Thinking of embarking on an adventure of a life time? wondering which group of gorillas is right for you? In this article, we will dive right into How to choose the best gorilla trekking group. Gorilla trekking in Uganda takes place in Bwindi impenetrable national park in its 4 major sectors of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga with a total of over 18 fully habituated gorilla groups. There is also one gorilla group reserved for gorilla habituation in Rushaga sector. Gorilla trekking activities can also be done in Mgahinga gorilla national park with its one gorilla family Nyakagezi. The key question that every traveler interested in tracking gorillas wants to know is; How to choose the best gorilla trekking group.
Key to note is that these gorillas are the same in all the sectors, and so don’t not worry which group you will be assigned to track. Important to note also is that when you buy a gorilla permit, you do not buy a permit for a particular group, you buy an open permit assigned to a particular gorilla sector or location and its open to any gorilla group with in that sector. As such, you may not have a chance to select a gorilla family for yourself but rather a gorilla location. You will be assigned the group to track during the morning briefing at the UWA gorilla sector office depending on the number of tourists that have showed up. However, you need to know that there are only maximum 8 people allowed to track each gorilla family.
The difference in experiences with different groups or locations may depend on the terrain of the location, the number of gorilla group members, weather at hand, the fitness of the trekkers, the movement of the gorilla families among other factors. If you have a particular group of interest, you can forward your request in advance to your tour operator who will engage management of the park and you will be allowed to track your group. if you are travelling on your own, you can make a request to UWA management in advance to accommodate your interest. However, in general, groups are assigned on the day of tracking.
How to choose the best gorilla trekking group
Hiking is a rigorous activity that involves a lot of movement in the impenetrable forests whose landscape is sometimes ragged and will involve a lot of falling, slowing down movement, and several breaks to ensure every tourist in the group is at the same level. The park management normally equips you with walking sticks to support you during tracking. There are also community porter available at a small cost to help you carry your bag while you concentrate on the trekking. Generally, some sectors take a lot of time and require a lot of fitness and in this case Nkuringo sector and some groups in Rushaga sector. Ruhija and Buhoma are relative, and on a general perspective, they are not hard to track compared to the southern sector. Nkuringo sector would be better for the adventurous youths but not for elderly and weak. It is important to practice jogging a few months to your travel date to get your body used to the energies required to track the Gorillas.
Time at your disposal
The time at your disposal especially after tracking may dictate on the group to be assigned to or even the location. If you are going after tracking, and want to catch a flight or connect to the next destination, choosing a sector that easily connects to your next destination would be ideal. You can also request a group that is nearer so that after tracking, you can connect to your next destination. There are always advance trackers on daily that communicate with management on the location of each gorilla group, and so by the time clients set off for tracking, most of the groups’ estimated location is known.
Your interests on how you want your gorilla experience to be and the key interests in the individual member groups will determine your interested group and sector. Each gorilla group has different unique members in terms of numbers, age among others. Some groups have bigger members compared to others. Others have a composition of different age groups ranging from lead silverback, black backs, females, mothers and juveniles. Depending on your interests in group composition, you can request for the group or location that suits your interests. Some sectors give beautiful scenery compared to others for instance the southern sector of Rushaga and Nkuringo will give you spectacular views of the Virunga massif.
Special groups of people
Adventurous and energetic youth can track fairly hard groups and some special categories of people like the elderly, lame, non-fit tourists may be considered while assigning gorilla groups. Such groups should always ensure that they buy permits from the sectors that are generally not hard to track. However, situations can change on the day of tracking given the movement of gorilla group and the sector that is considered easy to track turns out hard. This is given on the general perspective. It is important to note that you will need to tell your safari guide to book for you a gorilla group/sector that favors your taste.
How & Where to book the Gorilla permit
Gorilla permits are issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority, a government agency responsible for conserving all the national parks in Uganda. You can book directly with UWA Reservations Office or through your trusted tour operator to ease the procedure for you. You are advised to book for permits at least 6 months in advance especially for peak season, and at least 2 months in advance for low season. However, last minute booking is possible but not guaranteed.
Best time to Visit the Gorillas
Gorillas can be visited any time of the year due to the conducive weather all year around. Trekking can take place even during the rain and that’s why you are encouraged to carry rain jackets. Gorilla trekking is done daily from January to December. However, some seasons are more competitive than others especially peak season where booking early in advance is advisable. Peak season include June to September, and December to February. Low seasons include March to May, and October to November. The low season is also a good period for the tourists that would not prefer to meet a lot of in these protected areas. With all the information on how to choose the best gorilla trekking group, lets get going. Embark on an adventure of a life time in the African wilderness.