A remote pocket of rain forest in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the southwest of Uganda is home to half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. The Bwindi Park is now the most popular region for gorilla safaris in Uganda and has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site. This park is made up of about 200 square miles of dense rainforest and thick jungle vegetation – an ideal habitat for the mountain gorillas.
The other park that offers great opportunities for Uganda gorilla safaris is the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This part is situated on the extreme southwest corner of Uganda on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains that also border Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Regardless of which park you visit, gorilla trekking in Uganda affords you a once in a lifetime experience. The thrill of trekking through the dense foliage as you track the Uganda gorillas is one not soon to be forgotten. On your forest trails; you may also come across some of the other natural inhabitants of the area, including diverse bird species, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, bush buck, duiker and maybe even leopard.
The Rewards of Uganda Gorilla Safaris
The search through the dense rainforest could take anything from 1 hour to 4 hours, depending on where the Uganda gorillas choose to move to on that particular day. Although they do have daily habits, they are constantly on the move in search of food, so do not stay long in one particular place, unless it is to rest for the night.
Visits to the family groups of gorillas are usually limited to 8 people per group and the visit typically lasts an hour. The trek is quite challenging, but once you come into close proximity with these gentle distant relatives of ours, the labours of the journey are soon forgotten. Sitting in quiet observation of the Uganda gorillas as they go about their daily life, playing, eating and caring and raising their young, is a truly magical experience.
Conservation History of the Uganda Gorillas
Until 1994, Uganda gorilla safaris were a major tourist attraction. However, when the civil war broke out in neighbouring Rwanda, political unrest and bloodshed was rife, leaving thousands of people dead and millions displaced from their homes. Many of the victims of the war spilled over into Uganda seeking refuge, which unfortunately contaminated the natural habitat of the mountain gorillas. Following the turmoil that erupted in 1999 when Uganda was victim to Rwanda rebel attacks in the Bwindi Park, even more gorilla lives were put at risk.
Poaching of the Uganda gorillas was also on the rise and with no strict conservation rules in place, many gorillas were killed and the species diminished radically. Over time, tighter policies have been implemented to protect and prevent further incidents that could potentially harm or inhibit the preservation if this species. Since these protocols have been set in place and thanks to the efforts of various conservation organisations, the Uganda gorilla numbers have increased.
Uganda Gorilla Safari Guidelines
On your Uganda gorilla safari, you will always be accompanied by a park ranger and trackers. These professionals will gladly impart their knowledge of the area and the gorillas, as they have invested much time conducting the tours and spending time in the company of this incredible species.
Half of the fun of gorilla trekking in Uganda is trying to follow the families of habituated gorilla through the dense foliage of the equatorial forests. The gorillas are constantly on the move in search of food which means that you will have to be prepared for quite a tiring but adventuresome trip!
There are roughly about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, which is why seeing them in the wild really is an incredibly special opportunity.
Interesting Uganda Gorilla Facts:
o Mountain gorillas are diurnal – they are generally active during the hours between 6am – 6pm, which is why gorilla trekking in Uganda is conducted within these hours.
o As male gorillas age, they develop a saddle of grey or silver coloured hair on their backs, for this reason, male Uganda gorillas are referred to as “silverbacks”.
o Every evening, the mountain gorillas build a new nest to sleep in for the night using surrounding vegetation.
o Uganda gorillas can be identified by their nose prints, which are unique to each individual.
o The adult male Uganda gorillas have more pronounced bony crests on their skulls, giving them a more conical shape in comparison to the females.
o Gorillas that live in the Virunga Mountains have longer and darker hair than other gorilla species. This hair allows them to adapt to their living environment in a range of temperatures, including very cold climates.