When it comes to gorilla safaris, gorilla trekking and habituation are the major activities and therefore the debate of gorilla trekking vs habituation. The three countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo are home to mountain gorillas that are trekked in their natural habitat. Since they live in their natural habitat the only way of seeing them is by taking a gorilla trekking safari.
In the three countries, Uganda gorilla trekking safaris can be undertaken in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done at Volcanoes National Park and in Virunga National Park in the neighboring Congo.
Mountain gorilla habituation is undertaken only in Bwindi Forest National Park of Uganda since it’s the only park with a family that isn’t yet fully habituated and therefore tourists can visit for gorilla habituation experiences.
There is always a debate for tourists on choosing which activity to undertake. Here we give you a guide on gorilla trekking and habituation to help you choose how you exactly want to see the remaining population of these endangered mountain gorillas.
Trekking gorillas has no specific description but can be described as an activity that involves trekking/walking/ hiking through dense tropical forests in search of gorillas within their natural habitat.
The way in which this gorilla safari activity is done is what gives it the name trekking joined with the species name which is gorilla hence gorilla trekking.
Gorillas that are trekked include the 2 genera of the gorilla which are the Eastern gorillas and western gorillas.
The Eastern gorillas have more popularly trekked. They are categorized into two subspecies that are the Eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla.
Mountain gorilla species gain their name from their habitat which is at a high altitude on the mountains that rise to about 2,607 meters above sea level. This is why seeing the mountain gorillas requires hiking up to the hills and hence the need for physical fitness.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda costs USD 700 for foreign nonresidents, USD 1500 in Rwanda, and USD 450 in Congo. For trekking, you spend a maximum of 1 hour in the presence of the mountain gorillas.
Each morning, a total of 8 trekkers are allocated to 1 gorilla family to trek. All individuals first gather at the park headquarters for a briefing. During the briefing, they are told about rules and regulations of gorilla trekking.
Briefing starts at exactly 8:00 a.m. local time, and then individuals are allocated a group. A maximum of 8 trekkers are allocated to each group.
Groups are allocated depending on the physical fitness levels of the clients. The group moves depending on the speed of the slowest trekker.
Each group of 8 trekkers goes along with 2 armed park rangers for protection and guidance while in the jungle. Trekking lasts an unpredictable time lasting about 2-6 hours depending on where the gorillas spent their previous night.
Unlike gorilla trekking where tourists visit fully habituated gorillas to spend a maximum of 60 minutes in their presence, gorilla habituation takes you on a 4-hour experience with wild gorillas.
Gorilla habituation is the process of getting mountain gorillas familiar with the presence of human beings. This involves spending time around them till they are fully not bothered about the presence of humans and can go on with their daily lives.
Gorilla habituation is only done in Uganda’s Bwindi forest with a maximum of 4 people allowed to participate. The habituation permit costs around 1500 USD, you will spend about 4 hours in the forest.
The gorilla habituation experience permit is much more expensive than the gorilla trekking permit. This is simply because it allows you to spend much more time in the forest during habituation.
Habituation is done in the Rushaga sector of the Bwindi forest of southern Uganda which hosts 51% of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas.
Bikyingi gorilla group is one of the gorilla groups where tourists can have a habituation experience. The group has 21 individuals with 1 silverback, 2 sub-adults, 9 adult females, and 9 infant gorillas. Gorilla habituation is also experienced with the Bushasho gorilla group.
The advantage of the gorilla habituation experience is that clients spend about 4 hours with the mountain gorillas.
A gorilla habituation process in Uganda may take about 2-3 years for the gorillas to get fully familiar with the presence of human beings.
To get to this stage, researchers and gorilla doctors visit the gorillas every day to learn more about the individual gorillas and their behaviors.
With some good time, these gorillas get used to the presence of researchers and they can even get closer to them. After the study of each gorilla individual, they then receive a name.
Following this period, a mock exercise is carried out where several people including scientists, journalists, and others start visiting the gorilla group.
If the gorillas pass the mock exercise then they are referred to as fully habituated and are opened to the public for mountain gorilla trekking.
The minimum age for a gorilla habituation experience is 15 years of age just like it is for gorilla trekking. The rules and regulations for both activities are almost the same with a few slight alterations that the guides will explain to you as you head out for the trek.
Gorilla trekking vs habituation is a choice of the tourist and depends on how much time you need to spend with the gorillas or learn of their behaviors. In case you want any of the activities contact Acacia Safaris for bookings.