Mountain Gorilla Tracking and Habituation in Uganda
Gorillas are descendants of the ancestral monkey and apes and can only be found in Africa
The mountain gorilla which is scientifically known as Gorilla beringei is one of the two eastern gorilla subspecies. They are descendants of the ancestral monkeys and apes and can only be found in Africa. There are 2 populations of mountain gorillas; one lives in the Virunga region which is shares by 3 countries which makes 3 national parks. Mgahinga National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (D.R. Congo). And the other group lives in Bwindi Impenetrable National park in Uganda.
They lives in the Albertine rift montane cloud forests on the Virunga volcanoes and live on the lower slopes of these highlands and valleys. They live in regions that are often cloudy, misty and cold. The vegetation is usually dense at the bottom which makes them sparse at the higher altitude.
Mountain gorillas are primarily herbivorous
The mountain gorilla is primarily herbivorous with most of its diet being composed of leaves and stems of different plant species. They also feed on bark, roots, flowers and fruit as well as small invertebrates. These primates live in groups of up to 30 members consisting of young males, adult females and babies. The group is led by an alpha male known as silverback. He is highly intelligent and take all the responsibilities like feeding, travelling, resting and other group activities.
As earlier stated, in Uganda mountain gorillas live in Mgahinga national park (MNP) and Bwindi impenetrable national park (BINP). These parks have habituated gorilla groups that are open for tracking by tourists visiting the park. Gorilla tracking is the major activity done in the parks. Mgahinga has one gorilla group and Bwindi has 4 sectors and each has around 2-3 habituated Gorilla groups.
Gorilla trekking is an all year-round activity which is done once a day
Gorilla trekking is an all year-round activity which is done once a day and starts at 8am, A group of 8 people gets to track a gorilla group. Trackers are expected to be at the headquarters (depending on which group or sector you will be trekking) at 7am and then have your permits verified. The activity starts with a briefing about the park and activity by the park ranger guide who will also tell you about the dos and dons while in the park and when you meet the mountain gorillas.
In the company of an armed park ranger guide, you will set out into the forest to look for these gentle apes. You will expect to spot other wildlife as you move through the forest like monkeys and baboons as well as various forest bird species.
Take some time with gorillas
When you meet the gorillas, you will be fascinated by the feeling you get once you come face to face with these relatives of ours. It is a feeling you cannot get anywhere else! You will be given an hour with the gorillas to; take photos and videos of the gorillas, watch them as they go about their daily activities, play, groom and feed.
For foreign non-residents, the gorilla trekking permit is $600 per person and this price is valid up to June 30th 2020. From 1st July 2020, the gorilla permit will be at $700.
Training gorillas to get used to humans
Gorilla habituation involves training gorillas to get used to humans. This is usually done by trained Uganda wildlife authority park rangers. This special Gorilla trekking is only done in Rushaga sector of Bwindi and only 4 people are allowed per day to take part in the activity. Mountain gorilla habituation as an activity just like the usual trekking, just that it is a full day activity and trackers get to spend at least 4 hours with the gorillas. Most people who take part in these are researchers who want to learn more about mountain gorillas. The price for gorilla habituation permit is $1,500 per person.