Gorilla Trekking-is it Really worth it? Is it worth my Time-Money-Effort?

Posted by on December 3, 2019

The Questions – Gorilla Trekking-is it Really Worth it? – the Answers

“Is Gorilla Trekking Worth the Effort, Cost, Time invested? Or Will I be disappointed?

Some time ago, I read a blog written by a South African (FynBos Guy) titled “Gorilla Trekking-is it really worth it?  I could not resist responding

Gorilla Trekking-is it really worth it? The Fynbos Guy ( South African who never has come near the Mountain Gorillas – thought that Gorilla Tracking was not worth the money, time, and effort.

He had never tracked the gentle giants of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or in Uganda 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 – 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.

Fynbos Guy has removed the actual Post, the reason we can no longer offer a link to it.  Just maybe he went on a Gorilla Trek and found out he was wrong.

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 go and see them will set you back $600 (now 600 USD for licenses alone, and that’s before the flight transfers and accommodations. I 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 of 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. (From gorilla-trekking-is-it-really-worth-it? written by Dominic Chadbon aka The Fynbos Guy )

 Gorilla Trekking-is it Really worth it? The reality about Gorilla Tracking Begins with One Question Answered – Are the thousands of visitors disappointed after spending one hour with the Mountain Gorillas?

 Gorilla Trekking-is it really worth it? -The Fynbos Guy wrote an excellent 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.

The Gorilla Trekking Experience: Those who have visited the Gentle Giants of the Forest rarely, if ever complain. Some visit them twice or partake in the Gorilla Habituation Experience, where they are with a gorilla family for four-hours.

Some of our Clients have called it “a Life-Changing Experience. “99% are awestruck by what they have experienced. That in spite of the truckload of cash, the discomfort of a long hike dissipates like vapor into thin air – it is the unforgettable experience of visiting the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda.

Those who go beyond a standard Gorilla Trek on the Gorilla Habituation Experience are even more enthusiastic, calling it “the Icing on the Cake of their Safari.”

Where else in the world are you going to see the endangered Mountain Gorillas?  You cannot find them in any zoo around the world, only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Answering the Fynbo Guy’s objections  to ” Gorilla Trekking-is it Really worth it?”

It takes a Truckload of Cash:

 Gorilla Trekking is the most expensive tourist activity in Africa – after the hour or more in the Case the 4-hour Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda – no one complains.

The cost of a Gorilla Permit presently is 600 USD (700 after July 1, 2020) in Uganda. It is a lot of money, yes. Still, that Permit Cost  pays for many things, including the protection and conservation of the endangered Mountain Gorillas, which are 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 fees paid by Trekkers since they receive a portion of it.

The Permit Fees fund various conservation projects. 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.

Gorilla permits are expensive, but see it as an investment in the survival and protection of the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda, aiding the surrounding communities, including the original people of the forest, the Batwa Community.

You only get to spend an hour with the Gorillas:

 Very true, one hour with a Gorilla Group Family, except that Uganda has the Gorilla Habituation Experience, which is 4 hours with a Gorilla Family.

It is, however, a very magical, memorable hour, a once in a lifetime experience – the Mountain Gorillas cannot be visited in any zoo in the world. They are not there; they have never survived in captivity – they are born free and can only live free. You can only visit them in their habitats such as the one in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda.

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.

Reality:  For most, one could say, well, over 95% it is the Experience of a lifetime, one does not count the minutes but focuses on the experience of the Encounter.

You can’t even go if you’ve got a cold or a sore throat:

 The rules are stringent – 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. He was refunded the money for the license.

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, and tourism pays for protection.

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 and the other way around.

The Rules, Guidelines are there for the Protection of the Mountain Gorillas and you.

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.

Gorilla Trekking-is it Really worth it? 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 more easy hikes and visit a group in the Buhoma or Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. One can also go Mountain Gorilla Tracking in the dry seasons of the year when the trails are not so muddy.

Discomfort – people are tired when they return from Gorilla Tracking. But one could say – well drained – 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 complains about the experience of visiting the Mountain Gorillas, which far outweighs the so-called Troubles.

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?

 The Mountain Gorillas are habituated, which means that they are used to humans coming to visit them – for the most part, they go about their daily affairs.

There are Rules of conduct. No flash pictures are allowed. No loud talking and 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 – usually, there is no disturbance, they are used to humans, and it is only for one hour.

That hour is one of the most memorable times in the African Wild in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda.

No Mountain Gorilla is going to enter your house, and they might enter the lodge compound where you are staying, which 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.

 Gorilla Trekking-is it really worth it? – Our Last Word:

There are Gorilla Trekking Naysayers, most of which have never trekked the Gentle Giants of the Forest. Yet, thousands of visitors each year find that a Safari is incomplete without Gorilla Trekking.

Over 90% of the requests that we receive are for Safaris that include Gorilla Trekking or the Gorilla Habituation Experience.  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.”

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 Volcanoes National Park.

Where is it is better to track Gorillas – Rwanda or Uganda – here is a comparison.

Fly from Nairobi or Arusha to Kigali – Rwanda and Trek Gorillas in Uganda

4-Hours with a Gorilla Family- Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda

More Time with the Gorillas