Is gorilla trekking in Uganda safe?

Is gorilla trekking in Uganda safe? Mountain gorilla trekking is only done in the 2 countries of East Africa of Uganda and Rwanda and 1 Central African country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, mountain gorillas can be found in Mgahinga national park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Congo, they are found in Virunga national park while in Rwanda, they are found in Volcanoes national park. Of the 3 countries, Uganda has the highest number of mountain gorillas registered in the 2 national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable. Uganda is also offers more relatively affordable and safe gorilla trekking safari tours as compared to her competitors than Rwanda and Congo. For more than 20 years, there has been no security incidence in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga National Park. The government of Uganda has a stabilised safety and security in Uganda for the last 35 years when the current president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took over powers and leadership of Uganda and since then, Uganda has been the safest destination to visit in East Africa. To protected safari destination in Uganda, the government under a managing body Uganda wildlife authority has militarily trained personals to protect the national parks as park ranger guides and tourism police thus, the military base within the national parks work to protect the park wildlife. All these armed personnel are well trained, equipped and motivated to keep the park and tourists safe. Border patrols are secretly done by the Uganda Peoples Defence forces (UPDF) to ensure that no rebel elements take cover in the forests from neighboring countries. The communities living close to the park are involved in all security arrangements since they are also beneficiaries from tourism, they have the obligation to report any suspicious activities that could threaten travelers. Hence gorilla trekking is safe in Uganda

Gorilla Trekking Safaris

Regarding the security and safety in Uganda, apart from the outbreak war in the early 2000 from the rebel group leader Kony in the Northern part of Uganda, Uganda has not experienced any other kind of rebel attacks for the last 10 years and today, peace has been completely restored and the rebels long flashed out of Uganda. Uganda is one of the most peaceful with friendly and kind people in East Africa open to foreign visitors thus, your safety is guaranteed however, just like any other country, one should exercise caution while in large cities. There is a real threat of pickpockets in the large cities especially in Kampala city, you will need to mind your property because not everyone is kind enough to help a traveler. Its best if you get help from your tour company or friend that you can trust to guide you while staying in Kampala.

With the several outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, several questions have been asked from travelers considering that Congo borders Uganda. The Uganda ministry of health and the security forces are always aware of the going incidences in Congo and for any outbreak, the first safety goes to the Uganda-Congo borders and then to the whole country. In 2021, the democratic republic of Congo registers an outbreak of Ebola almost every day however these outbreaks do not reach Uganda’s closest borders. In relation to gorilla trekking in Uganda, the funds received through gorilla trekking permits, part of these funds are for safety and security for the mountain gorillas especially those located in Mgahinga national park which shared with Virunga national park and Volcanoes national park. In order to protect this important source of foreign exchange, the countries are willing to go to great length to protect the primates and tourists that come to see them. Gorilla conservation programs have been initiated to protect the gorillas using some of the money collected from tourists. Most of the national parks employ armed rangers to look out for poachers. The government also deploys the military to flush out any rebel elements using the parks as refuge. Border patrols by the army help monitor any security incidences that could endanger the security of tourists.

Is gorilla trekking in Uganda safe?
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park

Mountain gorillas are very calm and peaceful creatures, considering their size and strength, they are often referred to as “the gentle giants of the jungle”. Travelers are only allowed to visit habituated gorilla families that are already used to seeing to human beings, this is a – a process that takes 2 years. But like any other wild animal, care must be taken and rules followed during gorilla trekking. Before visitors embark on the gorilla trekking experience, they are first briefed expectations of the activities such as keeping a 7 meters’ distance from the gorillas, spending a minimum of 1 hour with them, do not eat close to the gorillas, and so many other restrictions. Although the mountain gorillas are gentle, for your own life’s sake, do not provoke them in their wild, when provoked, they become the most dangerous creatures on earth.  For security purposes, armed ranger guides and tourism police officers usually escort tourists for gorilla trekking.

Below are some of the safety tips for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Book your gorilla trekking safari through a recognized tour operator: 

Before booking your gorilla safari, ensure that you contacted a genuine tour operator. There are many unreal tour operators and if you do not pay attention to small important details of booking a gorilla trip, you may regret your decision to travel to Uganda. A tour operator must be registered with recognized governing bodies like in Uganda, one must at least be registered with Association with Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), and Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). They should also be recognized on international reviewing platforms like Trip advisor and safari bookings and should have been used by other clients in the past. Check out on these platforms to see what other travelers are saying about your tour company. In regards to payment, find out if they have a company bank account or an online payment system that can only be granted to genuine companies in Uganda. Never send money to individual accounts. Thus a genuine tour operator will guarantee your safety during your stay in Uganda and opportunity to see the mountain gorillas.

Ensure to book with a good hotel

It is very important that as you plan your gorilla safari to book a good hotel which provides not only comfortable rooms but with strict security measures. These hotels are usually best known by tour operators; they can help you select the best hotels with good security policies in place. Don’t book with hotels with poor reviews or are less known by other travelers. Very cheap hotels are normally having crowds and can be penetrated by criminals. You don’t want to wake up only to find your room broken into and your valuables taken. Go for the mid-range and luxury hotels for better safety and security measures

Follow the Gorilla Trekking Rules provided by the authorities

Mountain gorillas are very calm and peaceful unless threatened. To avoid irritating them, keep a distance of about 7 meters even when they approach you. Always stick with your group under the leadership of the park Rangers and Guides. Moving out of the group without a Ranger could put you in danger. If you leave the group, you will be exposed to an unfamiliar environment and possibly meet wild animals. The armed Rangers know how to scare away any wild animal by shooting in the air. Do not look at mountain gorillas directly in the eyes to avoid coming off as a threat. Mountain gorillas are shy primates and looking at them in the eyes for too long may be mistaken for a challenge. Speak in low tones and remain calm even you encounter an angry gorilla. Simply lay low and act submissive. Shouting and loud noises may drive the primates away or begin to see you as a threat. Do not surround the gorilla group while in their midst. Allow them space to move around. As tempting as it is, do not touch a baby gorilla. The silverback could come for you assuming that you want to harm his offspring.

Dress appropriately on a gorilla safari:

Whereas following and obeying to the gorilla trekking rules is important, you also need to know of the appropriate dress code while gorilla trekking. Before you travel, ensure you know the packing list for a gorilla trekking experience especially the dress code and other personal items;

  • You are required to pack good hiking boats/shoes to deal with the muddy and slipper terrain trails.
  • Wear long–sleeved shirts and long trousers will protect you from insects and sharp tree branches.
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses and a hat are excellent for protecting you against the sun.
  • Pack long stockings that are used to tack-in your pants to avoid insects from entering your cloths and also not forgetting good gardening glovers. During gorilla trekking, you walk while getting support from trees and hiking stick, so to avoid hand cuts and bruises, hand glovers are very important
  • To protect yourself from changing weather conditions, pack a warm sweater, rain jackets and light cloths too.
  • Pack clothes with dull colors only. The best recommended of cloths to pack for a gorilla trekking experience are shades of green color or grey or cream or black. Leave bright colors at home.

Request for a closer gorilla family to trek

If you are elderly or doubt your fitness to hike in a jungle, inform your tour operator about your challenge before booking your gorilla safari. On the day of gorilla trekking, during the briefing period, the Rangers allocate gorilla families based on fitness among other trekkers. If you are unfit or an elder, insist on tracking a gorilla group that is closer to the starting point to avoid having to hike for long distances. If you think that you are fit enough, you should go for the medium or more difficult hike depending on your interest. Elders and the physically disabled also have an opportunity to hire porters who will help them during the hike.

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