It is not about trekking or tracking. It is about being with Mountain Gorillas.
You can call it Gorilla Tracking or Trekking – it is a once-in-Lifetime Encounter with the Gentle Giants of the Forest.
Call it Gorilla Tracking or Trekking, whatever you want to call it. To most, it is the same Incredible, once-in-a-lifetime Encounter with the Mountain Gorillas in the Wild. It is not the terminology, trekking, or track; it is the experience of being with the Gentle Giants of the forest.
One can get up in terms. The fact is that thousands from around the world make their way to Uganda each year to spend time with the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Mountain Gorillas can only be found in the wild and not in any zoo anywhere in the world.
At present, Uganda is the premier gorilla destination for trekkers or trackers. The reasons for that are affordability and safety while tracking.
Whether you call it Gorilla Trekking or Tracking is immaterial – the fact remains – It is a once in a Lifetime Encounter with the Mountain Gorillas, the Gentle Giants of the Forest.
Unlike Pandas, Orangutans, and Chimpanzees, Mountain Gorillas’ cannot be found or visited in a zoo anywhere in the world. You can only find Mountain Gorillas in three countries in Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over half of the mountain gorillas in the world can be found in Uganda in two spots – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, where there are over 480 Gorillas.
Call it Gorilla Tracking or Trekking-It is an incredible Gorilla Encounter.
People may not realize that unlike seeing lions in the Wild, or searching out Giraffes, Elephants, Warthogs, Crocodiles, and Hippos, a limited number of visitors are allowed to view and visit the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda. Presently, 19 groups have been habituated and are open for visitation – 19 at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Nyakagezi Family in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. (Habituation means that the Mountain Gorillas are used to Human Beings, a process that can take up to two years) There are over 36 Mountain Gorilla Groups in the Wild of Uganda in total, both habituated ones and those who are not.
Each Mountain Gorilla group can have a maximum of 8 visitors daily for about one hour. Gorilla Groups vary in size from 6 to up to 30 in number.
You meet at the park office, depending on which group of gorillas you are tracking – it can be in the Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, or Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
It would be best if you had a packed lunch with you, 2 liters of water. Gorilla Wear such as a hat, tough gardening gloves, long pants, boots, long-sleeved shirt, rain jacket, backpack, insect repellent, and lots of batteries; you can get a walking stick locally and the assistance of a porter if need be.
At the Gorilla tracking orientation, you are assigned to your guide. He is an expert on gorillas. And most often, it was a part of the gorilla group’s habituation process. They visit your gorilla group daily and know their ways and patterns of movement since gorillas move daily and build new nests daily.
The tracking time can take up to 8 hours. You cannot just drive up to their location – it can be a hike, especially in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. However, despite a strenuous hike, your surroundings in either Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park are fantastic, breathtaking, and beautiful. Not only will you see your Mountain Gorillas up close and personal but also other mammals who call Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park their home.
There are birds endemic to the parks, butterflies, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and of course, the rugged, scenic beauty you will see on your Gorillas in the Mist experience in Uganda. Some people cannot get enough of the Mountain Gorillas in one day, so they schedule and plan for two days of Gorilla Trekking in Uganda. Never have I had someone disappointed with their encounter with Uganda’s gentle and majestic Mountain Gorillas.
There are some restrictions to visiting the Uganda Mountain Gorillas: No flu, coughs, or colds, no diarrhea problems, reasonably fit, and a minimum age of 15. Some of the cost of a permit to see the Mountain Gorillas may restrict them from a budgetary viewpoint. The cost of one ticket is 600 USD, and Rwanda has raised its price to 750 USD as of June 2012.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking has not always been around. Some scientists and or researchers were against the concept of Mountain Gorilla Tracking, such as Dian Fossey. Walter Baumgärtel was the father of Mountain Gorilla Tracking in Uganda. His idea was to promote tourism and provide funding to conserve these majestic creatures. He bought the Travellers Rest Hotel in Kisoro near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park. He pioneered the new Gorilla Trekking program working through obstacles with the British Colonial Government, which at first was against the concept, then later with the Ugandan government of Milton Obote, causing him to leave in 1969. Many famous Mountain Gorilla researchers stayed at his hotel, which in those days did not have running water but had to be brought in. He climbed into the surrounding mountains with a Ugandan man who became an expert guide over the years and discovered the wonders of the Mountain Gorillas.
He was right; today, Mountain Gorillas in Uganda live in protected areas; their biggest threat, poachers, has been dealt with by giving a portion of the Gorilla permits to the local population. Gorillas are also growing in numbers in the protected areas of Uganda, proving Walter Baumgärtel, the father of gorilla tourism, right.
Today, thanks to pioneers of Mountain Gorilla Trekking, such as Walter Baumgärtel, who had the right idea, that tourism could help the gorillas instead of destroying them, as was the fear of Dian Fossey. He left Uganda in 1969 to live in the country of his birth, Germany, where he died but never forgot his beloved Mountain Gorillas.
Today, thousands come to Uganda each year in search of the Mountain Gorillas; some even stay in the Travellers Rest Hotel he owned, but also he would be surprised as to what has happened to his beloved Mountain Gorillas.
No matter what-Gorilla Tracking or Trekking – It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will not soon forget.