How difficult is gorilla trekking?
How difficult is gorilla trekking? Is gorilla trekking hard? Shall I manage to do gorilla trekking? How difficult is gorilla trekking is one of the questions that pop up in any traveller after gorilla safaris in Africa. They do wonder if they shall indeed be able to conquer the thick jungles in which the gorillas do inhabit.
Gorillas are amazing primate species that can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa. Gorillas live in forest and mountainous areas of different African countries with gorillas. Gorilla trekking is the activity that sees trekkers hiking through these jungles in search of gorillas, in their natural habitat. The most prominent and sought after gorilla species are the mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are an endangered gorilla species that can only be found in three African countries including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas, as their name suggests, inhabit the mountainous areas of the gorilla destinations, residing usually in high altitude areas with thick rainforest cover.
Mountain gorillas can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park of Uganda, the Virunga Massifs which comprise of Mgahinga Gorilla National park of Uganda, Virunga national Park of the Congo and Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species and with about 1000 gorilla individuals still left in the world, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the one gorilla destination that has the highest gorilla population; over half the world gorilla population can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda. Gorilla trekking, especially mountain gorilla trekking takes travellers hiking through these dense forest rainforests in search of the gorillas in their natural habitat bursting with other wildlife, flora and fauna that leave travellers mesmerised.
How difficult is gorilla trekking? Well, to measure the difficulty of gorilla trekking if it actually is to you, a number of factors have to be considered, and they include;
The duration of gorilla trekking is an important factor to consider. Typically, travellers get to trek until they actually do make an encounter with the gorillas. The duration of gorilla trekking can be anything from 30 minutes to 6 hours or more in Uganda. Gorillas are constantly moving for different reasons say in search of food and nesting place. Given that they are constantly on the move, following the gorilla tracks what gorilla trekking involves and it can be quite unpredictable. Whereas it may be possible to find the gorillas in just about 30 minutes or less, it is equally possible to spend 6 hours and more to encounter the gorillas. Notwithstanding the time you take to find the gorillas, the moment you do encounter the gorillas in their natural habitat you shall be blown away by their magnificent beauty. You shall see with your eyes jet black blackbacks, adult females, infants and juvenile gorillas in the company of their head of the family, the silverback. When you do see the gorillas, the duration taken to find them, no matter how difficult is many be, shall be all worthwhile.
When you do find the gorillas, you shall spend an hour with them, taking in their magnificence and beauty. The duration to get to the gorillas may take a strain on you; it is therefore advised that travellers do take some time to prepare for the gorilla trekking so as to be at least medium fit to conquer the long hours of trekking the gorillas. hiring a porter to help you with your luggage such that you have all the energy to endure the gorilla trek is advisable as well, and to those travellers that may be fit older in age, incapacitated or not fit enough to take on the gorilla trek can actually have sedan chairs booked for them that have a number of people carrying them throughout the trek.
Altitude and terrain
Mountain gorillas, like their name suggests, inhabit the mountainous areas in the rainforests that they are in. In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park particularly, the terrain is mountainous, rugged and with very thick vegetation, no wonder the park is called “impenetrable”. While gorilla trekking, your guide helps with clearing vegetation and taking you through various terrain to get to the gorillas. This is however not enough and travellers are encouraged to have personal strength and mentally prepared for the gorilla trek, so as to manoeuvre the increasing high altitudes and tough terrain.
The trek can be strenuous and slippery so travellers are as well advised to have sturdy hiking shoes.
The weather in these rainforests that inhabit the mountain gorillas is sometimes unpredictable, with rains falling even in the “dry season”, or even the sun shining for hours on end during the supposed wet season. The best time to go gorilla trekking is during the dry season when the roads and paths or trails in the park are more passable. Carrying a rain jacket or poncho is still advised since it can still rain given the mountain gorilla parks are tropical rainforest. The dry season falls in the months of June to September and December to February, which is also the peak season of tourism thereby seeing gorilla trekking permits selling out very fast. Booking gorilla trekking permits a head in time, at least 3 months to the date of travel is highly recommended.
The wet season falls in the other months of the year, and can prove to be harder to trek gorillas then given the roads and trails are very slippery and muddy, and the vegetation is overgrown that spotting and taking pictures may be hard too as the vegetation may cover them. It is however not rainy the whole day; sometimes it can rain only in the afternoons and nights, giving travellers an opportunity to make use of the morning hours to enjoy gorilla trekking.
Irrespective of the weather and existing climate and season, gorilla trekking can still be done throughout the year. Just you prepare physically and mentally the gorilla trekking adventure and you shall overcome and enjoy your encounter with the gorillas.
Unexpected gorilla behaviours
Gorillas are wild animals which live in the wild. The gorillas that travellers do encounter on gorilla trekking adventures are habituated gorillas which undergo about 2 years of habituation to accommodate human presence and interaction by experienced gorilla experts. Irrespective of their being habituated, gorillas can be triggered to act defensive. There have been instances when gorillas charged at travellers or park officials. Gorillas are however gentle primates and there are a number of gorilla trekking rules and regulations in place that travellers are given to avoid such instances. Travellers are advised to follow their guide at all times, and pay attention to all instructions, as well as adhere to the dos and don’ts.
While gorilla trekking however, travellers are in the company of armed park rangers, who do protect you at all times. These park rangers and guides are well trained to deal with any situation, even when you are charged at by the gorillas. Be sure to follow their instructions at all times.
Cost of gorilla trekking permits
Some travellers may consider the difficulty levels of gorilla trekking basing on the cost of gorilla trekking permits. Gorilla trekking permits vary depending on the destination. In Rwanda for example, a single gorilla trekking permit costs $1500 per person per trek, while it is $ 400 for Congo gorilla trekking permits. In Uganda, gorilla trekking permits cost $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and ugx250,000 for East African citizens.
The cost of gorilla trekking permits can spike a gorilla trekking safari price or cost, thereby affecting the budget of a traveller. Travellers are advised to choose the best option, as they may find appropriate, for their gorilla trekking safari.
There are a number of variable factors to consider before embarking on a gorilla trekking adventure say mental preparation, physical preparation as well as financial preparation. The end result of it all is however amazing memories of your encounter with the gorillas in their natural habitat. “How difficult is gorilla trekking?” you may be wondering. Well, it is not so difficult, just prepare yourself adequately mentally, physically and financially and you shall get to enjoy your most anticipated gorilla trekking safari.