Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves hiking in the wild or forest in search for mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is mainly done by park rangers especially during habituation processes or right before clients begin their trek. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in only two National parks that is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is best known for its mountain Gorilla population. There are 4 locations for tracking gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and these are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo, all these 4 locations have a total of about 18 families as of December 2018. Tracking permits must be bought before tracking by booking directly with the reservations office at the Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters or through a reputable tour agent, permits can be pain for up to 2 years in advance.
Only 8 visitors are allowed to view the gorillas for one hour per day, participants must be aged 15 or over and they will be accompanied by UWA guides while with the Gorillas.
Tracking the gorillas can last from a few hours to a whole day, depending on how far the group has moved since it was observed nesting up the previous evening.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in Southwestern Uganda on the border with Congo and Rwanda, covering an area of about 33.7 sq., the park is a habitat for man’s closest, the mountain gorillas which roam about the whole forest in search of food.
This park is one of the few places in the World where the endangered mountain gorillas live and it attracts people from different countries to come t Uganda on a Gorilla safari. This park is one of the leading tourist sites in Uganda since it harbours these rare primates because of there is a thick rain forest with in the park with a variety of tree species and gorillas are known to be vegetarians and there is enough food for them in the park which forces some gorillas to migrate from Congo and Rwanda to this place. Though not in large numbers, gorillas of Mgahinga are easily seen in their natural habitats and this makes tracking easier compared to other parks. Normally gorilla trekking safari starts from Ntebeko entrance gate at around 8am in the morning daily taking 2-4 hours and you as a visitor, you are expected to budget your time well while with a gorilla family since the maximum time allowed to spend is one hour. The best seasons for tracking are two dry seasons that is mid-December to the end of February and June to October, however gorilla tracking is possible throughout the year.
A gorilla trekking permit in Uganda costs 700 us dollars and 75percent of the money is raised to conserve the gorilla surviving population. As you purchase the permit note that the cost includes park entrance fees, gorilla watching for an hour, advance trackers and ranger fees and East African citizens pay shs 250000 for the permit.
Chimpanzee trekking is the act of walking in search of chimpanzees. This activity involves critically observing your surrounding and looking out for signs of animal activity, pods left behind after feeding, foot and knuckle prints left behind during movement, fresh poop and of course listening out for loud calls. This is one of the things that makes a Uganda safari unique. Not only Uganda being incredibly special coz of its gorilla and chimp trek but Kibale forest is one of the best places not only in Uganda, but in the world. The chimpanzees are human closest living relatives. These two species look alike in many ways, both in body and behavior. Humans and chimps share a surprising 98.8 percent of their DNA.
In Uganda, chimpanzees can be seen in 4 places, Budongo forest, Kibale forest, Kyambura gorge and Kalinzu forest.
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo forest. Budongo forest is found in Masindi district in Uganda and is part of Murchison falls National Park and is the largest natural forest in Uganda covering an area of about 826 sq. kilometers. Budongo forest reserve is one of the best places for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, most of the tracking takes place at Kaniyo Pabidi located in the south of Murchison Falls NP. The tracking in Budongo usually starts with briefing from the information Centre at the Budongo Eco Lodge. Chimpanzee tracking here is done twice a day i.e. in the morning around 0700 hrs. and in the afternoon around 1500 hrs. and it is your choice to choose any of the shifts of tracking. The tracking is a 3-hour activity and this located time includes the trekking to the chimpanzee community, having a full hour to take pictures and then walking back. Here the chimpanzees are sometimes even found near to the Eco Lodge, however in dry season, the food tends to be scarce so they move deep in the forest to look for food.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale NP. Chimpanzee trekking is the most known activity in Kibale NP. In Kibale NP, chimpanzee trekking starts at Kanyanchu visitor center found in the Northern part of the park. This northern part of Kibale NP is the best for chimpanzee tracking activities because it is a densely forested area. The chimpanzee community area is quite big and also habituated to offer you the best experience. The habituated chimpanzees get used to the human visits, this makes them less reactive to the encounter of visitors, thus rewarding you with quality time to intimately learn about the chimpanzees for the one-hour duration recommended. Kibale chimpanzee tracking starts early morning at around 6am, a group of 6 people gathers at starting point for briefing before they hit the forest to track for the chimpanzees. The group is escorted by 2 guides who help to track the chimpanzees to where they might have nested at night. The visitors follow that group of chimpanzees as they go on with their activities like hunting for food, mating and other interesting behaviors of these primates.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura gorge. Visitors can track chimpanzees in the dramatic Kyambura gorge on the Eastern side of the park, 35kms from the Lodge. It is a home to a variety of wildlife, including the only primates in the Queen Elizabeth National park. The area is an important water source for many animals and is surrounded by savanna, but is generally noted for its high concentration of primate life located in the gorge. You can also find red-tailed monkey, black-and-white colobus, baboons and vavet monkeys.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest. Kalinzu forest is found in southwestern Uganda in the district of Bushenyi. The forest is close to Maramagambo forest and Queen Elizabeth NP. Chimpanzee trekking in Kalinzu forest is the main activity to the forest. Kalinzu forest hosts one of the largest communities of chimpanzees in Uganda. It is arguably the second best place to track chimpanzee after Kibale forest in Uganda. Most tourists from Queen Elizabeth NP prefer tracking chimps in Kalinzu forest despite the fact that the park has its own chimp community at Kyambura gorge. It is easy to reach Kalinzu forest through the Mweya sector of Queen Elizabeth NP. The drive only takes about 40 minutes. Chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest is not very demanding as gorilla tracking but one need to be fit enough to walk for 3 to 4 hours through difficult terrain. The track may include passing through steep slopes and muddy parts of the forest. Though chimps generally live in flatter terrain compared to mountain gorillas, they are very mobile and one needs to be prepared to follow them at high speed which can be tiresome. The tracking here starts in the morning and is led by a guide and armed ranger. The rangers are familiar to the chimps because were involved in their habituation process. Chimpanzees may not be so welcoming to complete strangers and that’s one of the reasons why the activity must be led by an official guide. There is a morning shift at 8am and afternoon shift at 3pm but the chimps are very active in the morning as they go out to eat and secure their territory and the visitors are divided into 3 groups depending on their fitness and pace.
RULES AND TIPS TO TRACK FOR CHIMPANZEE TREKKING
- Only 6 people can track a particular chimp community per session to avoid overcrowding and irritating chimps.
- One must be 12 years and above to track chimps
- Visitors are only allowed 1 hour with the chimps to limit the spread of diseases
- While with chimps, keep your voices low
- Do not eat food while close to the chimps
- Don’t try to provoke the chimps
- Do not wonder away from your group or main trail
- Visitors are not allowed to track on their own and without an authorized guide
- Visitors with flue, cough, diarrhea or any other transmittable disease are not allowed to go near the chimps to avoid risk exposure
- Keep distance of at least 8 meters away from the chimps among others
Chimpanzee tracking permit is an identification provided by Uganda Wildlife Authority to authorize a tourist to access the forest and track chimpanzees and the permits include
- Kibale NP cost USD 200 per person for foreign nonresidents, USD 150 for foreign residents and UGX 150000 for East African citizens.
- Budongo forest cost USD 90 per person for both foreign nonresidents and foreign residents.
- Kyambura gorge cost USD 50 per person for foreign nonresidents and UGX 30000 per person for East African citizens
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