Mountain Gorilla Trekking FAQ Uganda Rwanda and DR Congo?
Questions and answers about trekking/tracking and photographing, viewing Mountain Gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Best Times to trek/Track Gorillas, Getting Permits and Planning for Mountain Gorilla tour/safaris.
Trekking/tracking and photographing Mountain Gorillas is one of the world’s greatest natural history travel experiences, Mountain Gorilla tours/safaris can be expensive, but also incomparably inspiring and emotional and always uniquely memorable. If you are able to get a tracking permit, now days you have a 100% chance of viewing/seeing a group/family of Mountain Gorillas in the wild, provided you are fit enough to do the necessary gorilla tracking. Mountain gorillas range through thick forests on steep hillsides, Mountain Gorilla Park Rangers and trackers always know generally where they can be found. Reaching them sometimes requires long hours of hiking in steep terrain forest, but sometimes Mountain Gorilla Park Rangers, trackers and tourists reach their target group in just a few minutes of walking. Our guides consider the interests, ages and abilities of our clients, and then do their best to get our clients assigned to habituated gorilla family/groups which are most rewarding, easiest to reach, and offer the best tracking experience. In Uganda, you will improve your chance of having your choice of family/group by getting your gorilla permit early up to 9 months before your visit, In Rwanda and DR Congo there is less emphasis on early gorilla permit reservations and more on early arrival for the day of tracking and the influence of your tour guide with park authorities.
Where and when is it possible to trek/track Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo?
Mountain Gorilla tracking in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo is done every day of the year. The habituated Mountain Gorilla families/groups for tourist tracking tours/safaris varies through the year depending on the location of the Mountain Gorilla families/groups, Other habituated Mountain Gorilla families/groups are dedicated to research and not open to tourist tracking.
How can one visit Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo?
Anyone over 15 years of age can buy a permit to visit or trekking/tracking Mountain Gorillas. All of the remaining Mountain Gorillas in the wild reside in the Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and volcano’s mountain ranges along the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Most tourists visit the Mountain Gorillas with the assistance of tour operators like Kisoro Tours Uganda. Kisoro tours arranges the necessary trekking/tracking permits in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, others things like guides and lodging required for Mountain Gorilla tracking Kisoro Tours Uganda will do all the bookings for you.
How many Mountain Gorillas are there in Uganda, Rwanda and Rwanda?
Mountain gorillas, a subspecies of the eastern lowland gorilla, live in mountain forests in only two locations in the world – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in south-western Uganda and the Virunga Mountain range of extinct volcanoes that border the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
According to the census report, there are more than 400 mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, living in 38 distinct social groups/families, 15 of these social groups are accustomed to human presence for either tourism or research. A 2010 survey counted 480 individuals in Virunga Mountain Range this brings the total to 880 habituated groups/families accessible to tourists.
Does everyone have to buy a gorilla trekking/tracking permit, How much do gorilla tracking permits cost?
You must purchase gorilla tracking permits in advance. Current cost of gorilla tracking permits in Rwanda is $750, in Uganda is $600 and in DR Congo is 450 per person for a one hour viewing in a group of eight visitors. However Uganda has introduces specially discounted gorilla permits in the month of March April, May and November 2016/2017 to $450 . This does not include the transportation from the registration and orientation site to the hiking departure point or trailhead. This point may be up to 25 miles away. Kisoro Tours Uganda takes care of this. You will also want to tip your park guide and trackers about $10 each.
We recommend you also hire a porter at an additional cost of $15 per trek, as they will help carry your daypack, assist you trekking when necessary, and it provides additional income to the local community.
Is gorilla tracking easier in Rwanda, Uganda or DR Congo, How does gorilla tracking compare in Rwanda, Ugandaand DR Congo, Where is the best place to track gorillas?
Mountain Gorillas tracking and trekking is conducted similarly in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Very few tourists choose to track Mountain Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo these days due to security concerns and services there are not as well organized. The mountain gorillas of all in only three countries inhabit similar rugged terrain and have similar habits. Individual mountain gorilla groups/families vary in their accessibility. The regulations and quality of local gorilla guides/trackers is similar in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
How difficult is Gorilla Trekking, How fit one have must be to track Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo?
You must be able and willing to hike in rough terrain and in any weather to see Mountain Gorillas in the wild. However, many older people who don’t think of themselves as hikers or adventurers can successfully visit the gorillas. Porters/Personal assistants can be hired to carry your daypack and assist you in difficult areas. The local guides will work to make it as easy as possible for you to track and photograph the Mountain Gorillas. We have had numerous clients in their 75’s succeed in reaching their target Mountain Gorilla groups/famlies. But many people return very exhausted, muddy and sore if they are not used to vigorous hiking. Altitude sickness is not usually a problem. You will want a pair of gloves and clothing that protects your arms and legs from thorns and nettles. Good balance is helpful in Gorilla trekking as trails may be slippery.
How much time can I spend with the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo?
Your Mountain Gorilla tracking/viewing permit allows you to spend one hour with a habituated group/family of Mountain Gorillas. Sometimes your guide may allow you a few more minutes, especially if you have had a long trek to reach them and the tourist group is not disturbing to the gorillas. Kisoro Tours Uganda clients who reach the Mountain Gorillas are thrilled with the experience. Even with the one-hour limit, all Kisoro Tours Uganda clients are thrilled and report that the effort was worth it.
How close can I get to the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo?
Officially you are required to keep a 10mts distance from the gorillas. In practice, the Mountain Gorillas often violate this rule by coming closer to you as you stand quietly observing or photographing them. It is still helpful to have a telephoto capability on your camera since some animals are shy, and the Silverback may be very protective of the young one. You are not allowed to touch the gorillas.
Are the Mountain Gorillas dangerous Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo?
All wild animals are best considered potentially dangerous and treated as wild animal, but Mountain Gorillas are not aggressive or prone to be angered by tourists. Many people are surprised that the Mountain Gorillas seem to ignore the tourists in their midst completely. You should not get between a mother and a baby.
How old must you be to track Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo?
There is a minimum age of 15 years for anyone buy a tracking permit to track Mountian Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo . Park Authorities will check the age of all tracking permit holders against the birthdate in your passport.
Where can I stay near the gorillas during my tour/safari in Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo?
There are many lodges in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo offering a range of accommodations, airport transfers and other safari services. Journeys uses a variety of accommodations in the higher comfort ranges.
When is the best time to see and track Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo?
Gorilla tracking can be done any day any time of the year but some people are comfortable doing it in the dry seasons June-July- August-September and December-January-February. It can and does rain in every month and the effects of climate change are quite evident in this area of East Africa with seasonal rains being much less predictable and sometimes more intense. All gorilla tracking parties leave around 8am when there is least likelihood of heavy rain. If you happen to be assigned a distant gorilla group/families requiring four or more hours of tracking your chances of returning in the rain increase.
What else is there to see in Rwanda besides Mountain Gorillas?
Rwanda is a beautiful, green, thriving country, known as the land of a Thousand Hills. The volcanic soil is very rich and subsistence agriculture produces food year around. The genocide of 1994 is powerfully memorialized in a museum in Kigali and at other sites around the country. Visitors are encouraged to partake in these experiences and learn from them. Currently there is no apparent ethnic conflict or significant insurgent or militant activity. There is a dynamic re-building of the social fabric and a commitment to the youth of the country. You might wish to hike to Karisoke where Diane Fossey conducted her pioneering research, or take a trek to see Golden Monkeys of Parc des Volcanes. This park has the greatest diversity. Other wildlife parks of Rwanda generally do not compare in diversity of species or quality of management with the parks and reserves of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
What else is there to see in Uganda besides Mountain Gorillas?
Travel to Uganda for wonderful cultures, large wildlife parks with few other tourists, and spectacular birding. Uganda may be the best tour/safari country in Africa for a large variety of bird species and great birding tour/safari habitats. Determined birders often see more than 400 species on a 10-12 day Uganda birding tour/safari. There are also many other species of primates you are likely to see on a Mountain Gorilla tour/safari or a pure birding tour/safari trip. The Ruhenzori Mountains, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park,Kidepo National Park Kibale National Park, Lake MburoNational Park invite more extended primates game viewing natural walks and hiking. Wetland habitats and Lake Victoria also hold cultural and natural history tour/safari attractions.
What about Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda and Rwanda? How does Chimpanzee Tracking work?
There are more Chimpanzees than Mountain Gorillas left in the wild and they survive over a much broader range. The parks authorities of Uganda and Rwanda also monitor Chimpanzee populations and the groups which have been habituated for tourist visitors also require advance purchased tracking permits to visit. Two main sites for tracking/viewing chimpanzees in Uganda are Kibale Forest and Kyambura Gorge. You will hike in groups of 8-12 visitors accompanied by a park guide. Close encounters with Chimpanzees seem to be less predictable than with Mountain Gorillas, though less hiking may be involved. In the experience of Kisoro Tours Uganda groups, visits to the Chimps of Kibale Forest have been more successful than visits to Kyambura Gorge.
9 Other Tips for a successful Mountain Gorilla Tracking Safari and Chimpanzee tour
1. Purchase your Gorilla tracking permits as far in advance as possible for you to be sure and a avoid disappointment
2. You will be with a group of 8 people and guide/trackers . Also, consider hiring a local person as a porter assistant, even if you are very fit. This adds a great cultural dimension to the experience and is not really expensive its only $15.
3. Prepare for the possibility of rain at any time of year because tracking is done in forests .
4. Wear long sleeves and slacks and bring glove to protect against thistles nettles and thorns.
5. Wear durable hiking shoes, you will be off trail in rough terrain.
6. Expect you might have a long hike. Be in the best physical shape you can be.
7. Understand your camera well, Cameras with built-in video are very good. Telephoto ability helps.
8. Consider traveling with a companion or friend with whom you will share the lifelong memory of the encounter.
9. Listen to the advice of your guide. Trust that he or she really wants you to get great photos and have the best possible experience.