How hard is gorilla trekking in Uganda?

How hard is gorilla trekking in Uganda? : This is one of the frequently asked questions that come to the mind travelers when planning a gorilla tour in Uganda. Gorilla trekking is a thrilling experience of hiking through unknown territory and tropical forest with the opportunity to spot birds, smaller primates and the beautiful scenery. Although mountain gorilla trekking is considered as one of the most fascinating primates’ experiences which is not like going on a game drive, Mountain Gorilla trekking involves hiking through difficult terrain, thick vegetation, water bodies, hills and valleys. The activity can be very challenging and strenuous leaving one exhausted and with sore knee especially if they are not used to walking for long hours. Unlike the other 2 destinations for gorilla trekking in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gorilla trekking in Uganda particularly Bwindi impenetrable national park does not just involve hiking in well paved and predictable tracks but rather one has to deal with biting insects, thorns and thick forest, rain and Altitude sickness is also a real worry in some of the parks.

Bwindi impenetrable national park is one of the 4 national parks where mountain gorilla trekking is arranged including Mgahinga National Park of Uganda, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo. Each destination has its unique difficulties for example Travelers to Mgahinga national park and Volcanoes National Park have to struggle with the mist, higher altitude and bamboo forests. Therefore travelers’ are highly recommended to travel when well prepared for the activity both mentally and physically before embarking on gorilla trekking experience. Mentally, prepare for unpredictable weather conditions, terrain and changes in Uganda as a developing county.

Physically, ensure you do some bit of exercises before you travel thus you must be physically fit to trek and also carry the right gorilla trekking gears such as good hiking shoes/boots, clothing, rain jackets, a hat, hand gloves, insect repellents, sun glasses and any other thing that will make you more comfortable while tracking the gorillas. Don’t forget to carry light snack and enough drinking water to keep you hydrated. However, 99 percent of travelers’ eventually complete the activity whether fit or unfit. Gorilla trekking for elders is possible with the help of hiking sticks, porters and sedan chairs. It is important for the elderly to book their gorilla trip early in advance so that they can be assigned an easier trek and also reserve a sedan chair. These Sedan chairs are designed for the aged or disabled but anyone can choose to use them. The Sedan chairs and eight porters to carry it may cost about $500.

Regardless of how fit you may consider yourself to be, it is not a good idea to underestimate the importance of being mentally prepared before gorilla trekking. If you doubt your ability to hike for long distance but are relatively in good shape, you should do the following to improve on your endurance ahead of your trip for gorilla trekking.

  • Stretching helps improve mobility and may prevent unnecessary injuries to body joints or muscles. Stretching also helps with flexibility and reduces the possibility of waking up with sore muscles.
  • Before your gorilla safari, do some walking and hiking as you prepare your body for long hikes by walking for long distances outside your home or if possible the nearest forest in your home area. If you leave in a mountainous area which is also forested, that would be a perfect training ground. Start with shorter distance and increase it with time.
  • Ensure that you put on the same hiking gear that you would use while tracking the gorillas so that your body used to their weight. You can also decide to walk from your office up to your home if time and weather permit.  Thus the idea is to prepare your body to deal with long hours of walking.

The time taken while gorilla trekking is unpredictable, we estimate time taken between 1 to 8 hours before locating a particular gorilla family. The length of gorilla trekking usually depends on the location of the gorilla family on that given day. While some gorilla families live closer, most of them move and may go deeper into the forest for example some gorilla families move away each time trackers get closer to them before eventually settling. This is especially happens to travelers’ who choose to go for the gorilla habituation experience. The gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi forest allows visitors to enjoy more time with the gorillas that are still undergoing the habituation process. This can be evidenced by Visitors who plan to do double gorilla trekking (tracking for more than one day), they are assigned different gorilla families each day and will notice a difference in the time taken to locate the groups as well as their overall behavior.

Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park

Acquire the right hiking boots, clothing, rain jackets, a hat, hand gloves, insect repellents, sun glasses and any other thing that will make you more comfortable while tracking the gorillas. Don’t forget to carry light snack and enough drinking water to keep you hydrated. If you are an elder, you need to book your gorilla safari months in advance. This is to allow you tour operator to plan an easier trek for you. If you book late and in the peak season, you might find that the closest gorilla groups are booked.

Given the difficulty of gorilla trekking, all travelers are encouraged to hire the services of a porter in case they fill unfit or have heavy luggage (cameras, binoculars etc.). Hiking for long distances can make even small bags appear heavy. The porters will also help with climbing difficult sections of the hike by pulling you up or lending a hand when the hike get challenging. Hiking sticks are given free of charge at the beginning of the trek – Take them like gold even if you are fit for you will thank us later. Always follow advice of the Rangers right from the time of briefing, while hiking and also when with the gorillas so that you have a great experience. We hope that by now, you have stopped worrying about your level of fitness and if you can complete the activity.

In conclusion, the level of difficulty of gorilla trekking depends on your overall fitness and the gorilla family you are assigned to on the day of the trek. Even if you were to track the same family on different days, the experience and level of hardness would be different. It is also important to note that the park rangers will move at your pace and not let anyone stay back given that they know exactly where the gorilla groups are located by sending an advance team of trackers to find out the exact location of the gorilla families. It is for this reason that the visitors have a 99% chance to see the gorillas are very high. Almost anyone can do gorilla trekking as long as they are not sick or with a transmittable disease. The elderly and physically challenged can also go for gorilla trekking if they let their tour operator know in advance for better planning. All in all, regardless of how long the trek is, you will find the experience memorable and worth all the effort

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