Gorilla safaris are some of the most selling and preferred tours in countries that are blessed with these amazing animals. In East Africa, gorilla tours are only conducted in either Rwanda or Uganda. Alternatively, you can visit the Democratic Republic of Congo too for a similar safari.
Organizing a gorilla safari is something that should not be that hard but might turn out to be challenging if you lack the information you may need to plan the safari of your dreams. A gorilla trekking safari is an amazing adventure and once you get to experience it firsthand, it will be worth all the efforts that you need to put in.
There are few important details that one has to consider as you plan this wonderful safari;
Consider the cost of the trip you want to go for.
The cost of the trip should be everyone’s number one determining factor while planning a gorilla safari. Affordability is a very important factor and it’s determined by things like where you will be tracking the gorillas, how long you will stay, the type of accommodation you will be using, among others. The cost of a gorilla safari is highly affected by the cost of gorilla permits. All countries where gorilla tracking is done set different prices for their permits so you can always choose accordingly.
In Uganda for example, the price for a gorilla pass is US$700 for the nonresidents, US$600 for residents going for normal tracking. Those interested in gorilla habituation have to pay US$1500 and US$1000 per permit for the nonresidents and residents respectively. In Rwanda, a gorilla permit costs US$1500 and DR Congo charges US$400 per permit.
All countries advise that permits are purchased from the responsible agencies like Rwanda Development Board or Uganda wildlife authority prior to the tourists’ arrival. You can buy permits as early as a month to two years before the tracking date. Booking early helps you be sure that you will go gorilla tracking on that particular day otherwise, you might be disappointed if you find all gorilla families fully booked on the day you want to track. A group of 8 people are allowed to visit a particular gorilla family per day.
Think about your physical strength.
Generally, gorilla tracking requires some level of physical strength, it’s an adventure that doesn’t favor the physically impaired so much. Like the names suggests, mountain gorillas live in mountains and to meet them, you have to hike up and slope down mountains thus making this a really cumbersome adventure especially in the toughest zones of Bwindi in Uganda. If you’re not physically strong, you can opt to track the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda since the terrain is not as strenuous as it is in Uganda.
If you prefer tracking in Uganda, you can opt for the easier regions like Buhoma sector and avoid the tough regions like Nkuringo sector. Uganda also offers a much easier option than Bwindi which is Mgahinga national park. You can go gorilla tracking in Mgahinga National Park, a park with a terrain that is much easier than in any part of Bwindi. Tracking Mgahinga doesn’t take as long hours as it does in Bwindi but at the end of the day, you will equally enjoy the adventure.
For those who are physically impaired, and cannot walk, there is an option where the locals will carry you on a stretcher at an extra fee. Nicknamed the “forest helicopter”, the locals will be happy to help you throughout the trek. It is also a mean to make accessibility for the disabled easier. Remember, inability does not mean you will not be able to trek and meet these gentle giants the mountain gorillas.
Decide on the season that is more appropriate for you to visit the gorillas
You also have to know when is the best time to go for the gorilla trekking adventure. It is important that you make a decision depending on your interests. While many people might opt for the dry season which is considered to be the best time since hiking up in the mountain is easier because the ground is less slippery. More so, walking through the thick forests is also easier since the forest is not as thick as it usually gets during the rainy season. However, during the dry seasons, gorillas tend to move further deep into the jungle and at higher altitudes as they look for fresh/ greener food. This means you might have to walk for more hours than the usual searching for them. The dry season falls between June to August, then it returns from December until February.
The rest of months are relatively wet and so should you choose to track during the wet season, you should know that tracking might not be that easy since the forest gets really thick and slippery. Hence, making hiking very hard. But during this time, gorillas tend to live at the lower levels of the mountains since there is plenty of food meaning you won’t have to walk for so long before you find the family you will be looking for.
Read and learn about the rules and regulations
There are several rules and regulations that wildlife agencies set in an effort to protect the gorillas since they are endangered species. Some of these rules are set up to protect the animals themselves, other are protecting the tourists while others are helpful to both. For instance, every gorilla family receives a total of 8 visitors per day to avoid crowding around a particular family. Visitors only get to spend just about an hour with the gorillas, chimpanzees or golden monkeys upon meeting them. Making noise is not allowed and you have to avoid getting in contact with gorillas to avoid transmitting illnesses from humans to gorillas and the reverse is true. Rangers do always communicate these rule to guests during the briefing.
Decide on the means of transport you wish to use
There is basically two options in all countries. Thus whichever country you decide to do your gorilla tracking adventure from, you can either drive or fly to the destination. You have to decide what means of transport suits you depending on your schedule. You can use a chartered flight or a 4×4 safari vehicles just like many do. Driving is often considered the best option you can choose because it gives you a chance to view the beautiful sceneries en-route. The drive from Kigali to Kinigi Volcanos national park is filled with various extremely scenic views just like the drive from Entebbe Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
Choose another activity you can combine with gorilla trekking.
There are so many other tourism activities that you can do alongside gorilla trekking if you so wish. Depending on which country you will be visiting, you can always add another activity. For instance, you can go birding, go for community visits or cultural tours, you can also visit another park for game viewing, boat cruises, among other activities. Also, you can visit two countries in one gorilla safari. For instance, you can track gorillas in Uganda, cross to Rwanda and go for golden monkey tracking or do a cultural tour. Combining more than one activity in your gorilla tracking adventure is definitely very rewarding since you get to maximize your stay in Africa. In addition, East Africa has a single tourists visa that costs USD 100 and allows you to visit three countries within a span of 90 days.
Carefully choose your preferred accommodation option.
Accommodations in East Africa are classified into 3 options for you to choose from. This is either the budget lodges for those on a tight budget, the midrange accommodation facilities and luxury lodge for the big spenders. It’s important to understand what the different options do offer before you make a decision to avoid disappointment on arrival. Often, the actual hotel is determined by the gorilla group you intend to trek. There are different accommodation facilities in different sector of the parks. However all groups of people are catered for including those interested in camping. Camping is meant to help keep the price down, however it is always grouped in budget accommodation option.
You should know what to pack for this trip.
Gorilla tracking is done in rainforests and so there a few items that you must pack if you’re to have an enjoyable and comfortable tour. Items like hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, trousers and gloves will protect you from insect bites and stinging plants, rain jackets since it can rain any time while you’re in the jungle. You can carry insect repellants, cameras and anything else that you think you will need while you’re on the trip. It’s very important to go through the list of must pack items as you plan for the trip just so you can have a comfortable, memorable and fruitful trip.
Find help from an expert – a tour agent.
Find and use the help of a tour agent/ company. He or she will help you with all the information you may need about this gorilla safari.
Tour agents do the ground work, they often know the best options are in all aspects. Using an agent tends to be a bit cheaper and saves you from going through all the trouble of booking this and that yourself when you’re not sure of who to trust. You can trust us to handle all the preparations for you and ensure that you have the best gorilla safari experience when you visit.
Once you have gone through and carefully considered the above tips to fit your interests, you can go ahead a book your gorilla safari any time you wish to travel either in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo. A well planned safari will certainly result in to an amazing and memorable adventure or experience.