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Gorilla tracking and more
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in East Africa. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It comprises 128 square miles of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a high altitude rainforest. Peak rainfall occurs from March to April and from September to November. The park is home to many birds and mammals but people usually come to the park to see the mountain gorillas. All hikes in the park require a guide. Diverse species are a feature of the park, and it became an UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its ecological importance.
When I arrived at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, I noticed that it was much cooler than the rest of Uganda. Air temps are very mild. I, like most tourists, came to the park to do the gorilla tracking tour. Permits for gorilla tracking range are $600. Tracking starts at 8am.
Prior to that, you talk to the ranger about what to expect when seeing the gorillas and some dangerous. Mountain gorillas are peaceful, and these gorillas are used to seeing people. The hike is rough. Mountain gorillas do not have GPS collars so they need to be tracked. Trackers leave an hour earlier to find the gorillas and study them. They radio back when the gorillas were found. Each team of tourists gets to track a family of gorillas. Mountain gorillas travel in small family usually numbering around 15. The number of individuals that we tracked was 12.
The guides told us that the permits were non-refundable and tracking happens rain or shine. The tracking can be easy and within 5 minutes of the road or could last 7 to 8 hours, so the hike could be very easy to very strenuous. My hike was not too bad, but hard for some people who do not hike regularly. If gorillas could not be found, then you would receive half the money back. Falls and exhaustion are the two most hazardous things to worry about when tracking.
The hike starts from the road and down hill. The terrain is steep and slick, as it's usually damp from the rain or morning dew. Long pants are recommended. Porters can be used to carry your gear for $15.
When I did the hike, we trekked up and down a few hills and got to the gorilla family we searched for. Seeing the mountain gorillas was a treat. They acted as if you were not there. They would come up to you, fart, beat their chests, and sometimes grab your clothes and bags. They didn't grab mine, though. They knew better. When you see the gorillas, by law, you are only allowed to spend an hour with them. The hour goes by fast.
Mountain gorillas are one of the most endangered species in the world. Their numbers are growing and poaching is down. They cannot live in capacity. Permits to see the gorillas usually need to be purchased 6 months in advanced. Fortunately, I had some connections, where I was able to get the permits a few days before. To purchase permits to see the chimpanzees, you can purchase those permits the day of tracking, despite what you read online.