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GORILLA TRACKING/GORILLA TREKKING

Call it gorilla tracking or trekking, the choice is yours. It is no doubt, this is one of the most breath taking experiences on earth. Gorilla tracking has always been the flag bearer of Uganda and Rwanda’s tourism. There are about 786 surviving mountain gorillas in the world making it the most endangered primate specie. More than a half of these creatures live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The rest live in the forests of Virunga Volcanoes which are shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A gorilla is the most powerful of all living primates. Males are the strongest, the can grow to twice the height of a female. They grow up to 6ft and weigh from 350 to 500 pounds. It is a peaceful and sociable animal. Each family has a dominant male known as a silverback because the hair on his back turns gray with age.

To do a gorilla tour, one needs to purchase a gorilla permit valued at US Dollars 600 in Uganda, US Dollars 750 in Rwanda and US Dollars 400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Note that in low season (April, May and November), the gorilla permits for Uganda/Bwindi are discounted to US Dollars 450 for Foreign Non Residents making it the cheapest time to conduct a gorilla tour. You hike for about 45 minutes to six hours depending on where you find the gorillas on a specific day and you are allowed a full hour with them. For those who want to spend a full day with these creature, the permit costs US Dollars 1500. It is worth the experience.

GORILLA GROUPS IN BWINDI

Gorillas live in groups called troops. There are currently 13 habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Forest with Mubare being the oldest. Other groups include; Bitukura, Rushegura, Nyakkagezi, Busingye, Kahungye, Oruzogo, Habinyanja, Mishaya, Bweza, Nkuringo, Nshongi and Kyaguriro. The group you visit will be determined by your gorilla permit as different groups are accessed from different parts of the dense forest. Bwindi Forest lies in a remote area and is far from Kampala (Approx. 9Hrs’ drive) hence we recommend three days for a gorilla tour.

BREEDING

Gorillas mate year round and the female normally produces one offspring every fourth year. Incase her offspring dies in infancy, she breeds more often. A young gorilla lives with its parents three years after its birth. There is no specific mating season and therefore, they give birth throughout the year. Males begin breeding at 15 years whereas females begin from 10-12 years. Gorillas tend to live in groups of ten to thirty females and their young, with one or more mature female known as the silver backs. Young adult males generally live alone, sometimes joining groups for short periods. Afterwards, they take females with them to mate and start families/groups.

FEEDING

A gorilla is herbivorous /vegetarian. It eats the fruits, leaves and stems of a wide variety of plants that form the undergrowth of the forest floor. Bamboo shoots are a favorite. The food it eats with the dew it drinks off of leaves provides all the moisture a gorilla need.

GORILLAS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH MAN.

Science has proved it that gorillas and human share a lot genetically. This can be noticed by their way of life, and their ability to learn sign language. A gorilla is stronger and more muscular than any strong human being even if he applied steroids. Their easygoing nature has made it possible to mingle with wild family groups and hence considerable study has been conducted on the gorilla. Unfortunately, they have been widely hunted for food and sport. Therefore man remains the greatest predator to gorillas most especially when he evades their habitats. It’s for this reason that Dian Fossey (Gorilla researcher) never wanted people to visit gorillas for tourism. However, money from gorilla tours has enabled these primates survive up to today and also multiply in number.

GORILAS’ SOCIAL HABITS

Each gorilla family lives within a fairy small area. However, groups that occupy the same area coexist peacefully.

One way in which gorillas establish and reinforce bonds is by social grooming. One gorilla will groom the other by combing through his fur with fingers and teeth. In addition to the cleanliness it promotes, social grooming allows clos contact and touch between animals.

Each evening, gorillas build nests in which to spend the night. Up to the age of three, the young share their mother’s nest. However, the nest- building instinct is so strong that they experiment with making their own nests at an early age.

Nest building is not a painstaking process. The gorilla simply pulls in any branches that it can reach and then squats on them to make a platform.

WARNING DISPLAY

The unexpected appearance of a strange male in the group may cause the silver-back to mount an elaborate warning display. He hoots excitedly, building to an ear splitting roar at the intruder. Then after having risen to his full height, tearing at twigs and branches beats his chest with cupped palms of his hands. He may take few steps towards the intruder, growling and gnashing his teeth.

If this does not deter the stranger, the silverback may be provoked to charge, waving his arms and screaming with rage. The charge usually stops short of actual contact; the silverback will thrust his face right up to the intruder’s and they will stand nose to nose, glaring at each other, until one or the turns or stalks off. Sometimes they fight until one dies.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS AND LOWLAND GORILLAS.

There is a difference between a mountain and a lowland gorilla. Mountain gorillas are the larger and more powerful than the lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas are the most endangered primates on earth with only about 800 surviving in the wilderness whereas more 100,000 low land gorillas still survive. More than half of these live in Bwindi. Mountain gorillas can only survive in the wilderness and therefore cannot be found in any zoo. All gorillas you see in zoos are lowland gorillas.

WHAT TO PACK FOR GORILLA TRACKING

Having paid for your gorilla tour, then next thing to think of is what to pack for this experience. Below is a list of the items everyone should pack for a gorilla tour.

  • Water proof trouser and jacket (It can get really wet at some altitudes)
  • Good hiking shoes
  • Garden gloves
  • Long sleeved shirts (Some parts of the forest are thorny)
  • Energy giving snacks
  • Personal cameras
  • A pair of binoculars
  • A hat
  • DO YOU NEED A PORTER FOR THE GORILLA TREK?

    Many people ask themselves whether they need a porter or not. Well we at African Wild Tours would advise hiring a porter since we support sustainable tourism. Most of these porters are former poachers and used to occupy the protected areas. Therefore this is how they earn a living. This is how they can directly benefit from gorilla tracking/tourism and in turn get to the importance of these animals and the negative effects of poaching. Without such employments, it would be difficult to protect these animals from poachers and encroachers.

    For those who are not physically fit, hiring a porter is a must do. They will help carry your luggage, help you uphill, and get you out of mud and so on. These porters are worth the price and they go for approximately US Dollars 10 per porter. However, many have made it to the gorillas without a porter. This needs some level of fitness since you sometimes have to walk for long hours and go through valleys and hills inside the dense forest

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