No wildlife has captured the attention of tourists as the Mountain gorillas. These captivating primates have continuously become the center of attention in the global tourism industry. What even makes them unique is that these wonderful creatures are only found in three countries that is Uganda (Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park), Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park).
Several reasons make these animals eye catching and worth anybody’s attention. However, people can never have enough of them because tourists are allowed to spend only one hour with them (excluding the tracking time). But anyway, even if you are given 24 hours, you will never get enough of them because these beautiful creatures are so unique, mesmerizing, impressing and amusing beyond imagination. But the good news I have for gorilla trekkers is that instead of the one hour spent with these remarkable animals, you can get to spend at least four hours with these mountain gorillas. This once in a lifetime opportunity is only, I repeat only available in Uganda (Bwindi National Park). This is one of the interesting things that sets Bwindi National park from the other parks.
First of all, it should be noted that just like any other wild animals, mountain gorillas that are not used to the presence of humans tend to be wild, aggressive and even very shy. In order to make them used to the presence of humans, they have to go through habituation for about 2-3 years. Researchers keep studying the individual members and even give them names. Since 2015, Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced the Gorilla Habituation Experience (GHE) where tourists join researchers in the field to study these creatures and understand their true behavior. With four hours that tourists spend with these Mountain gorillas, anyone would go back home totally contented with memories for a lifetime.
Gorilla habituation experience permits are at $1500 for foreign non residents, $1000 per person for foreign residents and Shs 750,000 for East African Citizens. Trust me, this activity and the experience is worth every single cent spent.
This fascinating experience is conducted within the Southern sector of Bwindi with two groups undergoing habituation and can be visited for this experience. Bikingi family of Rushaga sector (with 15 members) and Bishaho of Nkuringo (comprised of 12 members) are the only two groups that tourists can visit for the life changing Gorilla Habituation Experience. Because mountain gorillas undergoing habituation are not yet fully used to the presence of humans, only 4 persons are allowed to visit the group per day.
Several guidelines were set to make this activity enjoyable while considering conservation at heart. These guidelines also apply to gorilla trekking expeditions and they include; Tourists have to be above the age of 15 years, trekkers who have flue or cough are not allowed to track them because there is high possibility of transmitting those diseases to the mountain gorillas, maintain a distance of 7 meters away from them, do not make noise because it might scare them or make them aggressive, avoid unnecessary movements when watching mountain gorillas, and do not eat while in the presence of these creatures. Once these guidelines are followed, you will enjoy your time with these unique mammals while at the same time minding about their conservation.
Much as it is fun and exciting, do not expect the process of hiking to be easy. Just be prepared and physically fit for the hike. Wear rainproof hiking boots to allow you climb easily, wear long sleeved shirts, long trousers and wear a rain gear because Bwindi is a tropical rainforest where it can rain even during the dry season, carry a backpack in order to protect your camera and binoculars from the rain and carry your packed lunch/drinking water. All in all, the same requirements for gorilla trekking apply to the habituation experience. Trekking and hiking during the habituation experience tends to be tougher because tourists/researchers visit mountain gorillas in areas that are not frequently visited by humans/tourists.
Gorilla habituation experience is therefore an activity where tourists spend up to four hours with the mountain gorillas in order to understand and study the behaviors of these animals hence leaving Uganda totally satisfied. The fact that it is conducted in only Bwindi National Park is a reason you should not miss to participate in it for a memorable experience.