Is The Gorilla Trekking Experience Worth The Money? | Real Facts

Is gorilla trekking worth the cost? This is one of the frequently asked questions by most tourists on gorilla trekking safaris but truthfully, the answer is yes! The hundreds of dollars spent are worth contributing to the conservation of these rare endangered gentle giants. Also, 50% of the money spent on gorilla permits is used in the development of communities near the mountain gorilla parks.

Mountain Gorilla trekking is worth the cost and your trip to Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Most tourists on gorilla safari take enough time to engage in this primate adventure and if you went through different reviews on Trip Advisor, a hike to see mountain gorillas is preferably worth the amount. Other trekkers narrate this escapade as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it can’t be equated to any amount.

Gorilla Trekking Experience

Gorilla trekking is without any question a mystical wildlife safari experience worth the price, your time, and energy. Regardless of the high rates, the fascinating experience and time spent with a habituated gorilla group on gorilla safari tours in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Routinely, first-time trekkers ask if gorilla trekking is worth the cost. The thrilling encounter one gets with a gorilla group family is an incomparably unusual experience.

Gorilla Trekking Experience

Is gorilla trekking worth the money and cost?

Well to begin with, mountain gorillas are listed as threatened and endangered by the IUCN. Only 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in the wild and of these, less than 50% are habituated and open to tourism. Many travelers would wish to see these gentle giants at least once in their lifetime. You can have a safari to see the big five in the Masai Mara, Serengeti, and several other countries in Africa but to nothing compares to a close encounter with a family of wild mountain gorillas for one hour. You have to book a flight and travel to Uganda, Rwanda or Congo if you wish to see mountain gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are also very captivating primates. They live in families like humans, are very gentle and rarely aggressive like chimpanzees. Mountain gorilla groups are led by a dominant male who directs everything that happens in the group. Gorillas are the closest relatives to human beings. They are creatures that remind us of how we were thousands of years ago. The one hour spent with the gorillas is considered the greatest wildlife experience and will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Gorilla Trekking Experience in Uganda and Rwanda – What to expect

After understanding the worth of tracking mountain gorillas in the wild, you might make a decision that you want to go on safari in one of the three countries. You may have gotten exhilarated and already reserved your air tickets, accommodation, and transport. The next huge question on your mind would be what is the experience of gorilla trekking like?

Like all tourists in the past, the next step to take after making reservations with your tour company is to show up in the country of choice. Your tour company should pick you up from the airport and transfer you to the hotel for relaxation, overnight stay, and dinner as you contemplate the gorilla trekking adventure that lies ahead of you. The distance from the airport to the national park depends on which country you choose to do the trekking. If you are tracking in Rwanda, the driving time will be approximately 3 hours. If you are trekking in Congo, you need to first land at Kigali International Airport have an overnight stay at Kigali, and then the following morning drive to the Congo-Rwanda border crossing in Goma. From the border, you will be driven to the Virunga National Park which is a few kilometers away from the border. Should you decide to do gorilla trekking in Uganda, expect to travel on the road for approximately eight hours to either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Park. We highly advise travelers who land at Entebbe International Airport and are planning on using the road to transfer to either Bwindi or Mgahinga to spend a night either at Kigali or Entebbe to cut the fatigue.

There are two solutions to the problem of driving for long. One is to arrive from Kigali Rwanda instead of Entebbe in Uganda. The driving time and distance from Kigali to Bwindi impenetrable forest is shorter.

If you land at Entebbe International Airport, driving to either Mgahinga or Bwindi will take you approximately 10 hours driving nonstop while if you land at Kigali International Airport, you will only need 4 hours to cross to either Mgahinga or Bwindi.

Another solution for the long driving distance is to reserve a local chattered flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Bwindi. Your local tour operator can then wait for you at the airstrip to take you to the park. The local flights are expensive but the reward I to reach the park in only one hour.

If you travel with JimJam Safaris, the driver guide will pick you up from the airport and transfer you to the accommodation facility close to the national park. On the gorilla trekking day, the driver will pick you up from the hotel as early as 7:00 am and transfer you to the park headquarters for a briefing about the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking. Your driver guide will request your hotel to prepare for you a packed lunch and enough drinking water.

As soon as you get to the park headquarters, you will be asked to present your travel documents and gorilla permit. Ensure to move with your passport to avoid any issues. You will be surprised to find the park offices with tourists from almost every continent. Some would have come for other activities like golden monkey trekking, and nature walks among others. From 7:30 am to 8 am, you will be briefed about the gorilla trekking dos and don’ts. These briefings are always done by the park Warden and cover issues like smoking, keeping a distance from the gorillas, and not running away if a gorilla charges. The Rangers will also give you background information about each of the gorilla groups and the particular park. You will be introduced to the park Guides and all the people working in the park.

The park guides will also let you know of what you need to have to make your trek more comfortable. After the briefing, you will be assigned a gorilla family taking into consideration your Favorite gorilla family and your overall fitness. The Rangers often assign gorilla groups by guessing the age of travelers. Sometimes they get a wrong impression because younger doesn’t always mean fit. If you are not fit or ill, let the rangers know so that you are assigned a nearby gorilla family. In case you are trekking a gorilla family for the second time; you will be allocated another gorilla family. Visitors are only permitted to spend a maximum of one hour with the gorillas in a day. The activity can be shortened at any time if the primates become restless. Only 8 people must visit a particular gorilla family in a day. After the briefing and allocation of gorilla families, clients will then be given a chance to hire a porter as the trek could get tiring and go on for hours. Porters assist in lifting any heavy luggage and navigating through the trek’s complicated sections. The services of a porter costs range between $15 to $30.

The starting points for the hike is nonidentical for each gorilla group. You will most likely be driven a few kilometers away to the starting point. Most parks’ roads are impenetrable, particularly during the wet season. When you arrive at the starting point, the rangers will be in continuous communication (by radio) with an advanced group of trackers to let you know which direction to follow to get to the gorilla families. These advanced groups of trackers arise before sunrise to search for the gorilla families and verify their location. This is the reason why the chance of sighting the mountain gorillas is very high (99%). It’s also paramount to note that the rangers are very professional, experienced, and knowledgeable about the park and the gorilla famines. They know the names and character of each individual in the gorilla families. You are more than safe with them and can learn more about the primates if you ask questions.

Mountain gorilla Trekking can go on for more than 7 hours if we consider going and coming back. Ensure that you carry enough water, a packed lunch, and snacks so that you don’t get dehydrated and hungry. If you feel like easing yourself, ask the rangers to dig a temporary toilet for you. As you start your trek to the forest, expect to experience stunning scenery and landscape. The Rangers will assist you clear a way through the thick jungle using machetes.

Once you meet the mountain gorillas, following the instructions given by the guide is a requirement. The ranger will politely ask everyone to leave their less essential luggage behind before going close to the primates. Begin taking photos only when the rangers tell you so. You will watch the group grooming, farting, breastfeeding, making love and even sleeping. The most active members of the group are the toddlers and adolescents. They love climbing trees because they are lightweight and will entertain you with their wrestling matches. Gorillas sometimes like to charge at tourists just for fun. Don’t act scared or run away just lay low and act submissive. One funny thing about mountain gorillas is that they sometimes behave as if they don’t pay attention to your existence. A large silverback can decide to just walk through your gorilla group without a care. If this happens, just give it away to pass. By the end of your one hour with the gorillas, you would agree with many others that watching gorillas in the wild is indeed very captivating.

After finalizing your trek successfully, you will hike back to the starting point and be given a gorilla trekking certificate at the park headquarters. The certificate shows that you completed the trek successfully and are among the few who saw mountain gorillas in their lifetime. If you were excited by the whole experience, you may tip the rangers for a job well done. The company guide will be waiting for you after receiving your certificate and drive you back to your lodge. Should you come back earlier than expected from your trek and are still fresh, the driver should take you to visit the Batwa community.

Note: To have the best experience with the mountain gorillas, you will need to follow the gorilla trekking rules and guidelines. A silverback adult gorilla is many times stronger than an adult human. Keep a distance of about 7 meters when with the primates especially when you suspect that one is sick or breastfeeding her young one. Do not take part in the activity if you have any transmittable diseases because the primates have poor immunity to human infections. Don’t be tempted to touch the gorillas or their babies even when they come close to you. Avoid direct eye contact with the primates until they are far away. Don’t surround the gorillas and always leave space for them to go in any direction they wish.