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ESSENTIAL PRE- GORILLA TRACKING AND PERMITS INFORMATION IN BWINDI/MGAHINGA – UGANDA

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To track gorillas you must be generally fit and in good health. Tracking in thick forest can be both soft and hard adventure depending on where the gorillas were the previous day.

To track mountain gorillas, each person must have the day’s gorilla permit which needs to be arranged and paid for in advance (Usually paid and obtained several months in advance). Each gorilla family is allowed a maximum of 8 visitors per day. Gorilla permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Delay in payment can result in permits not being secured.  Only a limited number of permits are available in each gorilla park. It is therefore essential to book well in advance.

Each gorilla park (Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda and Parc National des Volcans [PNV] in Rwanda) has different numbers of families/troupes- hence with different permits per day; Bwindi 10 families-80 permits, Mgahinga 1 family-8 permits and PNV-Rwanda 10 families-80 permits although this can change without notice if the gorillas go across the border.  Geographically all gorilla families are separated by meandering routes and hills. Please note your choice of hotel/lodge will be determined by the location of gorilla family reserved at time of booking. No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and the refund process is quite bureaucratic often taking much hectic than expected.

No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days. Gorilla Permits fees ($600)- for Uganda and ($750)- for Rwanda, are non-refundable, in Uganda however in the event that visitors who track gorillas the whole day, fail to see them for a satisfactory reason, the park warden will likely recommend a 50% refund of tracking fee. A visitor shall be declared unfit to track due to illness by the warden –in-Charge at the park. Illness is determined at the discretion of the warden in charge on the day of tracking. Please note In such circumstances refunds are at the discretion of the authority and are not within the company’s control. Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Professional filming requires extra fees to be paid

NOTE: Gorilla permits are very competitive so we advise early booking, especially in high season months (January, February March, June, July, August, September, October, and December)

 The Activity involves

Pre- tracking briefing starts at 8.00am. At 8.30 am start tracking through the thick jungle, traversing canopies of thick undergrowth can be tough, wet, arduous but not impossible– the tracking can last from as little as 45 minutes to as much as 9 hours. The activity depends on location of gorillas the previous day. Visitors therefore are supposed to move along with packed/picnic lunch and water, and should be equipped with strong water-proof clothing and must be averagely healthy. Strong, light clothes could be carried, as well as rain jackets, a torch, sunglasses, a sun hat, gloves to grip vegetation, long socks. Prepare jungle boots, long-sleeved safari shirt & long water proof pants is desirable. A walking stick may be needed and can be hired at starting point. Porters can be hired to carry equipment for all trackers (fees range between $10-20 per porter per day). Applying insect repellant before tracking is advised.

Finally getting to view gorillas is rewarding. Like other animals tracking gorillas is not really that easy, nor are you guaranteed to see them. The trek to where the gorilla groups live takes you through very dense vegetation, sometimes up hill slopes. The gorillas you’ll be meeting are habituated to human being that’s why you are able to get quite close to them.

 Basic rules of tracking gorillas include:

  • Minimum age limit for visiting gorillas is 15 years. This is to protect gorillas from disease
  • If you are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, you are advised not visit the gorillas.
  • Upon locating gorillas, Viewing them is limited to an hour
  • To minimize possible transmission of human diseases, Guides ask visitors to maintain a distance of at least 7 meters
  • Maximum number of visitors per day is 8 people per group
  • You are allowed to take photographs, thou Use of flash photography is not allowed
  • Trekkers must be fit and well equipped, which includes warm clothing for the wet cool climate high in the mountains.
  • No eating or drinking in the vicinity of the gorillas
  • No touching the gorillas (although they may decide to touch you)
  • Should a gorilla charge or vocalize at you, do not be alarmed, stand still, look away from the gorilla and follow your guide’s directions.

More for your gorilla trekking enjoyment:

  • The security of visitors is top priority. There is no need for concern about personal security. Game rangers & tourism security personnel are always available.
  • The weather in park changes any time and you can generally expect both sun and rainfall during the day.
  • Tracking starting points Range between 1,000m to 2300m above sea level, is generally quite cold, particularly in the evening, so warm clothing is advised.
  • Recommended clothing is long trousers/Pants and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings.
  • Study walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. You may find raingear useful.
  • Porters are available to help you carry your daypack for a small charge.
  • Mountain gorillas live at high altitude and this may cause difficulties for some visitors. You should pace yourself, walk slowly and drink plenty of water. No one should feel deterred from making this trip.