What is a mountain Gorilla?
A mountain Gorilla is a muscular ape with a large head, small ears big stomach and yes the largest in the primates family. Mountain Gorillas are equally endangered and are only 800 left in the world. Half of these are still protected in Uganda’s Bwindi conservation area while the rest occupy the vurunga ranges.
Gorilla arms are extensively longer than the legs and the back descends down from the shoulders to the rump. This giant ape is large with the appearance of a beer paunch. The coat is black to greyish-black and adult males have a broad, silver color or whitish stripe that we preferably call “silverback” being a mark of an old Mountain Gorilla. A grown male mountain Gorilla Stands about 1.8m with a weight of 140-180kg and for females about 1.6m with a weight of 70-100kg. Mountain Gorillas are excitingly big and the experience of seeing this majestic Apes in the wilderness is a once in a lifetime inspirational journey in Uganda. Did i say we they share 98.7% DNA with the mountain Gorillas? Oh yes we do.
Where can i visit Gorillas
Worry Not! Remarkably as one of the Top highlight of Uganda and being one of the top “must do” things in Uganda, These great apes can be seen in Bwindi impenetrable National park and Mghahinga National Park. The Word is Mountain and yes expect an elevation between 1800 – 2200m ASL. Expect to wind in the mountain wilderness with some steep ridges, be ready to be enveloped and covered with the mist before you ascend and descend in the mountains. For the Mghahinga part of the virunga ranges, sometimes the great apes cross over to Rwanda but don’t worry you can always get a replacement ticket for Bwindi.
When is the best time to Visit.
On record, Uganda has one of the best weather throughout the year even in its two experienced seasons. The dry seasons starts mid December till late February and again mid june till September. The wet seasons which are the rainy seasons start late feb till mid may supposedly the most down pour months. The temperatures in Uganda are great throughout the year and averagely 26 degrees which still is great for visiting. Be advised that in the rainy seasons its muddy and rains are always expected in the afternoons. The steeps and paths in the forest are sometimes slippery but the gorilla experience is great as these Gorillas are easily found and never move a lot because they have a lot of fruits to feed. Mountain Gorillas live in a rainforest with high humidity, wet and muddy with steep slopes and rugged vegetation and so shall you follow them. The best thing about this activity is the trekking through the natural rainforest and still stands 95% chances finding them, getting up-close and personal. So basically the best time to visit the gorillas would be December till February and June till September however the other months would still be great.
How it un-folds on the tracking Day:
And the most awaited day is finally here: Early in the morning say by 6am or 6:30am is always the wakeup time for the activity. Recommended you have a good breakfast and orgarnise a packed lunch with you before you set off to the briefing point. This all depends on the group and family you are intended to track however try planning your time to be there as early as 7:45am. Briefing of the Gorilla tracking activity starts at 8am by the guide rangers at the briefing post before you descend into the jungles. The paths to the jungles maybe steepy and slippery or so you may need a push or a pull. There are options of hiring a porter, the young and energetic men or women around the park that earn a living from helping you through the jungles by carrying your bags, give you a push or pull so you can make it.
When you finally find the great apes, you are always allowed one hour with the great apes. The UWA management for conservation reasons allows human presence with the gorillas for just an hour. Each family is allowed 8 participants visiting for just an hour per day and allow gorillas 23hours alone. You are sometimes joined by other participants to make 8 persons to max . After the Gorilla tracking as you walk back with memories of the great giants encounter, you shall be awarded certificates for participating. This is where you can pay for your potter fee if you took one and maybe Tip for the Ranger guides that made this possible for you.
The roads to the mountain gorillas are sometimes slippery in the rainy seasons and sometimes challenging so for Visitors using rented cars like the Toyota Rav4 or Totota land cruisers for self drive are advised to plan ahead of time or extra time or get started earlier to reach the briefing point in time.
What to Wear, what to Bring and Useful Tips.
Tracking and getting up close with Humans closest relatives in the jungles requires more effort and preparations. From our own past experiences, Our Team digs more and brings you some of the insights and Tips in preparation for this once in a lifetime encounter..
- It is an impenetrable forest so yes, long and light sleeved shirts with pants are one important aspect to consider bringing so to protect from the bushy scratches and insect bites.
- Please carry insect reperant to protect yourself from wild insect bites.
- Carry with you Sun screen and recommended that you bring one with SDF 30 or higher.
- Good walking shoes or boots with good grip as paths maybe slippery.
- Waterproof jacket or poncho would be real helpful.
- Hiking poles would be great however you could make use of the available local walking sticks at the briefing banda.
- Gloves can be an added advantage because it involves gripping shrubs and grass finding your way.
- Oh yes, enough Food and water for your day or preferably a packed lunch would work.
And some useful Tips for gorilla encounter.
- You have the cameras yes, but make some time during the hour to observe these great apes. See, the best memories are always in the mind and not in the camera. Memories you will and reflect on.
- Kindly be advised to turn off the flash light whenever taking pictures, the wild apes may charge or avoid you.
- Make use of the porters if you’re not so fit, they are a great deal and so helpful in this journey.
- Try photographing details of gorillas and yes these pictures are always appealing.
- Always remember to carry and drink enough water during the trek. Time to find the gorillas is unpredictable.
- Walk at your own pace or preferably ask the ranger guide to take it slow and don’t be rushed by other members who are fast. Make use of your ample time.