Are you looking to taking a gorilla safari in Africa? A trip to the gorillas is one of the best adventures one can ever take on the African continent. This lifetime experience can be taken in a few destinations in Africa; Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unlike other usual safaris, a gorilla safari requires proper planning early well in advance and it is advisable to book such a kind of trip early enough from a reliable tour operator. Here are some of the useful information that you need to know about planning a gorilla trek in Africa;
Best Time to Visit Gorillas
Many travelers wonder about the best time to visit the mountain gorillas in Africa. Though the gorillas can be visited any time of the year, many travelers opt to visit the mountain gorillas during the dry season. Remember Uganda and Rwanda experience two distinct seasons; the rainy season and the dry season. April to May and November are the rainiest months, so most people avoid travel at these times. Remember there is a shift in seasons and please note that it can rain anytime of the year.
NB: If you would like to save on a gorilla trek in Uganda, you can use the off peak season discount rates where gorilla permits are sold at USD350 saving USD250 on every permit.
A gorilla trek is one of the active adventures that requires a good level of fitness. On my last trek, i saw a lady who failed to meet the gorillas in the wild. Before booking a gorilla tour, make sure that you have a sensible level of fitness and a willingness to hike uphills searching for the gentle giants. Though many travelers always wonder whether Uganda or Rwanda offers easier treks, am sure that the ease of trekking depends on your level of fitness. A real gorilla trek involves climbing up muddy slopes and through varied vegetation and terrain. Gorillas live in montane forest, so treks to see them are at higher altitude.
Booking Gorilla Permits
It is required to book a gorilla permit in order to be able to visit the gorillas in the wild. There are several habituated groups of mountain gorillas in various national parks in Africa. Uganda has 12 habituated gorilla families that are open for mountain gorilla tourism; 11 groups in Bwindi and 1 group at Mgahinga National Park while Rwanda has 10 habituated gorilla groups. Only eight visitors are allowed to visit a gorilla group and thus only 8 gorilla permits are available for sale to tourists per day. This makes the gorilla permits to be extremely limited and must be booked early enough most especially if you are intending to travel during the peak season; June – September and December.
many travelers book their permits a year in advance and thus it is advisable to secure a gorilla permit at least 4 months before the date you intend to travel. There are several local tour operators who can secure permits.
The gorilla permits currently cost around US$600 per person for foreign tourists, USD 475 for non residents in Uganda with valid work permits and 700$ in Rwanda, 500$ for foreign residents. A gorilla permit entitles you to one hour watching and photographing the mountain gorillas. This money goes towards conservation of the habitat, anti-poaching efforts and education of the local communities.
Success Rate for Meeting the Gorillas
The mountain gorillas live in their wild natural habitat so it’s not a guarantee that there is 100% success of meeting them. However based on experience, the chance to see gorillas in their natural habitat is 99% all year round. Few travelers fail to see the gorillas and this is much due to their psychical unfitness. In case you don’t see the gorillas on a trek, there is a policy in both Uganda and Rwanda whre you will track another gorilla group the next day.
To help ensure this, trackers set off at dawn to locate the gorilla groups and radio their GPS co-ordinates to the park headquarters, so when you set off on your trek with your guide, you know where you are headed. The trackers stay with the gorillas even if they are moving.
Clothing for a Gorilla Trek
For the safety of your camera, a waterproofed day pack is crucial. Pack water bottles and snacks as well. For a small fee, porters can be hired to carry your day pack and help you up the steeper slopes.
Waterproof jacket is essential because when setting out you should expect to get muddy and rained on. Wear long trousers to guard your legs against nettles and a T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over the top. The exertion will keep you warm, so layers are best.
Is there A Minimum Or Maximum Age To Visit The Gorillas?
Gorilla tracking is done by people with 16 years and above and there’s no flexibility to this rule. This is the same for both Rwanda and Uganda and it’s enforced by the national parks. There is no upper age limit!
Will This Be Covered By My Travel Insurance?
It’s definitely worth checking that your travel insurance does cover you for gorilla trekking as they may require an additional premium to be paid.