Are you a nature lover and an adventurous tourist? Are you a curious person that would wish to see wildlife that will blow your mind? Or do you wish to see an animal so huge than a mature human being? Then add a gorilla trekking safari on your blacklist and you will be totally amazed at the appearance of the mountain gorillas. What have you heard about the mountain gorillas? No matter what exhilarating facts you have heard about them, the excitement is not equivalent to the one you will feel when you stare directly into their eyes. Would you wish to spend just one hour with them or a longer time? These experiences are available in Bwindi National Park where tourists can engage in either gorilla trekking or the exquisite gorilla habituation experience. Majority of tourists who have never been to Uganda, Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo for any gorilla safari do not understand the difference between gorilla trekking and the gorilla habituation experience. Let me hope that this information will be helpful is providing the difference between these two unforgettable experiences.
Gorilla trekking is when tourists together with the tour guides and Park rangers hike through the jungles to find a habituated gorilla group. Gorilla habituation experience also involves tourists also hiking though the jungles but to find a gorilla group that is still undergoing habituation. Habituation is when gorilla group is frequently monitored by researchers and Park rangers to make it get used to the presence of humans. Unhabituated gorillas tend to be aggressive and shy in a way that they run away when they see humans. To make them feel at ease, they have to undergo habituation, and this process usually takes 2-3 years before they are finally opened for tourists to track them.
A maximum of 8 persons are allowed to visit a gorilla group per day, but with the gorilla habituation experience, only 4 tourists are allowed to visit a gorilla group. The fact that they are still undergoing habituation means that when they are visited by many tourists, they may become aggressive and the large number also stresses them.
Tourists who are interested in participating in the gorilla habituation experience can only visit Bwindi National Park and especially in the Southern sectors of Nkuringo (under Bishaho group) and Rushaga (in Bikingi family) only. Because of the limited opportunity and the high demand by tourists, permits are always limited. It is therefore important to book in advance to avoid being left out. Gorilla trekking on the other hand is conducted from all the four National Parks (Virunga of DRC, Volcanoes of Rwanda, Mgahinga and Bwindi National Park of Uganda). There are 96 gorilla trekking permits per day for 12 gorilla groups in Uganda, 80 permits per day for 10 gorilla families Rwanda and for DRC it depends of the demand but it ranges from 48 to 64 permits per day for 6-8 gorilla groups.
These two important experiences can also be compared in terms of cost of their permits. Because the gorilla habituation experience is totally engrossing and exciting, the permits are at $1500 for foreign non residents, $1000 for foreign residents and Shs 750,000 for East African Residents. This price is worth it because you will get to spend enough time with these creatures. Rwanda charges $1500 for their gorilla trekking permits. Would you pay $1500 for just one hour with mountain gorillas or rather pay the same amount for four hours with them?
However, these two activities are similar in their process of trekking/hiking. The same rules/guidelines apply to them including what you should wear (long sleeved shirts, long trousers, rain jacket, rainproof hiking boots among others). Tourists have to be above 15 years to be allowed to track gorillas, maintain a distance of 7 meters when with the mountain gorillas, avoid making noise during hiking or when with the gorillas, do not visit them if you are sick with flue or cough, avoid eating, smoking and drinking when with them, do not spit within the Park, pack it in, pack it out (do not throw rubbish within the pack), and flash cameras are totally prohibited.
Therefore, gorilla trekking and the habituation experience are the two main activities unique to Bwindi National Park. They are however different in terms of the number of people who visit a gorilla group per day, the time spent with the Giant Apes and the cost of each experience. You can make your choice based on your preference and budget and achieve a memorable experience.