are often striped off the stem of plants so that the tender core can be enjoyed.
They use their fingers and nails to deliberately remove the parts of the plant they do not like to eat and only indulge in those parts that provide nutrients and water.
Mountain gorillas eat up to 70 kinds of plants and as many as 200 different parts of various vegetation like wild celery, leaves herbs, thistles, nettles, shrubs, roots, bark, flowers, fruits, fungi and bamboo. Sometimes ants and termites to supplement on their diet
Gorillas eat both the leaves and the thick base of thistles which add a lot of nutrients to the gorilla’s diet.
The decaying dead trees
They collect humidity and many minerals which gorillas chew sometimes as well as fungi that grow on decaying trees.
The soft wood is a source of nutrients and water particularly in the dry season when water is scarce.
The order in which gorillas are allowed to enjoy this food is directly related to their order in the hierarchy in the group, with dominant animals having first access.
Mountain gorillas have been divided into three categories namely;
Wild gorillas – have no human contact.
Research gorillas – are approached and observed strictly for research purposes.
Tourist gorillas – habituated to tolerate short visits by people to generate income for conservation and community development
Researchers can estimate the size and age structure of a group by how many nests are constructed and the size of the feces by the nest but such indirect counting methods are not as accurate as visual observation of the group
Threats of Mountain gorillas
Conversion of land for agriculture which reduces on the food supply and habitat loss as a result of cultivation by the neighboring communities of the Park
Deforestation for firewood and lumber destroys the habitat for Mountain gorillas.
Poaching where by Mountain gorillas are caught by traps and wire snares set to trap other animals like antelopes, forest pigs among others. They are also hunted for to get their skin which is used for traditional purposes like cultural dances.
Transmission of diseases caused by human beings like flue and cough which are so dangerous to Mountain gorillas
The mentioned Threats above have been addressed through the incredible commitment of dedicated Park rangers, increased understanding by local inhabitants and outside resources from interested Organizations. The mountain gorilla population has become reasonably stable over the past few years.
Although mountain gorillas are being threatened by a number of factors, conservation bodies like UWA and funders like The International Gorilla Conservation Program have designed strategies to overcome these threats.
They have involved the local populations in the conservation of the mountain gorillas by giving the local people jobs such as guides, trackers and porters for gorilla tourism.
Ownership and management of the tourism facilities is shared directly with the local communities to fund development projects in the region for example bee keeping.
Wood curving, basket and other locally made products are sold to tourists. This income can help increase profits derived from the natural resources found in the gorillas’ habitat.
Local culture is shared with tourists in the evening around a campfire as part of entertainment which generates income to the local people making them realize the importance of mountain gorillas in the community.