Gorilla Trekking verse Gorilla Habituation : When it comes to gorilla safaris, gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking are two activities that have left most people mixed up- the fact that they can’t differentiate them. Gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking are all different activities though they all offer tourists opportunity to meet mountain gorillas in the wild. When comparing the 2 activities, different factors are looked at including time, cost of gorilla permits, number of visitors per gorilla family etc.
Gorilla habituation was introduced in 2014 and it is only done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Bwindi forest is located in Southwestern Uganda and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is through gorilla habituation that we are able to do gorilla trekking.
What is gorilla habituation/Gorilla trekking?
Gorilla habituation is entirely a process where wild gorillas are trained or made familiar to the presence of humans. This process takes a minimum of 2 years where researchers, trackers, scientists, conservationists, and environmentalist spend most of the time observing the daily behaviors of gorillas.
In the course of habituating gorilla families, some gorillas take short time while others take long to familiarize themselves to human presence. Bwindi impenetrable national park offers visitors this opportunity to get involved and experience gorilla habituation. Since gorilla habitaution is a process that takes about 2 years, visitors interested in Gorilla habituation are given one whole day to enjoy the experience.
While gorilla trekking is the actual guided hike into the rainforest jungles of the Virunga-Bwindi highlands through tall, tangled scrubs and ancient trees with a machete, heavy boots, and thick trousers to find the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking involves visiting the already habituated mountain gorillas, ones that are already familiar to human beings. It takes 2-6 hours to complete this experience depending on the location of the gorilla family visited, among other factors. Before setting off to look for gorillas, briefing is done for visitors to understand gorilla trekking rules. Visitors are given absolute one hour to observe gorillas, understanding how they behave and taking pictures.
During gorilla habituation, only four visitors are accepted to join the habituation process as per gorilla group while for gorilla trekking, eight tourists are allowed as per gorilla group family. Allocation of gorilla families is done by park official and this is during briefing time.
Gorilla habituation is conducted only in the wild gorillas or semi-habituated gorilla groups and tourists on gorilla trekking are allocated to already habituated gorilla groups. To be part of habituation, you will visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and specifically, Rushaga sector. Gorilla trekking is done at any of the four National Park- Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo, Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
Cost of gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking permits
Gorilla habituation permits costs USD1,500 per person for Foreign Non-Residents, USD1,000 per person for Foreign Residents and East Africa citizens on gorilla habituation safari pay UGX750,000 per person, Gorilla Trekking verse Gorilla Habituation.
Uganda Gorilla trekking permits cost US Dollars 700 per person for Foreign Non-Residents, USD 600 per person for Foreign Residents and UGX 250,000 per person East Africa citizens. While in Rwanda, gorilla permits are at USD1,500 per person for all nationalities. For both habituation and gorilla trekking, gorilla permits are only for people of15 years old and above
Both gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking start as early as 7 am with a briefing ad then set off. However, during gorilla trekking, time to spend face to face with mountain gorillas is limited to only one hour while visitors on gorilla habituation have 4 hours to spend observing various behaviors of gorillas and taking pictures etc.
Gorilla habituation is open to scientists, environmentalists, conservationists, trackers and takes full day or half day of following gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking takes 2-6 hours and visitors/tourists search already habituated gorilla families with park guide on lead.
Best time for gorilla habituation & gorilla trekking?
Gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking are all year round adventures. However, the dry season is the best time to enjoy the best of these two primate experiences. There are 2 dry seasons to undertake gorilla habituation or gorilla trekking- December to February and June to September.
What to pack for gorilla habituation & gorilla trekking?
Consider packing appropriately whether it is gorilla habituation or normal gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda. The items to include on your packing list are long sleeved shirts, gardening gloves, backpack/daypack, trousers, bottled water, sweater, good hiking boots, rain jacket, snacks, insect repellents, sunglasses, camera free of flashlight.