How to choose a gorilla family to trek in Bwindi
There are over 21 mountain gorilla families of which 19 are open for gorilla trekking and 2 are open for habituation in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. Bwindi is located in the southwestern part of the country and it’s known for hosting endangered mountain gorillas in the world. The national park was gazetted in 1991 by the government of Uganda to protect endangered mountain gorillas which are more than half of the remaining population in the world today.
About 700 mountain gorillas do live in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and some of these have been trained to get used to human presence around them. Over 21 mountain gorilla families are in Bwindi and a lot of travelers who have read about these families before are interested in certain groups to trek. There are those that are also interested in trekking the easiest mountain gorillas family or the difficult mountain gorilla family.
Well to answer the question of how to choose a mountain gorilla family to trek, a traveler never allocates themselves a gorilla family to trek but it’s the park wardens who do so. The park wardens look at the age of the trekkers, and the physical fitness of the trekkers and then allocate mountain gorilla families to trek according.
The easiest mountain gorilla families are normally allocated to old people and those that are not physically fit while the difficult mountain gorilla families are allocated to young and energetic travelers. Travelers should know that gorilla family allocation is done on the day of trekking and this is because the wardens know which family is easy to difficult to trek on that day since trackers head into the jungle first to see where they last nested.
The only way a traveler can get a chance to trek a mountain gorilla family of their choice can be during the rainy season when a few travelers are in the park and if they have a gorilla permit of the gorilla trekking region where the family they want to trek lives. Uganda wildlife authority sells gorilla permits according to the sector.
An example if you want to trek a gorilla family in Nkuringo and your gorilla permit is for Nkuringo there are high chances of your driver guide talking with the park wardens to choose for you a gorilla family of your choice. But if you want to trek a gorilla family of Nkuringo and you are given a gorilla permit for Rushaga region then you will have no choice but to trek gorilla families in the region where your gorilla permit shows.
Travelers that are intending to visit Bwindi gorilla park and have certain mountain gorilla families they would love to trek should make sure they book their permits earlier in advance and they should be able to specify which gorilla trekking regions they want to visit. After securing a gorilla permit of the region where the mountain gorilla family of your choice lives there is a high possibility of you trekking that family of your choice if your driver guide speaks with the park wardens before briefing and allocation.
Gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi
Gorilla trekking starts with a briefing at the sector offices where trekkers gather early in the morning for briefing, and gorilla family allocation. Armed ranger guides lead trekkers into the jungle where they search for a gorilla family for 2-7 hours and the time taken to meet a gorilla family depends on the speed of trekkers as well as the location of the gorilla family.
The moment the mountain gorilla family is spotted, armed ranger guides give trekkers 1 hour to be around the family and this gives them an opportunity to learn about their habits, watch them do daily activities, and take photos. After spending a good time around mountain gorillas, trekkers move slowly away from the mountain gorilla family and trek out of the jungle.
How many people are allowed to trek a gorilla family in Bwindi?
A fully habituated mountain gorilla family in Bwindi is trekked by a maximum of 8 people and a semi-habituated mountain gorilla family is trekked by 4 people. There are 19 mountain gorilla families in Bwindi which means over 152 people can trek the mountain gorillas and 2 semi-habituated mountain gorilla families that can be trekked by 8 people
How much does a gorilla permit for Bwindi cost?
A gorilla permit for Bwindi is a document that allows a traveler to encounter mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. A normal gorilla trekking permit costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and UGX250,000 for citizens of East Africa. A gorilla habituation permit for Bwindi costs $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 foreign residents, and UGX750,000 citizens of East Africa.
When to visit Bwindi gorillas
Travelers that are interested in spending time with mountain gorillas can visit Bwindi at any time of the year however there are certain months that are better than the rest. The dry months are the best for gorilla trekking and they occur from June to September and December to February. They are characterized by little or no rainfall that leaves the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is short and scatted with good views of the mountain gorillas and the roads connecting to the park are in good condition.
Travelers especially budget travelers can visit Bwindi and encounter mountain gorillas in the rainy season of March to May and October to November in order to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities. The rainy season is characterized by too much rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thick and tall with unclear views of the mountain gorillas and the roads connecting to the park are in poor conditions.
What to pack for Bwindi gorilla trekking?
Travelers that are intending to visit Bwindi for gorilla trekking are advised to pack long-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved pants, a rain jacket, a sweater, gardening gloves, waterproof hiking shoes, long cotton sticks, a pair of gaiters, sunscreen, insect repellents, a camera, a pair of binoculars, drinking water bottle, energy giving snacks and a light backpack among others.