Gorilla Habituation Experience In Uganda
Gorilla Habituation is literally the process of training and familiarization of wild gorillas to get used to the presence of human beings in their natural habitat. Uganda is the only country in the world where tourists can engage in gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
The park is situated in southwestern Uganda, endowed with flora and fauna. It is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is located along the Democratic Republic of the Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park covers an area of 321 square kilometers composed of montane and lowland forest easily accessible only on foot. It is a recognized World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The park is divided into 4 sectors namely; Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo and 18 gorilla families recorded. Out of these, its only 4 families; Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, and Busingye which are found in Rushaga Sector that were set aside for habituation hence gorilla habituation can only be done in the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The habituation process is undertaken by the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers with the assistance of other groups like the tracker conservationists, researchers and it takes a period of about 2 to 3 years to fully complete this habituation experience. Researchers alongside the rangers keep on visiting an identified Wild gorilla group on a daily basis. They get to learn more about individual gorillas and the way they behave. With time, these gorillas get used to them and in the long run, each individual gorilla is given a name this happens at the climax of the process. The researchers test the mountain gorillas by introducing a mock test. This is done by allowing few people like scientists or journalists to visit the gorillas upon passing the test, the gorillas are then open for tourists.
It is an activity where people obtain more knowledge about gorillas and observe their way of life. The Uganda Wildlife Authority had restricted this experience to a few selected individuals like scientists, conservationists, however in 2014, this activity was open for other tourists. They, however, visit semi habituated gorillas which sometimes tend to hide in the trees since they are not yet used to humans.
The difference between gorilla habituation and Gorilla Trekking
It is strictly done by 4 people per day compared to gorilla trekking which allows 8 people per gorilla group.
There is also a need for booking 6 months before the habituation date mainly in December to March and July to October however a gorilla permit can be booked one month before the trekking date.
The Gorilla habituation fees are $1500 higher than those of gorilla trekking currently $600 which was increased to $700 starting 1st July 2020.
Tourists spend 4 hours with the gorillas during Gorilla Habituation, they will spend more time with them seeing how they are habituated. This experience is likely to attract more tourists since you spend more time compared to those interested in doing two treks compared to gorilla trekking where the trekkers are allowed to spend 1 hour.
Gorilla trekking takes more hours as you trek in search of the gorillas yet you spend less time with them. However, when it comes to mountain gorilla habituation experience, the tourists will be moving with experts/those who habituate gorillas straight to were the habituated gorillas are.
The similarity is both permits gorilla habituation and trekking can be booked through the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through your trusted local tour operator Engagi Safaris Ltd.
Rules and regulations one should observe for safety
Do not visit the gorillas when you are feeling sick kindly stay behind to avoid infecting the gorillas. Seek medical attention and the Uganda Wildlife Authority may arrange for you another experience.
Avoid making noise in the forest, keep voice low so that you do not disorganize the nature ecosystem this will also enable you to observe many animals in the forest that include birds, other primates and mammals in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Littering is not allowed, the forest should be conserved to make sure you dispose of your rubbish in the right place.
You are cautioned to follow the instructions of your guide or researchers while on your way to where the gorillas will be. This helps in keeping the whole experience organized.
Keep a distance of 7 meters away from mountain gorillas. This is aimed at reducing the chances of spreading diseases to mountain gorillas. While you are advised to keep such a distance, please note that mountain gorillas are wild animals and do not know such a rule. They may choose to come closer to you and at this stage, you are advised to squat as you listen to instructions of researchers during gorilla habituation
The flashlight is prohibited when taking photos of the gorillas and avoid eating and drinking while with the gorillas. Do not touch the gorillas much as they will move closer to you since they can get angry
In case you need to ease yourself please ask researchers or your guide to organize for you a toilet or dig a whole.
When planning to go gorilla habituation experience in Rushaga, accommodation should not be your worry. There are numerous well-structured accommodation facilities that range from Luxury, mid-range to Budget.
Book with Engagi Safaris a wonderful and fun gorilla habituation experience that you will live to tell.