Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda – is it really worth it? – the Answers
“Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda – is it actually worth it” – The Answer comes from Thousands of Trekkers – “Yes”
The Fynbos Guy ( South African who never has come near the Mountain Gorillas – (in South Africa there are none) thought that Gorilla Tracking was not worth the money, time and effort. He had never tracked the gentle giants of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda or Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was making a judgment based on preconceived ideas, some of them wrong-his humorous blog, however, motivated me to write a response to his various points.
Below is an excerpt – actually most of his blog but the beginning paragraph which is not related to Gorilla Tracking – I thought it was well written with a nice touch of humor, he expressed his opinions very well, but most who have visited the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda would disagree with him.
And I feel much the same about gorilla trekking: although I’ve never done it, I’d really, really, need convincing that the costs, discomforts, and effort of seeing mountain gorillas in the wild are worth it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not arguing against the protection of the critically endangered gorillas and of course, believe that both they and their equally threatened habitat should be preserved and defended. But why do we have to spend a fortune to go slipping through the deeply unwelcoming rainforest to them?
So what are my gripes?
Firstly, it costs a truckload of cash. The permit to actually go and see them will set you back $500 (now 600 USD in Uganda and 15oo USD in Rwanda for permits alone) and that’s before the flight transfers and accommodations. I just don’t have that kind of money. (Maybe that’s why I’m so grumpy about it.)
Secondly, despite all this money you’re flinging all over the place, you only get to spend an hour with the gorillas. An hour! I spend more time than that in traffic every day. And you can’t even go if you’ve got a cold or a sore throat.
Then there’s the discomfort. Ever been in a rainforest? I have, and it doesn’t take long to work out why they’re called rainforests. It’s wet and gloomy and mildew and full of biting buzzing insects. The paths are mudslides, the humidity unbearable and the heat sapping. Give me a mild and breezy Savannah any day.
And then there’s the moral question. How’d you feel if a party of sweaty apes suddenly burst uninvited into your house and started taking photos while you were having a nap or sitting on the toilet? Thought so. It’s a wonder the gorillas don’t tear their unsolicited human visitors’ limb from limb – I would, and I’m a gentle-natured guy. No, I am, really. (From gorilla-trekking-is-it-really-worth-it? written by Dominic Chadbon aka The Fynbos Guy )
Let us try to give you the reality about Gorilla Tracking or Trekking as the Fynbos Guy puts it and start with the simple Question – are the thousands of visitors to Uganda, Rwanda, disappointed after spending one hour or even 4 on the Gorilla Habituation Experience with the Mountain Gorillas?
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda – is it really worth it -The Fynbos Guy wrote a great and humorous article – I enjoyed it and it provoked me to write about the above – some who have never visited the Mountain Gorillas might even agree with him.
Those who have visited them and some actually visit them twice – two days in a row – they are simply in awe of what they have experienced and all the efforts, the truckload of cash, the discomfort of a long hike dissipates like a vapor into thin air – it is the unforgettable experience of visiting the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Some of our Clients have called it “a Life-Changing Experience.”
Where else are you going to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas? You cannot find them in any zoo around the world.
Answering the Fynbo Guy’s objections to “Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda – is it really worth it?”
It takes a Truckload of Cash:
The cost of a permit presently is 600 USD in Uganda, 1500 USD in Rwanda for a permit) – a lot of money, yes, but as I wrote in a blog page recently – that Permit Cost pays for many things, including the protection and conservation of the endangered Mountain Gorillas which are actually growing in numbers at the rate of 3.7% a year, in part due to the Permit Prices or as I call it – Track for Cash.” One must also consider that the local communities benefit directly from the 600 USD in Uganda or 1500 USD permit fee in Rwanda since they receive a portion of it.
The 600 USD Permits in Uganda and 1500 USD permits in Rwanda pay for the Habituation of the Gorillas which takes up to two years, various conservation project, the local communities are educated to see the benefits of protecting the Mountain Gorillas since they bring them much-needed finances that underwrite the costs of various community projects. In Uganda, the local communities receive 20% of Permit Fees and in Rwanda, it is 10%.
The 600 USD or 1500 USD permits are a lot of money but see it as an investment in the survival and protection of the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda, aiding the surrounding communities including the original people of the forest – the Batwa Pygmy Community.
When Rwanda raised its permit prices to 1500 USD it seemed like a Truckload of Cash to many Travelers, Rwanda has decided to market itself as an upmarket Primate Destination, it does take a truckload of Cash and the result has been a shift to Uganda where permit prices are 600 USD and 1500 USD gets you 4 hours with a Gorilla Family.
You only get to spend an hour with the Gorillas:
It is, however, a very magical, memorable hour, a once in a lifetime experience – the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda or Rwanda cannot be visited in any zoo in the world. They are simply not there, they have never survived in captivity – they are born free and can only live free and you can only visit them in their habitats such as the one in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Volcanoes National Park
That one hour is designed for the well-being of the Gorillas as they continue with their day – minimize the chance of infections such as colds, flu, measles and whatever else
For 1500 USD – you can have 4 hours with the Gorillas on a Gorilla Habituation Experience – it is an all-day trek with the time you spend hiking in and out.
You can’t even go if you’ve got a cold or a sore throat:
The rules are very strict – we had a client a few years back who came down with diarrhea and he informed his tour guide two days in advance that he could not go gorilla tracking since he did not want pass on his illness to the mountain gorillas – we were able to resell his permits and he was refunded the money for the permit.
The rules are in place for the protection of the Mountain Gorillas and were laid out after much research, advice from the Gorilla Doctors who make forest calls and even surgery in the forest. One is dealing with an endangered species and rules are there to protect them.
The well-being of the Mountain Gorillas is on most everyone’s mind and that is the way it should be. It is all about conservation and not just tourism, tourism pays for conservation.
There is also research ongoing by organizations that attempt to find out whether there are any new disease threats that can be passed on by the Mountain Gorillas to Humans.
Then there’s the discomfort. Ever been in a rainforest?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an ancient rainforest that is incredibly beautiful – the hikes to and from where the gorilla group is located including the hour with the gorillas can be five to six-hour in total – some days it may take all day.
Discomfort – one can give to the local community and hire a porter who will be able to put more things on his table for his family, one can take the easier hikes and visit a group in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of those offered Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. One can also go Mountain Gorilla Tracking in the dry seasons of the year where the trails are not so muddy.
Discomfort – people are tired when they return from Gorilla Tracking but one could say – well tired – it was well worth it. Unbearable humidity – we are not talking of the lowland jungles of the Congo, but we are talking Mountain Gorillas – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and even higher altitudes of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Discomfort – the walks can be strenuous but no one complaints about the experience of visiting the Mountain Gorillas which far outweighs the so-called discomforts.
And then there’s the moral question. How would you feel if a party of sweaty apes suddenly burst uninvited into your house and started taking photos while you were having a nap or sitting on the toilet?
No flash pictures are allowed, no loud talking and definitely no mobile phones – one of the only times one of the gorillas reacted was when someone used a flash and made a lot of noise and a silverback charged him – normally there is no disturbance, they are used to humans and it is only for one hour.
Yet that hour is one of the most memorable time in the African Wild… of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda.
No Mountain Gorilla is going to enter your house, they might enter the lodge compound where you are staying, that is always to the delight of the guests staying there.
Do remember that you are only one hour with the Mountain Gorillas unless you are on a Gorilla Habituation In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Thousands of Visitors each year do find that a Safari is complete without Gorilla Trekking in Uganda or Rwanda which unlike the Democratic Republic of the Congo are two of the safest countries on the African Continent.
Over 90% of the requests that we receive are for Safaris that include Gorilla Trekking or the Gorilla Habituation Experience. Our Convenient idea is to fly to Rwanda and Trek Gorillas in Uganda has been replicated by other companies. Many of our Clients Trek Gorillas Twice – or even do two or 3 Gorilla Habituation experience and none of them complain about the price, say “it was not worth it.”
At the end of the day, our Gorilla Trekking Clients rave about the experience of being up close with the Gentle Giants of the Forest in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, in Mgahinga Gorilla Park or in Volcanoes National Park.
\more Time on a Gorilla Family Visit