Gorilla Trekking Rules and Regulations in Uganda

Gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Uganda: Gorilla Trekking is undeniably a thrilling and breathtaking activity that you can enjoy in Uganda (and two other countries in East and Central Africa). This adventure can be undertaken all year round, the high season being in the dry months (January, February, June, July, August, September, and December). In recent years, gorilla trekking has increased in popularity and now presents a critical economic opportunity to Uganda and communities living around Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks.

Why are there rules and regulations governing gorilla trekking in Uganda?

In visitors’ excitement, they sometimes forget that their presence can adversely affect the endangered mountain gorillas, whose World population currently stands at less than 2000 individuals (in the whole World). Mountain gorillas are generally friendly and peaceful creatures that live freely in their natural habitat. These creatures are mammals and just like humans (with whom they share over 98.2%) DNA, they need free space to search for food, rest, and socialize. Approaching them abruptly, making noise, imitating them, touching and chasing them means we might be disrupting their normal day-to-day activities thus causing unnecessary stress.

If mountain gorillas feel disturbed or threatened, they may attempt to run into hiding or charge (silverback beating the chest and thumping feet), or there may be an interruption in their daily routines. Therefore, gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Uganda were designed by governing bodies (including the Uganda Wildlife Authority) to help visitors enjoy their mountain gorilla encounters and reduce the risk of disturbance.

Gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Uganda ensure that face-to-face encounters with the Giant Apes remain sustainable and minimize negative impacts on the mountain gorillas. For this reason, the Ugandan Government (through the Uganda Wildlife Authority) works closely with neighboring authorities (such as the Rwanda Development Board) to protect the Giant Apes. You will therefore help to protect the endangered mountain gorillas by following the following gorilla trekking rules and regulations in Uganda and setting an example for other visitors;

Only healthy visitors should trek the mountain gorillas

You are most likely aware that mountain gorillas are closely related to humans thus most diseases (especially communicable diseases) that affect us also affect them adversely. You can protect the Giant Apes by canceling or rescheduling your gorilla adventure to another day if you discover that you are sick. However, this has to be verified by the Park Warden before being postponed. Interestingly, you can also be refunded the money paid for the permit, although it is not a one-day process.

Maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters away from mountain gorillas

Visitors are cautioned against approaching closer than 7 meters to any mountain gorilla. This is a safety and health precaution for several reasons. Firstly, by maintaining the distance, you are reducing any risks of transmitting communicable diseases such as flu, cough, measles, Tuberculosis, and many others. Also, by keeping distance, mountain gorillas will go about their normal day-to-day routines without feeling disrupted or threatened.

However, mountain gorillas will sometimes approach visitors, more closely than the specified viewing distance, of their own accord. If this happens, please remain quiet and not run (or make sudden movements) that may startle them.

No touching Mountain Gorillas

Visitors on gorilla trekking adventures in Uganda are cautioned against touching these Giant Apes. Much as mountain gorillas are fully habituated are open for trekking, you will be placing yourself and these Giant Apes at risk. Touching them is not just a safety hazard but also a health risk because mountain gorillas are closely related to humans (sharing 98.2% DNA).

Do not feed mountain gorillas

This might surprise you but there are several health, safety, and environmental concerns associated with intentional feeding of mountain gorillas. Feeding of the Giant Apes by humans undeniably has adverse effects that include transmission of diseases and possible attacks from the mountain gorillas.

Avoid sudden or repeated movements while watching mountain gorillas

Another important gorilla trekking rule and regulation in Uganda is avoiding any sudden or repeated movement while watching or taking photos of the mountain gorillas. In so doing, they will go about their daily routines without disruption.

Mountain gorilla viewing is limited to one hour

Gorilla tours involve spending between one and 6 hours searching for the Giant Apes. This is followed by one hour of taking photos and observing them as they go about their day-to-day routines- playing, resting, foraging, and mating. This rule is implemented to reduce the risk of behavioral changes. However, if mountain gorillas show behavior indicating disturbance or stress, your one hour of watching will be cut short.

Each habituated gorilla family should be visited by a maximum of 8 visitors

Every habituated gorilla family in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks is visited by a maximum of 8 visitors per day. This is done to prevent crowding the Giant Apes and reduce behavioral changes. Gorilla viewing is limited to a maximum of 8 visitors per day to minimize the cumulative impact of many people around the Giant Apes and give consideration to their day-to-day routines.

Always stick to your group and avoid joining other groups, because you might be overwhelming the group you are joining.

Avoid littering the mountain gorilla’s natural habitat

Visitors are cautioned against throwing leftover food or rubbish in the Mountain gorillas’ natural habitat. This is because they can act as breeding places for disease-causing germs.

Avoid making noise while trekking or viewing mountain gorillas

 Mountain gorillas (just like other creatures in Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks) have sensitive hearing, and sounds play a significant role in communication and locating enemies in their territory. The noise that visitors introduce into their natural habitat while trekking is likely to startle them, and make them charge. Noise will also scare away other creatures in the forest such as birds and primates which would spice up your viewing experience and make it more memorable.

Flash cameras are prohibited

Gorilla photography is the number one reason why some people travel to Uganda but it has to be done with caution. For this reason, flash cameras should be avoided at all times because they are likely to startle the mountain gorillas hence making them aggressive or hide in the thick vegetation. Make sure to remove your flash when taking photos of these adorable photogenic creatures.

No toilets in the jungles of Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park

Before beginning your gorilla trekking adventure, you are advised to first ease yourself to avoid being caught off guard. However, you can never fail to answer the call of nature. When this happens, the Park Ranger will dig a pit (30 centimeters), to be used and later covered.

Avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas

Direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas can be misunderstood as provocation and should be avoided during gorilla viewing. Even when the Giant Apes charge, you should crouch down slowly and not look directly into their eyes.

Cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing

Much as you shouldn’t visit mountain gorillas when sick with flu or cough, sometimes sneezing (due to allergies or being an involuntary action). In such circumstances, it is advisable to cover your mouth with a handkerchief and turn away from the mountain gorillas to avoid spreading diseases.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking is one of the unmissable tourist activities in Uganda but considering the susceptible nature of the Giant Apes, a set of rules and regulations have to be followed. For more information on what you need to know about mountain gorillas, contact us by email or call.

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