The mountain gorilla experience
Mountain gorillas, the largest living primates, can only be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national parks in Uganda, in the Virunga national park in Democratic republic of Congo and the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. They are the closest living animals almost similar to human beings in social behavior and everyday life after chimpanzees. Mountain gorillas live in tropical rain forests where the vegetation is thick and can easily get the green plant parts which they feed on. Groups can roam up to a distance of 30km and sometimes raid fields of neighboring communities looking for nutritious food. They do not occupy discreet territories. Feeding grounds of one group can be overlapped with another group or even lie within the grounds of a bigger one. They are generally shy animals and unless habituated, flee when they detect people. When habituated, they can only attack human beings if threatened. The silverback, the leader of the group will roar horrifically to scare away the attacker or sometimes attack leaving big wounds. Groups that will be visited are already habituated. Habituation is a very lengthy process and it is only when the silverback accepts the presence of people that tourists can start visiting that group. A group can consist of several females and males but with one dorminat silver-back male.
Gorillas do not talk but when in their territories but communicate with vocalisations or sounds and body postures. In dangerous situations, the silverback emits a certain scent smelt from metres away and alarms the group without any noise. At night they construct nests where they sleep. New ones are constructed everyday even if they have only wondered a short distance from where they were the previous night.
The vegetation habitat where these gorillas live is completely natural. Therefore, as one goes about the gorilla tracking adventure, it’s almost inevitable that one will not wonder off in amazement of the different tree species, very colourfull birds, animals (like elephants and antelopes), reptiles and insects.
Gorilla tracking in Uganda can be done either in Bwindi impenetrable national park or Mgahinga national park. In Bwindi tracking is divided into four sectors, Buhoma, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Ruhija. Rushaga has the highest number of gorilla families. Mgahinga has only one habituated gorilla family that sometimes crosses over to the other neighbouring countries. The activity of tracking is undertaken by the fairy fit individuals because it is done on foot while climbing up steep slopes and steadying oneself through thick vegetation. You will need to be equipped for the muddy and humid conditions high up in the forest. Although gloves are usually available for hire, it’s safer to have a pair for yourself and a warm sweater and hood too. Above all, it’s highly recommended that one is without a cold or similar diseases to get permitted.
The parks can be accessed either by air or by road. The raod trip takes up to 10 hours from the main city Kampala or Entebbe. The road route is naturally very scenenic because it wonders through other protected areas.
Day 1: Arrival at Entebbe international airport
Day 2: Transfer to the park
Day 3: Gorilla tracking
Day 4: Batwa cultural experience and departure
Day 5: Flights back home