Bulamu Safaris

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Facts about Gorillas

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Bwindi Forest & Mgahinga National park
A Gorilla Trek within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a highlight of all visits done in Uganda and certainly mountain gorillas are the major reason as to why very many people visit Uganda.  On the other hand, Uganda is recognized as a very safe and more so secure country in which you can see these Gorillas in serene surroundings.

The endangered impressive Mountain Gorillas in Uganda don’t live in any zoo across the planet since they cannot survive in detention and thus there aren’t any known mountain gorillas surviving within zoos. These can only be found and seen in Africa, in just three countries in different parks including Virunga highlands of Rwanda within Volcano Park found in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park as well as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These parks are found only 48 km from each other.There are approximately 786 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world with approximately half of them staying in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest plus the Mgahinga Gorilla Park within Uganda found.

Mountain Gorillas weren’t known about by the western world until 1902.  Rwanda then a German colony, Captain von Berenge was mountaineering Mount Sabinyo on the side of Rwanda together with his friends and at 9300 foot-level where they camped, they spotted a group of Mountain Gorillas and there he shot 2 of them although managed to retrieve just one.  The victim was a young-male approximately five years of age, not too big at 220 pounds, however larger than all apes the Germans had ever seen.  The Bones plus skin were later forwarded to Berlin and there it was acknowledged as a mountain gorilla.

Nobody had imagined that gorillas could stay in a high and colder environment than West -Africa.  The news of gorillas attracted hunters to the region, especially within Congo and there several Mountain Gorillas where shot and others captured.  Actually Prince Wilhelm from Sweden shot fourteen mountain gorillas in an expedition within this region done from 1920 to 1921.

The Belgians launched a Mountain Gorilla preservation program and later followed the English who did it in Uganda.  Within Uganda for several years no one was allowed to receive visitors to see these Mountain Gorillas.  Within Kisoro, Walter Baumgärtel was offered permission to establish visits for tourists to his beautiful Traveller’s Rest Inn, a facility where up to date you can stay within Uganda.  Baumgärtel wrote an interesting Book “Up among the Mountain Gorillas” which actually is about his personal encounters with the tranquil giant apes in southern Uganda.  It is a great book with reference to a man, the attractiveness of the Uganda’s countryside and an inn, and generally about the fascinating Mountain Gorillas.  Actually Dian Fossey lived there on a frequent basis similar to George Schaller a many other renowned personalities.

When to visit to see the Mountain Gorillas?
Although tracking mountain gorillas can be conducted through in these two countries (Uganda & Rwanda) the majority of tourists prefer visiting from June to September as well as from December up to February. But you can visit Bwindi at any time of the year, though low season calls for cheaper gorilla permit price ( April, May & November).

In rainy season the tracks in the rain forest might be a bit muddier and your tracking might be a bit longer/ tougher because of that. However; it’s a rain forest, so difference is not all that big compared to dry season. Since it’s hard to predict when it will rain. Climate changes are making it hard to plan and to know when the rainy season is or not. Normally the long rainy season should be in March, April and beginning of May and short rainy season in November. However, the last 5 years the short rainy season has been in early December. Therefore in rainy season you are more likely to track in smaller groups.

When you are flexible we advise you to book your tracking mostly in November. Due to a big promotion of the permit discount of $450 us dollar per gorilla permit, but there are more reasons, some of them, it cuts down the costs of the safari which saves you!

What to Wear?  Choosing the right Clothing
Gorilla Trekking gear guide, Good quality walking boots if trying any hikes or even climbs, warm layers of cloth for the cold evenings and clothing for wet weather remember it becomes cold and wet at this high altitude, we advise trousers, long sleeved shirts or blouses, long socks to enable you tack in your trousers, garden gloves, a hat, sun glasses, hiking boots, insect repellents and some energy giving foods.

For the gorilla tracking age limit for (Uganda and Rwanda) and golden monkey trekking (Uganda) is 15 years and above.

Mountain Gorilla trekking, how do Gorillas look like?
Usually The Males are two times the size of the females, they may grow to 6 ft tall and even weigh 350 -500 pounds.  These are strong, with long arms and muscular.  The males are referred to as the silverback because as they mature the hair on their back turns somewhat silver, hence the name Silverbacks.  The strength of the males is ten times stronger compared to the strongest boxer, even taking steroids.  The arms of silverbacks can stretch to 7 feet

Mountain Gorillas possess longer plus darker hair compared to their lowland counterparts because they stay in colder climates and higher altitudes.  Their life span is between 40 and 50 years. The Males begin breeding at around 15 years while the females start giving birth between 10 and 12 years.  Females can give birth after every 2 to 3 years giving birth to 4 – 6 offspring through their lifetime. Males leave their group at about 11 years of age.

The mountain gorillas mainly stay on the ground although they will climb a tree occasionally given that it can support them, however just like children, their young play in the trees. A fascinating fact is that Gorillas plus Humans are share 98% of their genetic composition.

How do Mountain Gorillas feed?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest supports the hugest Population of Mountain Gorilla.  It is an ancient forest also called the “Place of Darkness.”  The tree cover makes it very dark within this forest.  The forest’s altitudes are between 1,160m and 2,607m above sea level. The Bwindi plus Mgahinga each possess varying characteristics as well as similarities. The Bwindi isn’t an extinct volcanic region while the Mgahinga is.

Typically Mountain Gorillas eat large quantities of flowers, leaves, fruit, roots, bamboo and shoots in season.  The Adults can consume up to 75 pounds each day.

The day of a Mountain Gorilla starts at 6 am up to 6pm with a snooze around lunch time.  Uganda receives Light just past 6 am and darkness falls around 7pm and Gorillas move every day to different locations where they make nests using twigs plus leaves and spend their night

Meet with friendly Mountain Gorillas.
Visitors into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest frequently inquire if mountain gorillas are dangerous?  Although dominant and very strong, these are gentle as well as shy, and in addition the mountain gorillas which visitors see within Uganda have been habituated.  In other words they are habituated to people. And the money that collected from the money used to buy the permit it’s the one used to treat these endangered species, and seen their number increase over the recent years. And if gorillas are threatened they do attack so as to protect themselves as defense. 

Gorillas Groups
Mountain gorillas exist in groups which differ in size from 2 – 30 or 40, however commonly in groups of 10.  Out of the 36 Gorilla groups in Uganda, 12 are habituated to visit. In northern Bwindi you can track 3gorilla groups from the Buhoma, in the eastern side you can track 2 Gorilla groups from Ruhija, and in the southern bwindi you can track 6gorilla groups from Rushaga, Nkuringo and 1 group in Mgahinga NP (if they are not on the run).

How to get a gorilla permit in Uganda, and how much does it cost?
Majority of the sold permits are for Bwindi NP. In Uganda, every gorilla permit goes for US$600, nearly 72 people travel into Bwindi to see gorillas and only 8 people are allowed to see a gorilla family.

For Rwanda the official price for a gorilla permit is $1500. Please note there are NO low season discounts in Rwanda for gorilla permits.  The gorilla permit fees allow you to go for gorilla tracking only; it doesn’t include anything else, like accommodation, transport, meals, drinks or porters.

We strongly encourage you to book your gorilla permit with a safari agent (bulamu safaris), the most big mistake (when you book it yourself) is to book a gorilla family which is far away from your choice of accommodation! The routes to Bwindi and its surrounding areas are often tricky; this is a remote area. If you would like to do the gorilla trek on your own so as to save costs, you might end up incurring more. Safari agents are here to help you with this (bulamu safaris) normally speed up the reservation so you will be able to confirm your gorilla permit faster.

Bulamu safaris always advice you when you are booking a permit to do it I advance since The permits get sold out far in advance, especially in high season (June – October + December –February. Also we can give an offer when you are to book only permit with us, but we do it and arrange it at a cost of $60 per permit, that is when you are already around the tracking area or at your place of residence and we deliver it.

What country provides the best option for seeing the Gorillas?
This might quite be a tricky question since they are all mountain gorillas living in the forests and almost in the same environment! The only difference it’s about the cost, please note that, Gorilla permits within Rwanda cost up to $700 per individual and then in Uganda they go each for USD 600. And also specific Gorilla groups cannot be determined and booked in advance. But here the rangers will just allocate visitors to the various Gorilla groups according to age, fitness level and preference.  The permit offers you one hour with the mountain gorillas in a group of 8 people. Just know the amount you pay for the gorilla permit, you are contributing to the conservation of mountain gorillas and as a form of thank you, you will be rewarded with certificate indicating your completion on the tracking which will act as your souvenir.

GORILLA TRACKING RULES:
UWA rules and guidelines for tracking the gorilla before starting on your gorilla trek:

Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas. Please always keep your voices low. You will then also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest. Do not leave your rubbish or litter in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back out with you. A maximum number of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.

WHEN YOU ARE WITH THE GORILLAS:
5-meter distance should try to be observed at all times (15 feet) from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases.

You must stay in tight group whey you are near the gorillas.

Do not eat or drink while you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking inevitably will

Increase the risk of food/drink morsels/droplets falling, which could increase the risk of transmission of diseases.

Sometimes the gorillas charge. Follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not try and to take picture and do not attempt to run away. Running away will increase the risk.

Flash photography is not permitted! While taking pictures move slowly and carefully.

Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals. They might look cuddly but! h) The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is 1 hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will finish the visit early.

After the visit keep your voices down until you are 200m from the gorillas.

GENERAL HEALTH RULES:
Remember gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following are ways to minimize the risk your visit might poses to them:

Respect the limits imposed on the number of visitors allowed with the gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.

If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your money.

If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.

Always stay 5 meters (15 feet) away from the gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be. f) Do not attempt to touch the gorillas.

Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are with the gorillas.

Do not leave any rubbish (e.g. food wrappers) in the Park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants. i) If you need to defecate, whilst in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole with his panga. Make sure the hole is 30cms deep and fill it in when you are finished. 

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