Going on safari never goes out of style, however, there are so many other experiences the continent has to offer. With all the wildlife diversity available, there are so many opportunities to interact with some of the world’s unique and endangered species. On our radar currently, are the elusive mountain gorillas.
If you are a nature and wildlife enthusiast the likes of Dian Fossey and David Attenborough, this would be the ideal trip for you. On average, gorilla tracking trips take 2 to 3 days, as one day is dedicated to hiking and trekking through dense rainforests. They are a nomadic and shy species, consequently, sighting a troop of gorillas is only successful 90% of the time. Troops are often led by a male silverback gorilla and can have up to 30 gorillas in one troop. Mountain gorillas, like the name suggests, are mostly found around volcanic slopes in parts of Uganda, Rwanda and the Central African Republic.
Tourism in Uganda is still up and coming, and home to this truly magical experience. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Buhoma, is home to 50% of the world’s mountain gorillas. Different lodges and camping sites are available nearby, each providing a different experience.
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is only accessible on foot, as there are conservation measures to protect the flora and wildlife indigenous to this region. Consequently, this has resulted in an increase in the population of mountain gorillas in this region. The gorillas in this region can often be spotted in treetop nests, ad this is where they feed.
There is an age minimum of 15 years to participate in a gorilla trek. A guide from the Uganda Wildlife Authority will be provided to lead the trek. During the trek, it is possible to see a kaleidoscope of butterflies, also only found in Uganda. October through to April would be the ideal time to visit.
Rwanda’s gorilla trek is a little special. Due to the contributions Dian Fossey made studying the gorillas in Rwanda, there is a special trek dedicated to her. There is a special fee of USD $75 to get access to the trek through Volcanoes National Park (there are other gorilla tours available if this is not your ideal tour). On this trek, the guide takes you by Fossey’s gravesite, previous home and research center, whilst listen to stories about Fossey’s adventures in Rwanda. The population of mountain gorillas in Rwanda are not as many as those in Uganda, thus sighting chances are slightly lower; however, it is possible to see other animals such as elephants. This trek is a not as crowded as other treks (one to two other people), allowing for a more intimate interaction with the gorillas once sighted. It is often popular around June to September, consequently, you might need to book the trip three months in advance.
Central African Republic (CAR):
Dzanga Sangha National Park is home to over 2000 lowland gorillas, a close second to Uganda. It is a popular destination for international researchers interested in primatology. A trek approximately takes two hours, but unlike Rwanda and Uganda, gorilla tracking in Dzanga Sangha National Park is efficient as there is a higher use of technology across the park, resulting in a 90% possibility of a sighting. The trek begins at Bai Hokou camp early in the morning and often ends at midday to allow for another group to go out into the rainforest. Regulations are stricter, the minimum age limit for participation is 16 and if one is sickly, they are not allowed to take part. There is a maximum of 3 people in each group and 6 people a day. Gorillas at the park can at times approach tourists, and if they feel threatened often act out, however, the guides are all trained to handle any situation that arises. For cautionary reasons, a distance of 15 to 20 meters away from the troops is advised.
In all locations, once the troop has been spotted, tourists are only allowed to spend one hour with the troop. A distance of 5 to 7 meters away from the troop is to be kept at all times, to avoid any incidents and have minimal human presence and interruption.