Bwindi’s Gorilla trekking experience will awaken your sense of wonder If you love indulging in gems that nature has been generous to, the Gorilla trekking experience of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park will leave you with tears of joy. Found in the picturesque highlands of Western Uganda, Bwindi is a well conserved UNESCO World heritage site packed with 400 plant species, 120 mammal and 350 bird species. Its 25,000 year old forest is endowed with awe-inspiring waterfalls and towering trees that inspire a sense of mystery, awe and fascination. In here, you will find over 40% of the world's last surviving population of mountain gorillas (over 440). Sure, there are lots of forest buffaloes here, so they say….and even chimpanzees and elephants, but seriously, who cares…Bwindi is all about the biggest primate species in the world, gorillas!
Gorilla permits here are still at $600, compared to Rwanda's Volcanoes National park where it was recently doubled to $1,500. That is something that many tourists like about this destination that soars at an altitude of 1,160m-2,607 meters above sea level. However, what they really love is that one has a 95% probability of encountering the gorillas even in peak rainy months like April. This is partly thanks to the abundance of edible floras and variety of wild fruits that are spread over the park's 321Km2 surface area.
Personally, among the things that keeps me coming back here is the fact that the gorilla tracking experience is intimate. Tourists intending to see the 17 habituated gorilla families are clustered into small groups, comprising of a maximum of eight people. As such, you can take lots of pictures during your time in the forest--without much interference from tourists.
In the interest of ensuring you have a quality experience, your pursuit to encounter the gorillas will start early morning. At this time of the day, gorillas are in their most active state, searching for food, playing, harvesting fruits and swinging from one branch to another with ease like spider-man.
Your adventure off-the-beaten path will be guided by two enthusiastic Ranger guides who have done this over 200 times. As such, they know the most scenic routes through which to take you as different animals roll around in the sun. Apart from being very knowledgeable about the park's eco-system, they are patient. They will set a gentle pace thereby allowing you get over steep stretches without pushing yourself to a breaking point. This pace will allow have a fruitful photography tour full of enchanting sights and sounds of nature, inclusive of rivers with crystal clear water.
There will be lots of stopovers where you can recharge your batteries in case your energy levels have run low. Better-still, porters are available for hire in case you want extra support while ascending and descending over challenging stretched of the terrain. For just 15USD, they are happy to carry your luggage throughout your adventure thus enabling you to travel light.
Duration of adventure
It takes an average of two hours of hiking before encountering gorillas. Nonetheless, bear in mind that there is no fixed route to find these wild animals. They have unlimited freedom to wander, unlike animals in a zoo. As such, pursuing them feels like heading out for a treasure hunt, except that in this case you have a 95% chance of encountering your target. All habituated families have 9-36 members belonging to different age-brackets ranging from infants to blackbacks to adult females, all of whom are submissive to their guardian silverback. This full composition allows you to analyze how gorillas behave as they go through different stages of growth.
Having been habituated, the gorillas are accommodative to human presence for as long as they don't feel threatened. Looking these peace-loving beasts in the eyes arouses shattering sensations of fear and excitement. Unlike their close cousins’ chimpanzees, gorillas never seem oblivious to your presence. They blaze their eyes into yours, making your face dark with desire to know more about them. The one hour you will spend with them will not just pass by. It will fly by, but the experience will linger for a lifetime. See, it is full of spectacular national geographic moments that make the hair on your back of your neck stand up. You will be at a loss of words in case an infant gorilla excitedly crawls up to your feet to figure out why your legs are longer than your arms, unlike theirs.
Main Difference between Bwindi and other parks where gorilla trekking takes place like Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and Congo's Virunga National Park The park isn't called Impenetrable by mistake. It is an untamed jungle divided into four wings, each with at least three habituated gorilla families. Brace yourself for some steep, muddy climbs over wild jungles that frequently demand machetes to hack a way through the vines, thorns and shrubs. That said, the park also has its share of gentle tracks that favour people with weak knees and persons with disabilities.
What to pack
Your yellow fever certificate. Good hiking boots and waterproof jacket to protect you from rain. Due to its status as a tropical forest, Bwindi experiences spontaneous rain even in dry seasons. By the same token, tag along with a waterproof bag to protect your gadgets and filming equipment.
Best time to visit
Although gorilla tracking in Bwindi takes place every day all year, the peak rainy season of May isn't recommendable especially if you want good pictures. The park gets quite messy at this time. To this effect, the dry months between June-August and Nov-end of March are a better choice.
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