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Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Posted: 18th November 2014 15:17

Uganda is frequently referred to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ due to its snow-capped mountains, misty forests, emerald hills and crystal clear lakes.  The jewel in Uganda’s vastly diverse and beautiful crown is its endangered population of man’s distant cousin, the mountain gorilla.  These shy, majestic creatures can only be found on the African continent and their inability to survive in captivity means they cannot be seen in any zoo or safari park.  Uganda is one of only three countries that is home to the approximately 880 remaining mountain gorillas, and it is thought that over half of their population lives in the mountainous forests of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the south west of the country.   

The Gorillas

The fascination with mountain gorillas quite possibly lies in their incredibly close resemblance to human beings.  Not only do the gorillas share approximately 98% of DNA with human beings, they also live in similarly close-knit family groups and grow to a similar height.  The mountain gorilla maintains a largely vegetarian diet but occasionally eats ants and larvae; due to their enormous bulk, they spend a large part of their day eating and foraging for food.  In contrast to common misconceptions, gorillas are generally gentle and shy and due to years of habituation are rarely disturbed by the presence of humans in their natural environment.   

The Home of the Mountain Gorilla

 The Ugandan gorilla population is concentrated in the mountainous forests that dominate the south west of the country, an eight hour drive from the capital city Kampala.  The forests altitude generally ranges from 1600 to 2600 metres above sea-level and the terrain is often rugged, with winding rivers and craggy hills intersecting steep narrow valleys.  The densely packed trees create a dark, quiet, rainforest-like atmosphere and the huge number of plant species that wind their way between the thick tree trunks form the majority of the mountain gorilla’s diet.    

The Trek Experience

Due to the endangered status of the mountain gorilla species there are tight controls around the number of visitors that are allowed to enter the natural habitat at any one time.  It is therefore essential to obtain a permit before travelling to the area.  Once this has been done, however, you will have the opportunity to come face-to-face with one of nature’s most magnificent creatures.  Treks generally begin with a quick briefing and orientation before setting off on the trail of the gorillas.  Due to the mobile nature of the gorilla families and the rugged terrain that they inhabit, the journey can take anywhere from 45 minutes to nine hours, but the skill of the trackers and the guides means it is rare not to find gorillas at some point on your trek.  Having negotiated the steep mountain slopes and thick vegetation that dominate the scenery, your time spent amongst the gorillas will be one of the most humbling and awe-inspiring experiences you are ever likely to encounter.  Witness them going about their simple daily routine – eating, playing, resting, bonding with their young – and marvel at the incredible strength of the silverback males.  You will spend roughly one to two hours with the gorillas, during which time you are free to take pictures and videos, or simply sit and watch on in amazement.  To be sat mere inches away from such unique creatures is a once in a life time experience.    

A trek to see the mountain gorillas of Uganda offers a truly one-off experience: the chance to see one of nature’s endangered wildlife wonders set against the backdrop of tree covered mountains and deep river-cut valley.  Very few places in the world can boast this remarkable combination of breath taking views and undisturbed wildlife.  With mist gently mingling among deep green vegetation and streaks of golden sunlight piercing the towering jungle canopy, Uganda’s south western forests form the perfect location in which to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.