The Mountain Gorilla
As the name suggests, primate Journeys Africa, specializes in gorilla tours, taking our guests to the beautiful rain forest mountains of Uganda & Rwanda to see these majestic giants in their natural habitats. These creatures are extremely endangered – there are approximately only 600 left worldwide – and they are incredibly difficult to get to; making seeing the mountain gorillas a real once in a lifetime opportunity. Observing these endangered animals in their natural environment is humbling and extremely rewarding as they’ll enlighten you to how simply life could be.
After Chimpanzees, mountain gorillas are the most closely related to human beings of all mammals; our DNA is a 99% match. They are an endangered species, despite intense conservation efforts and community development which aims to protect them. If these efforts are lost, in just a few generations, mountain gorillas will be extinct or will only be able to be seen in zoo’s and sanctuaries. By visiting the gorillas we’re aiding the communities which surround them and showing them that protecting the gorillas will benefit them financially.
Primate Journeys Africa will take you to see these beautiful endangered animals for yourselves. Our Wildlife and Gorilla tour will take you through Murchison Falls in the Northwestern Uganda to the Hilly areas of South Western Uganda including Rwanda in just two weeks showing you the stunning landscapes and exotic wildlife that is unique to these regions and Africa. As permits allowing you to visit the gorillas are limited, Primate Journeys Africa may either take you to visit the gorillas through the Uganda or Rwanda side. We prefer to take guests through the Uganda side and will do our utmost best to ensure a pass into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the mountain gorillas.
The money that is spent on the permits needed to see the gorillas goes towards protecting them and the surrounding communities. There are 3 areas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest from where you can track gorillas: Buhoma, Ruhija and Rushaga/Nkuringo. Each area has 3 (Buhoma), 2 (Ruhija) and 6 (Rushaga) gorilla families whom can be visited once a day by a maximum of 8 people. You can also trek in Mgahinga National Park where there is 1 habituated family group. Permits can sell out on certain days, especially in the high-season. On certain occasions we may have to plan your trip around when and where we can find availability for permits. A gorilla trek starts at 8am in the morning with a safety briefing from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). A trek can last anywhere from a few hours to a full day.
These animals are 100% wild and while territorial, can cover vast distances in one day. Once you have found the gorillas you will be with them for one hour. This time limit is to respect their existence as wild animals, not over-exposing them to humans. There is a safety distance of 8 metres that you must remain from the gorillas. This is not only for your safety from a creature exponentially stronger than yourself, but also for the gorillas whom are susceptible to some human diseases such as the flu. You may have seen internet videos of people much closer than this. On rare occasions a gorilla may move very close to you, this is their choice as a wild animal but you should not expect this nor make the approach yourself.
A sighting is not guaranteed however daily success rates are very high. All lodges in the area provide their clients with a packed lunch. You will travel with at least one guide and one ranger from the Wildlife Authority. You will be asked if you would like a “porter” to carry your bags and help you up the mountain. We encourage you to take this offer. Not only can the terrain be steep and the jungle dense, but it is one of the key ways that gorilla trekking supports the local community. Porters are organized and scheduled by their own association and have a standardized fee. You are trekking in the jungle. You must have sturdy boots or shoes, long pants and preferably a long sleeved top.
A light rain jacket is essential as rains can come sporadically through-out the day. A small rack-sack/day pack will come in handy to carry your extra clothes, lunch, camera etc. There is a minimum trekking age for Mountain Gorillas in Uganda of 15 years which is not negotiable. It is however still possible to travel with children to Bwindi as there are a range of other rewarding, child-friendly activities that we can organize whilst you are trekking. Gorilla Habituation – Quite recently the Ugandan Wildlife Authority have made it possible for a selected number of tourists to assist in the habituation of a gorilla family. This very special experience has never been offered before in Uganda and must be one of the ultimate encounters for any primate enthusiast. The gorilla group in question is in the process of habituation, hence a little shyer than a regular group. You will be a part of the process that prepares this family to be safely viewed by tourists which ultimately contributes to their survival as a species. These will truly be the wildest gorillas that you’ll ever witness in the jungle environment.
Chimpanzee Habituation – Chimpanzees are habituated on a daily basis by rangers and researchers. Habituation in simple terms means humans spending time in the vicinity of wild chimpanzees to slowly let them become used to our presence and not see us as a threat. This process takes years before a group can be safely and successfully viewed by tourists. You can book a spot on these daily habituation activities (limited to 1 or 2 people), accompanying the rangers for a full day in the forest.
This is a fantastic excursion for those with a particular interest in primates. More in-depth than a 1-hour viewing, you’ll get a true insight into daily chimp life by monitoring them through-out the day. The rangers and researchers you’ll accompany will share their stories of life in the forest and their interesting observations of chimpanzee behavior.
Chimpanzee Encounters – In Entebbe both the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre offer programs for you to spend time and physically interact with rescued and rehabilitated chimpanzees. This is a very rare and special experience, as a young chimpanzee takes your hand in the same way a small child would. If you are interested in this, please do ask us about it in advance as there are strict health and vaccination requirements that take some time to certify and complete.