Gorilla Tracking in Uganda
Gorilla tracking in Uganda is the absolute tourist attraction which any visitor would like to experience while on Uganda safari holidays. Tracking is done for the habituated mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. When approaching Bwindi National Park, it becomes apparent the reason it was given name the Impenetrable Forest. The deep river gorges and high ridge have remained forested for millions of years resulting in an incredible biodiversity.
Bwindi National Park has at least 90 mammal species, 350 species of birds, 324 species of trees, huge numbers of butterflies and, most importantly, it is home to probably half the world's population of mountain gorillas. The topography of Bwindi National Park is hilly, and can involve scrambling through the dense vegetation. Gorilla tracking is a very captivating activity; it involves walking in the jungle in search of these great apes. It can be a challenging activity, therefore ensure physical fitness. Eight people are permitted per group per day. Registration and briefing for Gorilla Tracking Commences at 0745 hours, tracking starts at 0830 and can take three to eight hours. Certainly, that trek through jungle and montane forest in search of magnificent mountain gorillas is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in the world.
Gorilla tracking is the main tourist activity in Bwindi National Park. Bwindi currently has a population of over 320 gorillas. There are 8 habituated groups namely; Mubare (M group) with 5 gorillas, Habinyanja (H group) with 21 gorillas, Rushegura (R group) with 20 gorillas , Nkuringo (N group) with 20 gorillas , Bitukura (B group ) with 14 gorillas, Nshongi with 26 gorillas , Mishaya with 11 gorillas , Kyaguriro with 16 gorillas. Two other groups are under habituation and currently being used for mock tourism namely Kahungye and Oruzogo. All groups are available for tourism except Kyaguriro in Ruhija which is dedicated for Research.
The gorillas are tracked daily by trained guides who note where they rest for the night. Tracking begins early in the morning where a beeline is made for the nest sites. The track may involve jumble up hillsides and along slippery paths. When you get closer to the Gorilla's, your guide will coach you how to talk to the Gorilla's to assure them that you mean no harm with your presence. The silverbacks (adult males) are usually peaceful; however, if they sense danger they may scream loudly and charge at the intruder. As long as you stay still and look away from the silverback he may come very close but it is very unlikely that he will harm you.
When in direct contact with the expressive brown eyes of the gorillas, one realizes the most thrilling and emotional wildlife encounter and experience. Trackers are given one hour of viewing time which usually involves skidding and jumbling on the slopes to get a good position to photograph the various family members or to keep up with playful young ones.
The Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) at Bwindi built a partnership with locals to support development through conservation. It has enabled local people to advance their standard of living through better farming practices, thus reducing pressure on forest resources in and around Bwindi National Park. The park employs the locals as wardens, researchers and rangers, local communities receive a proportion of the Park's income.
What to bring when tracking Gorillas in Bwindi National Park
• Wear jungle shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes and carry a rain jacket because the park is often wet.
• Put on ear plugs for those who feel uncomfortable with jungle sounds.
• Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellant.
• Carry a packed lunch.
For conservation reasons, visits to the gorillas are tightly controlled. The following rules apply and must be strictly adhered to:
• No one with a communicable disease (e.g. flu, diarrhea) is allowed to enter the park.
• Stay together in a tight group while with the gorillas, don’t surround them.
• Don’t get closer than 7 metres (21 feet) to the gorillas.
• Don’t eat or smoke when with the gorillas or within a distance of 200 metres from the gorillas.
• Turn away from the gorillas if you have to sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth in the process.
• Burry all human feaces a minimum of one foot deep and ensure that the hole is properly covered.
• Don’t leave litter. All litter must be carried out of the park and disposed off properly.
• No person under 15 years is allowed to track gorillas.
• Don’t spit on vegetation or soil when in the park; use your hankie or other garment.
Your group must not be more than 8 tourists and must all be over 15 years old.