The Central African jungles are a haven to about 1063 mountain gorillas, making gorilla trekking and habituation some of the most phenomenal wildlife experiences on the African Continent.
Most travelers booking gorilla safaris get confused by these two terms which bring us to the question “how is gorilla trekking compared to Gorilla Habituation?”
Standard safaris featuring gorilla trekking provide visitors the opportunity of spending a magical and memorable time in the presence of mountain gorillas in their natural environment (densely forested and hilly slopes).
However, this is only possible after the giant apes have gone through a process of training by considerately introducing these endangered creatures to the presence of human beings and the process lasts 2-3 years.
Habituation is surprisingly fundamental for the continuous gorilla studies, care, research, and conservation in the wild.
Travelers who desire to take a more involved role in the preservation and cognizance of these endangered great apes are offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of joining the Park Rangers, researchers as well as conservationists in the training process.
This activity is done in a few places are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park (though not yet officially launched). The following are the ways in which gorilla trekking and Habituation differ;
How Gorilla Habituation Differs from Normal Gorilla Treks?
While standard treks are undertaken in all the four national parks where mountain gorillas are found (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Park in southwest Uganda).
It is also done in the Virunga National Park in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda). The gorilla habituation tours are only available in one place i.e.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Surprisingly, not all the four sectors of Bwindi National Park provide the Habituation Experience but rather the southern sectors of Rushaga and Nkuringo.
The time spent in the presence of mountain gorillas
Gorilla habituation tours involve travelers spending up to four incredible hours with the endangered gorillas. Anyone who has undertaken the activity before contends that it is an implausibly life-changing and humbling experience.
Prices of the adventures
The permits for the gorilla habituation experience cost $1500 for the foreign non-residents, and $1000 for the foreign residents, and Shs. 750,000 for the Citizens of the East African Community bloc at the time of writing.
These rates are worthwhile because the thrill of meeting face to face with the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats is second to none and more so when you have four hours to take as many photos as your camera can contain, ask all-mountain gorilla-related questions and observe their unique characteristics that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible in only one hour.
Number of participants
Generally, mountain gorillas are endangered and still vulnerable, thus encounters with humans are limited to a certain number to avoid behavioral changes or stressing them with big crowds.
However, given the wilder state of these great apes and the fact that they are still getting used to human presence, a smaller number of visitors is allowed to trek and spend time in their presence.
In so doing, only four visitors can visit a habituated gorilla group during the gorilla habituation tour while up to eight tourists can trek a gorilla group during standard gorilla treks.
Currently, there are only two gorilla groups are reserved for the gorilla habituation experience thus only eight permits are available each day. Therefore, if you are looking to go on a habituation experience, you need to make a booking well in time.
Essentials for enjoying the Habituation Experience
It is always important to brace yourself before going on a gorilla habituation experience;
- Wearing sturdy hiking boots with enough ankle support or add gaiters. You should also wear long-sleeved shirts and safari pants for protecting your legs and arms from the stings and scratches of the jungles.
- You should pack a wide brim hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
- Carry a lightweight backpack with enough space for storing your water bottle, insect repellant, and other important items,
- Don’t forget a camera with a waterproof covering as well as extra batteries and memory space,
- Toiletries like lip balm, toothpaste and toothbrush, sunscreen, and wet wipes among others,
- Lastly pack a first aid kit, gardening gloves, and cotton socks.
When is the Best time for a Habituation Experience?
There is no such thing as the “best time for enjoying gorilla habituation experience because the activities are undertaken all year round and given visitors’ personal interests, budget, and travel plans, what seems undesirable to you actually seems perfect for someone else.
However, peaks of these activities are in the dry months from December to February and June to September when rain levels significantly drop making forest trails less muddy, slippery, and therefore not so challenging.
This is what most travelers and tour operators consider “perfect” for the adventure and for this reason, demand for gorilla permits and accommodation facilities is high across all destinations.
The wet months of March to May, October, and November are presented with heavy downpours making trails muddy and slippery. These conditions have made it the low season for gorilla habituation tours but this means discounts on accommodation facilities are likely to be enjoyed.