Uganda, without doubt has got one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences; the thrill of a close encounter with the reclusive mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. We have the best chance of viewing these delightful apes with the fact that it boasts two parks where they have been habituated for human visits that is; the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which harbor over half of the remaining world mountain gorillas.
Uganda is undoubtedly home to twelve (12) habituated Gorilla groups located in both Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks.
Mgahinga National park gifted with one group, that is, the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is led by the Silverback Mark and composed of 10 individuals; 5 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 1 infant.
Bwindi National Park has got Gorilla families divided in 4 different sectors namely;
Buhoma Sector which has;
Ruhijja Sector has;
Rukara group: 1 silverback, 2 blackbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants,
Mukiza group: 1 silverback, 4 adult females, 1 subadult and 4 infants.
Rushaga sector has
The Nkuringo sector
Since eight permits are allocated to track each group daily, 96 Gorilla Tracking permits are guaranteed in Uganda.
The time spent tracking Gorillas in Uganda depends and varies from half an hour to eight hours depending on the Gorilla movements. This activity starts with a briefing at 8am at the park headquarters of any sector you are booked to track, and after the tracking, you set off to the forest with the guide of the rangers who guide you to the spots where the gorillas may be found. You are allowed only one hour in the midst of these great apes so as not to distract their behavioral patterns. The cost of each gorilla permit in Uganda is USD 600.
Gorilla Trekking Requirements
Conduct for Gorilla Visitors
When you set off for gorilla tracking, please you are warned that you;
(a) Keep your voice down or be quiet.
(b) Don’t point or waive your arms, it can be mistaken for threat. Be slow.
(c) Back away slowly to keep 5metres separation if approached by a gorilla.
(d) Don’t use flash, it can threaten the gorillas and bother other visitors.
Health and safety measures while mountaineering
The high attitude and the wet conditions of the Rwenzori and can deficiently affect visitors who are not experienced. Note that the following health problems are possible and you have to be prepared:
3. Altitude sickness,
4. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)
5. HAPE (High altitude sickness pulmonary edema)
6. HACE (High altitude cerebral edema).
Gorilla Trekking Precautions
Gorillas are a bit wild and should not be irritated carelessly. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has a warning notice that it does not take any responsibility for any injury sustained by wild animals in their habitats, therefore, always:
While trekking the Mountain Gorillas and for you to enjoy tracking exercise, carry the following:
– Rain gear or a Rain Coat for unpredictable weather
– Sunscreen and a hut for the unpredictable weather.
– Water and food
– Hiking boots with good clutch perfect for the steep mud-covered slopes.
– Binoculars especially for watching birds and far animals. But you can also hire from the park office.
– A warm cardigan
– Thick trousers and a long sleeved top are ideal for tracking.
– Video- filming is allowed in the parks though not outside the park
– Water proof container for their cameras
– If you prefer wearing a hat, a baseball cap is recommended.
What you need for successful mountain hiking
Besides a high level of physical fitness, you ought to ensure that at least the following equipment are in your custody prior to hiking the Rwenzoris;
1. Hiking Boots, Gum boots: A strong set of hiking boots is essential, principally in the early stages of the climb and in the trek across the glaciers. Gum boots are vital equipment in the mud-covered sections of the mountain trail.
2. Rucksack: A powerful waterproof bag is necessary. Most times, Rwenzori can be wet. This will help maintain your essential items dry as you hike.
3. Cooking utensils: If you intend to do your own cooking, a light stove, some plates and cups should be in your possession. It is possible to hire a cook for the trip but still plan to have at least the bare essentials like the plates, cups, forks, knifes and others.
4. Warm stuff: After the first camp, the mountain gets much colder below 10°C and certainly below freezing at some camps. Good warm shirts and pants, a decent sleeping bag are all necessary. A good pair of warm waterproof gloves is necessary for whoever is hiking up to the peaks.
5. Emergency kits: Emergency medication is essential. For a large part of the expedition, you will be at least a day away from even the best emergency services.
6. Food: Most climbers carry their own food. Some food can also be bought at the Park Headquarters. You need energy giving food, glucose packs, sweetened juice mixers, chocolate and dry porridge mix are recommended. No need to carry water as the mountain provides lots of natural, sparkling, safe drinking water.
7. Equipment: All camps have huts but you may wish to carry a tent as it can improve trip flexibility and ensure to bring the common camping gears like the lighter, torch, toiletries, GPS to mention. However keep in mind that while you will have porters to help you out carry your equipment, there is a hard limit (22kg) as to how much each porter will carry: You therefore have to hire more porters if you have lots of kit.
The Park Headquarter has limited number of tents, rucksacks and boots for hire, be sure to speak to them before-hand to establish availability. Park offices also provides crampons, ice axes and ropes for hire, for those planning to try any of the peaks but you may bring your own. Warm objects can usually be bought in Kampala. Food and medicines can be acquired from any decent supermarket in Kampala or Kasese.