MOUNTAIN GORILLA SAFARI INFORMATION
Follow the Leader
Hierarchy is clear and important within the gorilla family. The dominant Silverback enjoys the highest rank and the adult females rule over the younger ones. Like with other species in the animal world, gorilla males achieve the high ranking because of their size. Male mountain gorillas can weigh up to 200 kg and can reach 1.70 meter when they’re standing upright. Besides the strength they also have to prove their experience and abilities. It is their duty to protect their family from danger and intruders.
It is not difficult to figure out where the name Silverback comes from. Around the age of 12 years, they develop light grey hair on their back, giving them a ‘silver back’.
A day in the Life of the Gorilla
An ordinary day in the life of a mountain gorilla starts at sunrise, around 6 am. They wake up and begin looking for food which covers a great part of the morning. In general, a gorilla spends about 30% of the day with feeding, 30% with travelling and 40% with resting. In contrast to many primates, the gorilla lives mainly on the ground. They travel not more than a kilometer per day within their home range of about 20 square kilometres.
Gorillas are vegetarians, though occasionally they may eat ants and other insects. Their daily meal consists of roots, leaves, stems and pith of herbs, vines and shrub, and some fruits. During certain months of the year bamboo shoots supply a major part in their diet as well. A male adult can even eat up to 20 kg per day! Because the gorillas receive a large quantity of water from its diet, they rarely have to drink.
The afternoons are mainly spent with resting and playing. This last activity is very important in the social life, especially for young gorillas, as it determines their integration into the group. They hug each other, bite, hit or wrestle till one is pulled down on the ground.
At the end of the day, just before dusk, the great apes start constructing a nest where they will spend their night. Every single gorilla has its own nest, except for the infants who sleep next to their mothers. Nests are built on the ground or in trees and are carefully constructed by branches of bushes and other plants.
Protect the Gorilla
The existence of the gorilla was ‘discovered’ in 1902 by a German explorer. Nearly 60 years later, the American scientist George Schaller was the first one to study the gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes and Bwindi. Later Dian Fossey continued his research and she became famous because of her movie “Gorillas in the Mist”. She worked with the gorillas in Rwanda from 1967 till 1985 and thanks to her dedication the world began to learn about the mysterious beauty of these apes. To this day, the Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda can still be visited.
Even before the research started, an estimated of 450 mountain gorillas were living in the Virungas. Only 20 years later, the population was decreased to 250 individuals. Although the gorilla has just a few enemies, the most dangerous one is the human being. Habitats were destroyed through deforestation, they suffered from wars, diseases were transferred and they were commonly hunted for meat or just as a trophy. The number raised again thanks to the conservation efforts of Dian Fossey.
It may be clear that the mountain gorilla is one of the most endangered species in the world. To make people aware and to protect the gorillas, it has been made possible to visit some gorilla families. In this way visitors will learn about the life of the gorilla and revenues will benefit the conservation.
Before gorillas safaris can be made they need to be habituated to the presence of human beings. This is a long and careful process and can take several years. Special trained rangers approach them carefully and spend increasing periods of time with them. The habituation can be risky for both gorillas and humans. Not only the silverback might feel threatened, but the gorillas can also easily be infected with diseases. Therefore it is important to maintain strict rules when habituating and visiting the gorillas
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GORILLA TRACKING
- Where can I find the gorillas in Uganda?
Located in the southwestern part of Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National park is the leading tourism site when it comes to gorilla tracking experience. This is where you can find these gentle apes. The only way through which someone can view them closely is by personally tracking them in their natural habitats and that’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
- When is the best time to go gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Before you come for gorilla trekking, you need to take note of the climatic changes and the best time to visit the park. Though some visitors might be lucky to trek the gorillas at any time of the year even during rainy seasons, the best time to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable is during the dry season. This is because during a dry season the park is dry and easily accessible on foot. The best time to visit the park for gorilla tracking is mid-December to February and June to September.
- Where can l stay while in Bwindi national park?
There are various accommodations to stay within and near the park, depending on the sector of the park to which your Gorilla trekking permit reads and these include; – (Buhoma area) – Buhoma Community Camp, Engagi Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Lake Kitandara camp, Chameleon hill Lodge, Buhoma Lodge, Mahogan Springs Lodge and Gorilla forest camp among others. (Ruhija area) – Trekker’s Tervan Ruhija, Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Gorilla Friends Camp, Ruhija Gorilla Lodge, Broadbill Camp Ruhija and Gift of Nature Lodge among others. (Rushaga area) – Gorilla Valley Lodge, Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Nshonji Gorilla Resort, Wagtail Camp, Lake Mutanda Resort and Chameleon Hill Lodge among others. (Nkuringo area) – Nkuringo Gorilla Camp, Bwindi Backpackers Camp and the Clouds Lodge among others.
- How can l get there?
Bwindi can be accessed by both road and air. By road, it is about 500km from Kampala in the south west while as by air, a flight from Entebbe international airport to kisoro or Kihihi airstrips near Bwindi is possible.
- Will l definitely see the gorillas?
Gorillas are wild animals so there are no guarantees, but it is most likely you will see them. Guides are trained in locating the gorillas and will know where they were the day before, as well as their movement habits.
- How long can l spend seeing the gorillas?
Upon seeing the gorillas you will have just one hour with them. We recommend you track them at least twice.
- Is there a Minimum Or Maximum Age To Visit The Gorillas?
Trekking is done by people with 16 years and above and there is no flexibility to this rule. This is the same for both Rwanda and Uganda and it’s enforced by the national parks.
- Do l need a Permit for gorilla trekking?
You must obtain a gorilla permit before you visit the gorillas. Its only 8 visitors granted gorilla permits to see each gorilla group per day, they are extremely limited. To be on the safe side you need to secure a gorilla permit in advance, at least 4 months before you intend to travel. At Amazing Wildlife tours Uganda are here to arrange and secure permits for you as far in advance as possible. The permits currently cost around US$600 per person for foreign nonresidents in Uganda, $1500 in Rwanda and $400 in Democratic Republic of Congo, 500$ for foreign residents and 250,000UGX for residents in Uganda.
What to Carry
- Closed shoes for climbing steep muddy slopes
- Drinking water
- Insect repellents
- Rain jacket
- Cold and warm clothes
- Hand gloves will also be ideal for this activity.
- Gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases, because they share with us 98% of the genetic setting and so the rules/regulations are;
- Any one ill, or carrying a contagious disease, should stay behind.
- If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth.
- Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases and also protect you from catching their diseases.
- Do not leave any rubbish (like, food wrappers) in the park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
- How big are gorilla trekking groups?
There is a maximum of 8 people per gorilla tracking group in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.