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Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa

Mountain gorilla trekking in afriaca the highlight of wildlife experience for visitors visiting Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo

Mountain Gorilla trekking in Africa

Mountain gorilla trekking in Africa is the highlight wildlife experience for visitors visiting Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo and some visitors mention it that it is one of the Africa’s extreme wildlife adventure with unique experience that one should never miss while on your African Safari.

Mountain gorillas are the largest living primates with 95-99% human DNA subjected on what is counted and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after the chimpanzees and bonobos chimpanzees. They are the most endangered primates on the earth with about 1000 mountain gorillas that are currently remaining according to the 2018 mountain gorilla census. They are all found in Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga gorilla National parks), Rwanda (Volcanoes National park), and Democratic Republic of Congo (Verunga national park) and half of the remaining population is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park. Mountain Gorillas were unknown to science up to 1902 when two of them were first discovered by a German explorer and promptly killed. Since then, the relationship between humans and the endangered mountain gorillas never relapses. Due to increased poaching and deforestation, the population of mountain gorillas had reduced to about 300 individuals which caused tension that they were going to be totally vanished until when the American zoologist Dian Fossey who was killed in Rwanda in 1985 advocated for their protection.

The increase of the Mountain gorillas in the wild have succeeded in Uganda Rwanda and DR Congo mostly because of the combined conservation efforts done by government authorities of the 3 countries and other world wildlife conservation agencies. Through protecting their natural habitats, involving the local communities living round the mountain gorilla protected areas in the conservation process and sharing the returns from selling gorilla trekking permits with them in form of better healthcare, sanitation, education and employment opportunities equally.

What is the social structure of Mountain gorillas?

Mountain gorillas are social animals living in stable and organized groups/ families of about 2 to 40 individuals including Silverback, black backs, female and young one. The group is always protected and dominant by the silverback (Alpha male) followed by other black backs, several females and the young ones depending on their different ages.  Females in the group always have a strong bond with the dominant silverback and the relationships amongst females are relatively weak however, they rarely fight or causing injury to each another in the group.

What are the behaviors of Mountain gorillas?

 

The mountain gorillas live in groups made up of silverback which is the group leader, providing protection to the group and commanding all the group activities. They live in the mountain rainforests.  Mountain gorillas spend of their resting time grooming themselves as well as young ones playing which helps them in group relation bonding. They can climb trees but they spend most of their time on the ground and they every day make new nests in the tree where they spend their nights and these always made by males.

The silverback can intimidated those who wish to challenge him by impressive shows of physical power like standing upright, make aggressive charges, use of materials such as throwing stones, use sticks etc, pounding his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a terrifying roar. However, if they are no disturbed and ambushed are very calm, peaceful and nonaggressive animals and can live with other animals.

What do mountain gorillas eat?

Mountain gorillas mostly feed on tree leaves, celery, fruits, roots, bamboo shoot, stems, insects such as ants, termites and it is said that sometimes they do hunt for small animals and birds.

What is a silverback?

It is the largest alpha male of the mountain gorilla family/group or troop with distinctive silver colored fur on its back. These silver colored furs come as maturity and usually present on male mountain Gorillas of about 12 years of age and above. An adult silverback can weigh over 180 kg and this make them the biggest and heaviest of all living primates. So, as an alpha male of the family, it provides security to the group mostly the females and babies from predators or rival silverbacks, finding good places to forage for food and safe places to rest and sleep. If the dominant silverback dies then a troop will disband and form new groups.

What are the Black backs?

These are the younger male mountain gorillas that have not yet developed silver furs on their back like mature males, though all males will not necessarily develop a silver back. They provide support to the silverback to protect the family and those that have reached the silverback maturity mostly at the age of ten years, they leave their families groups and join another families or form their own and find a mate. They usually travel alone or with a group of other males until they can attract a mate.

 Where to do mountain gorilla trekking in Africa?

In Africa, there are only three countries where you go for mountain gorilla trekking safari and encounter mountain gorillas in their natural habitats thus, Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo and they are found in the Eastern region of Africa.

In Uganda, mountain gorilla trekking is done in Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahiga gorilla national parks. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park has over 19 well habituated mountain gorilla families that can be seen by about 152 visitors per day and Mgahinga gorilla national park has 1 habituated mountain gorilla family that can be visited by 8 people per day. Each mountain gorilla family is supposed to be visited once in a day and can only be seen by a group of eight (8) people each day. Seeing mountain gorillas in Uganda is a must either at Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park or Mgahinga gorilla national park.

In Rwanda mountain gorilla trekking is done in Volcanoes National parks (Parc National des Volcans) in the northwestern Rwanda. Volcanoes national park has about 16 habituated mountain gorilla families whereby each family is supposed to be visited by 6 visitors per day so, this means there are only 96 mountain gorilla permits available each day in Rwanda.

In Democratic Republic of Congo mountain gorilla trekking is done Congo in the Virunga National Park. This park has about 6 habituated mountain gorilla families for trekking.

When planning to go for mountain gorilla trekking safari in Africa, we highly recommend you to book your mountain gorilla trekking permits in advance like 3 mouth before the departure of your safari. This will help you to avoid disappointments caused by failure to get a permit to see mountain gorillas because mountain gorilla permits are on high demand and sold on first come first serve and with a limited number to be sell on a daily basis.  All the 3 countries are easily accessed from all parts of the world by air and there are several international airline companies that are operating international flights in these countries and each country has good road networks connecting all the national parks with mountain gorillas. A visitor can visit Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya using a single East African entry visa. So, it is possible to do double mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda without applying for a second visa. The minimum days for a mountain gorilla trekking safari in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo are 2 days

When is the best time to go for mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo?

Mountain gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year due to the good climatic conditions for these countries. However, it is very best during the two dry seasons thus, December to February and late May to September, where the climatic conditions are particularly good for trekking to see mountain gorillas. During rainy seasons, there are few visitors making it an ideal to visitors who do not like overcrowding and at the same time you may get discounts on accommodation because this period is considered as a low season (March, April, May, October and November) where most of accommodation places provide discount on their normal rates.

How much is a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo?

In Uganda, a mountain gorilla trekking permit costs USD $700 per person for Foreign nonresidents, USD $ 600 for the forest residents of Uganda or East African community and 250.000 Ugx for Ugandans and East African residents (Ugandans, Rwandans, Tanzanians, Burgundies and Kenyans).

In Rwanda, a mountain gorilla trekking permit costs USD $1500 per person Foreign nonresidents, East African Residents or Diplomats with working East Africa (Uganda, Kenya & Burundi) – USD$450, Rwandan foreign residents or Diplomats working in Rwanda – USD $375, East African Citizens (Uganda, Kenya and Burundi) USD$300 and Rwandan Citizens 30,000 FRW. There is also behind the scene of mountain gorillas which gives a chance to the visitor to spend more time with mountain gorillas that costs USD $30000 for 3 days and private mountain gorilla trekking at USD$15000 for a group or family of up to people. Mountain gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda is more expensive than the one of Uganda and Congo, this is used as strategy aiming to strengthen the conservation efforts and contribute more to the development of communities living around National Park.

In Congo, permit for both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas is at $ 400 USD for the foreign nonresidents and $200 USD to the Congolese citizens. This makes it more cheaply comparing to Uganda and Rwanda. This is done to motivate more visitors to visit Congo for mountain and lowland gorilla trekking and still young destination. However, it is highly affected by political uncertainties which discourages visitors from visit Congo and before a visitor confirms a gorilla trekking safari to Congo has to first confirm if the political situation is favorable.

What is a Gorilla Permit?

A Mountain gorilla permit is a card or document issued by authorities from Rwanda Development Board in Rwanda, Uganda Wildlife Authority in Uganda and virunga national park in Congo which allows visitors of 15 years and above to go for mountain gorilla trekking in any of the mountain gorilla habitats thus, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Virunga national park in DR. Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Each visitor has to get his or her permit which allows he or she to do mountain gorilla trekking and it is not re-usable after using it, none returnable when not used and cannot be shared.

How to book a mountain Gorilla permit?

Mountain Gorilla permits can be obtained both from the official website of Uganda wildlife Authority and through local tour operators in Uganda while in Rwanda, mountain gorilla permits are obtained through Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Mountain gorilla trekking permit can only be booked if a visitor has confirmed his/her travel dates.  The visitor is required to provide passport details which are presented to Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board in order to book and issue your gorilla permits. After your permit has been booked and printed the next step is to prepare for your mountain gorilla trekking safari.

How much does it cost to go for mountain gorilla trekking tour in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo?

Besides the fixed price of the mountain gorilla trekking permit, the cost of mountain gorilla trekking tour/ safari in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo depends on the cost of accommodation (Camping, budget/standard, mid-range or luxury accommodation), the travel style for example some visitors decides to use charter planes and others use land, the number of days to spend on your tour. All the mentioned factors, have an upper hand to determine the cost of the gorilla trekking safari. The minimum number of days to consider when planning for the mountain gorilla safari / tour are 2 days and above. However, you may decide to combine mountain gorilla trekking tour with other tours such as wildlife sightings, bird watching tours, sport fishing, chimpanzee tracking and cultural encounter and many others depending on the visitor’s travel needs.

DR Congo has the cheapest priced mountain gorilla trekking permits comparing to Uganda and Rwanda which any visitor would love to grab and save some funds but it has a lot of health and safety issues which makes it undependable and before confirming a tour to DR Congo, it is better to first confirm about the safety and health situation of the country, Rwanda on the other hand, positioned itself as a luxury mountain gorilla trekking destination from the price of its mountain gorilla trekking permit and accommodation which limits the low and Mid-range budget visitors.  Therefore, Uganda remains as the best and most affordable mountain gorilla trekking destination in Africa because it allows all groups of visitors to encounter the mountain gorillas and has the biggest number of mountain gorillas in the world. Uganda is politically and healthily safe with two national parks that is Mgahinga gorilla and Bwindi impenetrable forest national parks in the southwestern part.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking In Uganda.

Uganda is the best and most affordable destination for the mountain gorilla trekking safari in Africa and home to over half of the world’s remaining population of the mountain gorillas which are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national parks in the southwestern Uganda. Following the recent mountain gorilla census, about 1004 individual mountain gorillas where counted whereby 400 individuals where in Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and 404 individuals were in Virunga conservation area which includes Mgahinga gorilla national park, volcanoes national park and Viruga national park.

In Uganda Mountain Gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP). There are 5 locations/sectors where you can do mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda namely; Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, Nkuringo in BINP and Ntebeko in MGNP. So, all the 5 sectors make a total of 19 habituated Gorilla families, however the permit number are limited because only 8 people are allowed to meet each gorilla family per day for only one hour.

Where to go for mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda?

Uganda has two national parks where Mountain Gorillas can be seen which is Mgahinga Gorilla national park Tour takes you to Uganda’s smallest but spectacular national park that is part of Virunga conservation area. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park in Uganda covering an area of 38 square kilometers and sitting on the slopes of three giant volcanic mountains of Virunga mountain ranges. It is less known and visited compared to Bwindi Impenetrable forest and other national parks with mountain gorilla but the most endowed with a lot of attractions and it is the only national park where visitors can meet both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It more adventurous compared to Bwindi because of its three volcanic mountains that is Gahinga, Sabinyo and Muhabura.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park which provides home to the hugest Population of Mountain Gorillas in world and one the most ancient forests also called the “Place of Darkness.” Bwindi Impenetrable forest is proudly described as the oldest “last Eden” dating back about 25000 years remaining on the African continent, it gives a real life example of how the world nature once was. It holds some of the most untouched virgin forest residual on the entire African continent such as half of the world’s remaining population of the endangered mountain gorillas, many other primates, hundreds of bird species and some of them are unique/ endemic to this forest, reptiles, and other mammals. Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park is the most popular mountain gorilla trekking destination in Africa and chances of sighting them are 5/5 meaning it is a guarantee to see mountain gorillas once visit Bwindi impenetrable forest national park.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, is found in southwestern Uganda on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley close to the border of DR Congo and Rwanda. It is one of the largest places in the East African region with Afromontane lowland forest spreading well within the montane forest belt. It was first designated as a crown forest reserve in 1932 after combining the two blocks that is Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve in the northern block and Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve in southern block that made a total area of 207 square kilometers (80sq mi). Later in 1942, it was renamed as the Bwindi Impenetrable Central Crown Forest reserve with a total area of 298 square kilometers (115 sq mi) under the joint control of the government of Uganda. Then in 1992 was gazetted as a national park to protect a range of wildlife species within it, most especially the endangered mountain gorilla.

Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park covers an area of 32,092 ha (321 sq km / 124 sq mi). It hosts a variety of wildlife species including half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, the most forest in Africa for the montane forest butterflies with over 202 species (which are close to 84% of the country’s total and eight of them are endemic to this forest), countless bird species (about 350 species recorded) including the Albertine Rift region (with 36 species endemic), many tree species (about 200 species with 10 of them endemic) that have lasted for over 2.5 million years ago. The park hosts a variety of globally threatened mammals such as Chimpanzees, l’Hoest’s monkey and African forest elephants and one of the richest mammalian living home in Africa. Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park is one of the two Uganda’s national parks that were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was defined as an isolated forest exceptional biological richness by UNESCO. The park contributes to the economic development of the surrounding communities through the rising growth of mountain gorilla trekking tourism and other sustainable tourism initiatives. The Bwindi impenetrable forest is said to be a mere remnant of a very large forest which once enclosed most parts of western Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.