Mountain Gorillas live in the parts of Africa, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Virunga Mountains. These three countries are very thought of in terms of gorilla trekking. The fact is that gorilla trekking is relatively difficult depending on one’s fitness levels and it is relatively hard because it involves in walking through thick forests, valleys, hills and swamps. Take note, in these national parks gorilla places have no permanent routes, no signs, no direction, and more often than not, which is why park rangers carry machetes.
To measure how difficult, it is, we’ll look at some factors for you to think about in regards to gorilla trekking.
Typically, you get to trek until you make contact with a gorilla nest, however, the trek normally takes about 1-6 hours and it can be challenging especially is one is not a natural or a hiker but being prepared comes in handy. Gorillas are constantly on the move, following their tracks is the whole idea if this adventure and it sure is unpredictable. It is very possible to land on a nest 40 minutes into the trek as much as it is to not find one until 5 hours later.
It helps to go into this with an open mindset and readiness to trek however long it takes. After all, that is why you have made this decision. Once you find them, you get to spend a good 1 (one) hour with them.
On average, to maintain stamina on such a trek, one has to be at least medium fit or healthy. For older people or any persons who cannot walk for long periods of time, we would advise hiring a porter (about $15) at the sight to help carry your luggage, or even help you in difficult areas like crossing streams.
- Terrain and altitude
Let us just say, they are called Mountain Gorillas for a reason.
In Bwindi, the terrain is very mountainous, rugged and the vegetation is very thick. Even with the help of a guide, it requires personal strength to maneuver the increasingly high altitudes. Volcanoes National Park is part of the Virunga mountains standing at 3,800m above sea level.
Due to the unpredictable nature of Gorillas, it is safe to assume that they might be moving higher and deeper into the forest. The trek can be strenuous and slippery so be sure to have very sturdy hiking shoes.
There are options of tracking to choose from and you can always select one that you feel is right for you. Whether in Bwindi or Volcanoes, there are slightly easier trails that you can request when booking your safari.
Generally, is always better to go on a trekking trip in the dry seasons. This makes it a lot easier to deal with other factors without having your tracking delayed because of heavy rains. Regardless, you are advised to carry a heavy jacket or raincoat since these are tropical rainforests.
The dry seasons are from June to September, and December to February. The seasons vary in pros and cons. The dry seasons are more crowded and harder to access the tracking permits, therefore you should endeavor to book and secure your permit in advance.
Rainy seasons are averagely harder to trek the tough terrain and yet cheaper to find accommodation and trekking permits. However, it’s would advise trekking in the dry periods especially if a tougher trek doesn’t excite you.
- Cost of tracking Permits
For a foreigner in Rwanda, a permit is $1500 per person, in Uganda, foreign non-residents pay $700, Foreign residents with working permits pay $600 and East African Residents pay 250,000 UGX. In Congo $400 for foreigners and $200 for Locals.
This can be quite a spike in one’s budget especially the foreigners as well as those who are traveling on a budget but famously worth the money and effort and such a fulfilling experience that it will stay with you forever.
- Unexpected behavior of gorillas
By now you have probably read stories of when the gorillas have acted ‘out of character’ while surrounded by a few strangers. While these stories might make you scared, gorillas are generally gentle and calm beings. Before embarking on your trek, you will be briefed on a few things ‘to do and not to do’.
On some occasions, the gorillas might be playful or even come closer to you especially the young ones. To some, this might feel like a life or death situation but with the guards nearby, you don’t have to be afraid. They are very well trained to handle any and such situations professionally to ensure your safety.
There are many variables to consider before going for this trek and obvious preparation needed, be it mental, physical, or financial. However, the end result makes all this a worthy adventure. While the worry might mostly be on the hike, many people of all ranges of fitness have actually made the hike and looked into those calm and gentle eyes of the gorillas. As you are making your booking, make you to tell us whether you prefer a simpler trail and we’ll plan for your trek in a suitable zone. Simialary, the permits are sold of first come first serve basis, and we always advise booking ahead of time such that we can secure your permit in the desired location.